|"DAMAGE CONTROL" AND THE SOBER COMPANION
The Sober Companion role is designed to provide a new way for a substance abuser to find his or her place and discover the truth about their relationship to drugs and alcohol. We work daily to help you redefine your relationship with drugs & alcohol. It's a closely held secret, but there are times when a part of this process involves "harm reduction". Although it might seem counter-intuitive, there are times when a Sober Coach is not demanding complete abstinence from his/her client.
Increasingly, treatment professionals nationwide have come to understand that Harm Reduction (errantly labeled "damage control" by some ) makes more sense, in some cases, than dogmatic hounding and thinking in absolutes.
We believe no one should be denied services simply because they take certain risks or exhibit certain behaviors that are illegal or are generally disapproved of by society as a whole.
Sometimes, a client is waiting to get into a residential detox or treatment center, and is either unwilling or unable to stop drinking
before entry. Doesn't this person deserve a professional, caring service provider? When we step away from the "moral failing" view of addiction and re-contextualize it as a health issue, Harm Reduction and the Sober Companion can be a ideal pairing.
"Harm Reduction " is a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of many who pursue complete abstinence through 12-Step programs; they see a vision of a heroin addict drinking all the booze he wants, or an alcoholic smoking pot every hour, with the hope that the individual will not return to their substance of first preference. (By the way, we do not use the phrase "drug of choice". If the client really is an addict, he or she has no "choice").
The truth is that unless a person gains the desire for complete abstinence, the best any treatment professional can offer is harm reduction.
The concept is most effective when a client is working with a Sober Companion and maintains an ongoing relationship with another mental health professional. Harm reduction can be applied by an experienced Sober Coach whether or not the client's primary problem is substance abuse. Sometimes, these people have been diagnosed with mental disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and/or with physical ailments that have lead them to misuse prescribed pain medication.
If you and your mental health professional have determined that you are willing to explore life without a certain drug, let's get to work on that. Not every person who does too much coke has a problem with alcohol...and vice versa. It's that simple.
Most Sober Companions are members of 12-Step groups who require complete abstinence. What many so-called "professionals" forget is that we must leave certain pre-conceived notions at the door when providing service to certain clients. Not every Sober Companion is qualified to handle a Harm Reduction client. We match our providers with our Harm Reduction clients very carefully, and only in consultation with the clients current health professional(s).
This topic is uncomfortable, and causes great consternation in the field of addiction treatment. We believe force-feeding the 12 Steps to an alcohol or drug user who is unwilling/unable to digest the information does more harm than good. We regularly hear stories from folks trying to recover in 12-Step meetings, but who cannot abide the black-or-white thinking.
Alcoholism and addiction are diseases. Invariably, a person who suffers from them will get worse and not better. It is easy to pigeonhole a drug or alcohol user as "alcoholic" or "addict". But any long-standing, successful member of a 12-Step fellowship will tell you (confidentially) that the rooms of recovery contain a large number of people who simply do not belong there.
We understand that it is not always the case that every person who misuses or abuses drugs or alcohol is an addict. The assistance available from a Sober Coach or Sober Companion can help define the problem, and help determine the most effective course of treatment.