I began using substances recklessly from the beginning. I started smoking marijuana at the age of thirteen and began my constant chase of euphoria until the age of twenty-eight. Through my fifteen years of using substances, I graduated to harder drugs and added binge-drinking alcohol to my routine for kicks. It started out fun as a young adult but by the time I got to my twenties my “fun times” were being drastically outweighed by the consequences of my addictive behaviors. I was in constant trouble when I was engaging in my addictive behaviors. I was politely asked to leave multiple schools, jobs, and relationships because of my behavior. I had attempted multiple times to get my “life together” by moderating my consumption. All those attempts ended the same way; isolated, broke, and confused about how I had gotten to this place yet again. I tried multiple twelve-step meetings which I struggled with in my early attempts at sobriety and since maintaining my recovery through SMART, my perspective has changed. Twelve-step meetings save people’s lives who get their concepts, but it was something that I couldn’t grasp in the early years.
I thought I had used up all my options for a decent life after I had yet again “failed” at recovery. A friend introduced me to SMART Recovery and told me how much it had helped him. I said, “I’ll have to check it out” and had absolutely no intention of going. Five years later I hit another bottom and for some miraculous reason, I walked into an open discussion SMART meeting. I was miserable in my first meeting and thought everyone there was lying about how they quit their addictive behaviors. I would later come to find that this thinking was related to the company I kept. “Everyone uses substances like I do!” This was a lie in my logic from my inner circle consisting of peers who also used substances recklessly. Don’t even get me started on how I thought I was in a room full of science and treatment “nerds.” It’s funny to look back and laugh now about these things. I went into that room with track marks, while unemployed, and completely broke. But I’m somehow better than these people talking about how they’re managing their recovery. I returned home after my first meeting to inform my buddy who told me about SMART how much healthier I was by attending this group that he so graciously shared with me. He laughed it off and said, “that’s great I’ll see you at tomorrow’s meeting”. I did NOT understand what was so hilarious about my “gold star healthy behavior” and why I needed to attend another meeting. I said, “Damn, how often do I have to go? The exercises they were discussing from a workbook sound great and I think I can use them now.” He again chuckled and said, “Meet me there tomorrow and we can grab some food afterward.” He knew that food would be my weakness, so I reluctantly agreed to meet him the next day.
For my second SMART meeting, things started making more sense to me. I’m unsure if that was because I didn’t have enough money to purchase substances prior to or if it was the food that I was hoping to get as a reward for my second victorious meeting attended. Either way, the meeting facilitator was talking about how there were no sponsors, no spirituality, and that my recovery was dependent on me. He went on to explain how by changing my thinking that my addictive behaviors would begin to change. SMART’s approach was abstinence-based and focused on four points:
- Enhancing and maintaining motivation
- Coping with urges
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Living a balanced life
This was a rational approach which I was able to align with. When my second meeting ended, I started asking questions to other participants. They would laugh and ask me if I wanted a SMART workbook to start attempting some of the exercises. I reluctantly took a workbook thinking that I would toss it in the trash that night. For some unknown reason, I got home after I indulged in my friend’s free meal offer and began to attempt an exercise. I came back to a meeting the next day and asked the group for some feedback on an exercise I was working on. They were able to give me some guidance and asked me to come back the next day to let them know how it went. Before I realized what happened, this meeting had somehow kept me substance free for a week. After a week I was still out of money and had nothing to do so I said, “let’s see what happens with giving this a shot.” What did I have to lose? I began to learn that it wasn’t the group that was keeping my recovery active, it was me, putting the effort into rationally approaching my addictive behaviors. My logic began to shift more and more. Before I knew what was happening my recovery journey kept rolling. I still don’t handle situations perfectly but I frequently try to apply SMART tools that were given to me so I can be the “best” version of myself.
Today I sit over seven years sober. I’m married, employed, and have enough money for a roof over my head. I still pop into SMART meetings every once in a while but I don’t have the need to attend regularly anymore. I love the freedom of SMART recovery and the empowerment that comes with it. SMART has changed my perspective on how I view my life day to day. I have even attended AA meetings with some of my friends from SMART and I love talking to people about what has worked for them in their recovery. My glass isn’t half empty anymore, it’s half full thanks to SMART and the tools that come with it.
- Who Attends: Anyone in the recovery community
- Who Leads: Tim Maguire, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Why: Learn skills to overcome addictions and transform your life
- What To Expect: Moving from addictive substances and negative behaviors to a life of positive self-regard and willingness to change.
- When: Mondays at 6:00 pm
- Where: 857 Coleman Blvd. Suite D, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464 (WakeUp Carolina’s Office)