Who is Coach Cavanagh?

I just wanted someone to tell me what to do.

In the middle of the worst of my daughter’s addiction, I desperately wanted someone who knew more than I did to tell me what the next right thing was to do. The few people I confided in encouraged me to reach out. “There is no one to reach out to,” I explained. “Find me someone who has an answer, and I’ll gladly reach out to them!” I was running out of time, and I needed information I could trust.

Slowly, I began to find people who knew more than I did, and even more slowly, I realized they didn’t have an answer for me, either.

I believed I needed to save my daughter. It would be years before I realized that I was not that powerful. There were things that I could do, support that I would find and create, but the help I needed was for myself, not my daughter. We cannot save our loved ones, but we can educate and take care of ourselves so, if the time comes when they will accept our guidance, we are healthy and informed.

Spending the next several years building a support system for both myself and for the now more than 25,000 members of Magnolia New Beginnings online groups, Magnolia Addiction Support, I realized connection and education were what was needed. I set about becoming educated in all aspects of addiction and recovery. Trauma training, intervention trainings, CRAFT family therapy training and more. I connected with doctors and first responders. I spoke on panels with leaders in the field and testified in front of government officials, asking them all to tell me what they knew and believed. I tried to make myself the person I needed when I was walking through this hell. I didn’t want anyone else to plead for information and have nowhere to turn. A teacher by profession, I wanted to learn everything I could and then teach others. My memoir, If You Love Me, was published, and I began to speak across the country on the family perspective.

I learned that families get as sick or sicker than their addicted loved ones. Our brains are hijacked in similar ways, and our obsession becomes saving our loved one. I also learned that no one can or should tell you what to do. Each family system has their own beliefs, and each person is unique. If you find someone who has “the answer,” you’re probably talking to the wrong, possibly even a dangerous, person. No one size fits all because no person or family is the same. If we had one answer for what works we would all be doing it.

I know that doesn’t sound very promising, does it? Hold on, there’s an upside, I promise. A new field of family recovery coaching is emerging. A family recovery coach is an addiction-informed individual who either has specific training in counseling and an interest in working with families who are supporting a person with a substance use disorder, or they are a person with “lived experience” who has been trained and supervised in addiction and recovery methods. It’s not someone who has all the answers; instead, it’s someone who knows their own boundaries and can share what they know while accessing professionals to whom they can refer for deeper knowledge. 

Working as a family recovery coach, and training others in the field, has allowed me to share what I have learned, which is truly the final step in healing.

Twice a month, MomPower will feature questions from you, our mamas, along with my replies, to help educate and guide you toward the answer that works for your family. If you’d like your concern featured, please send a brief question to Maureen@MagnoliaCS.com. Reach out. You are not alone.

Maureen Cavanagh is the founder of Magnolia New Beginnings and Magnolia Recovery and Consulting Services, and the author of the memoir If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Addiction and Recovery.

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