A Celebrity Sober Companion Tells All

Long days, great perks for recovery counselors who keep clients from backsliding into drug or alcohol use.
Hanna Melin

This story first appeared in the May 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

While recovery companions often are misconstrued as glorified baby sitters, it's much more complex. We are an unusual combination of personal assistant and counselor in a connection that resembles a friendship. While we help guide clients -- to use or not to use -- we also provide emotional support, helping with waking up on time, hitting the gym, taking medication and finding supportive friends. We sleep in the same room, wait outside the bathroom and go to all their appointments with them. My primary purpose is to tell my clients the truth, whether they want to hear it or not. Training and education are very helpful but aren't yet required. I'm certified as a chemical dependency specialist and work for Recovery Companion Services.

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This support is often most important right after rehab. But sometimes musicians will go on tour and need support even though they may have been sober for some time. Occasionally, we are brought in for something called "harm reduction," which can mean helping a client show up sober on set until they get into treatment. Some high-risk actors need this from the start to finish of filming. The challenges can be separating your emotions while still having empathy and entering situations where clients are intoxicated. If we consider a client a flight risk, we will stay awake for 24 hours at a time until we feel it's safe to sleep when the client is sleeping. We get very close very quickly, and it takes vigilance to maintain a sense of self. We're typically paired with same-gendered clients; it's sometimes easier for clients to manipulate the opposite sex. There are also fun perks at times like sushi at Nobu and backstage passes to [a concert by the band] My Morning Jacket.

I've been called in on a "transport gig" at 10 p.m. on a Friday following a suicide attempt, only to pack a bag in the morning and fly the client to treatment in Arizona. The longest job I've had was three months, live-in. As an example of how we help, a colleague was working on location at a bar with a client who had 30 days sober and felt uncomfortable being alone. The client introduced her companion as her assistant to crewmembers, who were offering drinks from the bar. They filmed until 4 a.m., and the client stayed sober with the support of her companion.