LYNN — They were there for different reasons: Renee Wiggins was inspired by the people who helped her. Glenn Troy wants to help fellow labor union members and Frank MahoneyBurroughs wants to honor his cousin’s memory.
The man MahoneyBurroughs counted as one of his closest relatives died from a drug overdose and MahoneyBurroughs is never far from his cousin’s photograph.
“When I got the call that he had died, I said, ‘What do I do now?'” he said.
The Winthrop resident got his answer while attending North Shore Community College (NSCC). He switched his study concentration from history to drug and alcohol counseling and his first semester studies on the Lynn campus included training in recovery coaching. Recovery coaches work one-on-one with addicts to steer them into and through the recovery process.
“It’s somebody to help support someone newly in recovery,” said Michelle Simons, a prevention coordinator and clinician for the city of Lynn and Bridgewell, a Peabody-based behavioral care agency.
Simons and Tom Mannix, a recovery coach embedded in the Beverly Hospital emergency department, teach a 60-hour recovery coaching program at NSCC that dovetails with addiction recovery training programs offered by the college, including a two-year associate’s degree.
The pair’s discussion with their students about how addiction as a disease relates to words like “equality” and “equity” sparked a passionate argument by Troy about how addicts don’t fit stereotypes during an October training session.
“I covered my tattoos and I looked harmless. I had money,” he said.
Since embarking on recovery training, MahoneyBurroughs said he has answered the question he asked upon hearing of his cousin’s death.
“I want to help people. I want to learn the skills from people who are the pros,” he said.
Mannix said recovery coaches are an important presence in hospitals with “so many people presenting in the emergency room with some sort of addiction issue.” Coaches can direct people in recovery to long-term programs that can help them lead drug-free lives that include jobs and stable family relationships.
“If you come into the hospital with an overdose, you are stabilized, discharged and then what?” asked Mannix.
Osama Aboukassem enrolled in recovery coach training to pass on the help he received from a recovery coach. Drug-free for 2½ years, he is grateful for the coach who helped him navigate the judicial process after drugs led him to trouble with the law.
“If I have a chance to help someone else, I would be lucky,” he said.
Wiggins said being an alcoholic in recovery has set the stage for her to help others, initially by training to be a recovery coach.
“I was helped and it made such an impact on me,” she said.
Simons said recovery coaching exposes coaches to broken lives and sad stories, but ultimately coaches play a positive role in promoting recovery over the long haul and walking side by side with people in recovery.
MahoneyBurroughs said he has another question to answer now that he is studying addiction treatment:
“How can I get people back to normal life? I want to help,” he said.