TRAVERSE CITY — Madie Begley has been in recovery for more than two years.
Her passion for living clean and sober shines when she talks about helping others through her volunteer work as a peer recovery coach.
“I get to see one less person struggling,” Begley said. “I get to see people find their spark again.”
A peer recovery coach works to connect people with the services they need. That might be a doctor, a treatment center or AA and NA meetings. It also might be help finding the resources to pay a utility bill, locating a food pantry or finding a ride.
The goal is long-term recovery and by sharing their own experiences, coaches help people to avoid relapses or get back on track after a slip.
Begley said she had lots of support from others when she was new in recovery and now feels like it’s her turn to give back.
“I wanted to share it,” Begley said. “I felt like instead of having an empty cup I had a cup that was overflowing. I wanted to be able to give back in some way and this was one way I could do that.”
Begley is a recovery navigator at Phoenix Hall, which houses the women’s residential program for Addiction Treatment Services (ATS). She’ll soon be moving to a new job as recovery center coordinator at The P.O.R.C.H., ATS’ community outreach facility that recently moved to its new location at 1010 S. Garfield Ave.
Part of Begley’s job will be to pair people who are in recovery or are seeking recovery with a coach. She has been a peer recovery coach since November.
“I feel it’s essential to my recovery,” Begley said. “It’s not just that they get help — I benefit, too.”
Christina Eickenroth is the clinical coordinator for the brand new Opioid Initiative Program at Munson Healthcare. The program will administer a $400,000 grant Munson recently received from the Michigan Opioid Partnership initiative.
The grant will be used to provide medically assisted treatment (MAT) to people who come to the hospital’s emergency room with substance use disorder. MAT uses behavioral therapy and medications to treat the disorder.
It will also be used to hire two peer recovery coaches whose job will be to help transition those patients who want help into a treatment program when they leave the hospital, Eickenroth said.
“They are our first line of support if someone is in the ER and they decide they want to talk to someone about recovery,” Eickenroth said.
The coach will be called in to talk to the person about recovery, treatment programs and what resources are available. They’ll also help coordinate their treatment plan.
Munson is partnering with ATS, Munson Family Practice Clinic, Traverse Health Clinic, Munson Behavioral Health and more.
Begley took her training from the Recovery Coach Academy offered by Northern Michigan Substance Abuse Services (NMSAS). The training taught her that there are multiple pathways to recovery — not just 12-step programs.
She’s learned to be more accepting and less judgmental of someone who has chosen a different path and more understanding of those who may have used different substances than she.
She also learned the right language to use when talking about substance use disorder, as shame and stigma can be associated with the wrong words.
Tory Werth is the recovery supports coordinator for NMSAS and teaches the coaching class, which is offered free of charge.
“A peer to peer approach is much different than a clinical approach,” Werth said, because it comes from a person who has been through the experience.
“We want to instill hope and let people know that recovery is possible, no matter how far down they’ve gone.”
Begley can respond to calls put out by NMSAS when a woman needs a coach, as women coach women and men coach men, she said.
“You work with them as long as they want to work with you,” Begley said. “You’re a peer — you’re an advocate for them, a guide.”
But coaches also need to set boundaries, she said. Their job is not to give their ‘recoverees’ money or rides to all their appointments.
In Michigan, those who qualify can apply for certification through the Michigan Certified Peer Recovery Coach training program. Training typically takes five days and is followed by a certification exam.
To be eligible for the program a person must be working at least 10 hours a week for a licensed organization that treats substance use disorder or provides recovery support services.
They also must have two continuous years in recovery from addiction, have experience navigating treatment services, and be able to share their recovery story with others.
Begley plans to become certified through the state, something she has not yet done. For now she is satisfied with the work, saying it gives her a purpose.
“I have to do this,” she said. “It’s important to me as a human being. I can use the darkest thing that happened in my life as an asset today.”
I felt like instead of having an empty cup I had a cup that was overflowing. I wanted to be able to give back in some way and this was one way I could do that.” Madie Begley, recovery coach