Mother’s Other Little Helper: Sobriety Coaches
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Mother’s Other Little Helper: Sobriety Coaches


The New York Times covered recovery again—thankfully not to trash AA this time but to give the Sunday Styles treatment to sobriety coaches, which the Times is passing off as a new trend. Though there have already been articles and even reality shows on this “new” “trend”—hey, we’ll take it (especially when it includes quotes and a photo of the fabulous Patty Powers).

More Than a Sponsor

So how does fashion designer and recovering addict Tamara Mellon stay clean and sober through the ups and downs of a fashion career and a mother of a 12-year-old? Why, she’s got Martin Freeman to thank for her continued sobriety. No, not the adorable star of The Hobbit and Sherlock— this Martin Freeman, while also British, is a professional recovery coach.

Whether they got hooked on prescription opiates after a painful surgery or gradually slipped into alcoholism under the pressure to have it all, affluent mothers are calling on personal sobriety coaches to get and stay on the road to recovery. In a culture that hires experts to get our kids into college and to stop our cats from terrorizing our partners, it’s no surprise that the recovery coach profession has gone from a celebrity niche market to a widespread phenomenon among the real housewives of Beverly Hills and the Upper East Side.

Sober Luxury

When your calendar is stuffed to the gills with business trips, fundraiser galas, PTA meetings and lacrosse practice, taking 30 days off for rehab is not an option. It’s easy for the cash-strapped among us to roll our eyes and cry first world problems. But addiction doesn’t discriminate, and just because someone seems to be living the good life doesn’t meant they’re living a happy one.

Even if your bankroll supports it, why spend the cash on a private recovery coach when there are free AA meetings and other support groups at every corner? Private coaches can accommodate a busy mom’s constantly-shifting schedule. But they also offer the ultimate anonymity in a culture where “addiction is still viewed as a character defect,” according to Nanette Zumwalt, president of Huntington Beach recovery consultancy Hired Power. “There’s far greater stigma among women, particularly mothers.”

Paying for Will Power

Many sober coaches are in recovery themselves, and many have a background in counseling. Some charge $200 for an hour-long visit—as much as a licensed therapist. But unlike a therapist, a sobriety coach will also tag along as the angel on your shoulder at stressful events. What better way to make sure you don’t give into those sparkling champagne flutes at the gallery opening than to have that brand new “nutritionist” breathing down your neck?

The aforementioned sobriety coach Patty Powers, who is also an AfterPartyChat contributor and experienced 12-step sponsor, has no trouble going undercover as a Pilates instructor when out with clients in public. Though she frequently works with celebrities, Powers says that it’s the mothers who demand the most confidentiality. “My mom clients are the most terrified of being found out,” she said. “If someone wants to pass me off as their trainer, I go with it.”

A Living Instruction Manual

Some sober coaches even live with their clients for a period of time. They not only provide guidance and accountability, but also simple companionship. The founder of Hired Power, Deborah Magaldi, had a sober companion sleeping in her spare bedroom for three months while her husband was away on business. For her, learning how to function sober felt “like reading a book on how to swim, and then jumping into the ocean. Having a companion with me at all times allowed me to transition, so I didn’t drown.”

Money may not be able to buy happiness or the willingness to recover, but it can buy even the busiest, most over-committed supermom a direct line of support. So next time that marketing exec with three kids and perfect hair introduces her new yoga teacher over diet ginger ale, you can breathe a sigh of relief knowing you’ve got more in common than you thought. Just remember to smile politely and compliment her shoes.

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About Author

Erica Larsen AKA Eren Harris blogs at Whitney Calls and Clean Bright Day. Their writing has also been published on Salon, Selfish, Violet Rising and YourTango. They live in Los Angeles with their husband and their enormous cat.