Results 1 to 11 of 11
Share this SMART Recovery Success Story!
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default Three Years this Fall!!

    I think I'd initially heard about SMART about a year or so ago. I finally got around to finding this site a few months back, and although my posting has been sporadic, I'm thankful to have found this venue. There's a lot of invaluable wisdom and experience on these pages -so thank you to everyone here.

    I'm almost three years alcohol and nicotine free, and despite all the other drugs I'd used earlier in life, those are the two which stuck with me. Alcohol, in particular, almost brought me to my grave numerous times. Without going into needless war stories, let me just say that I was no stranger to 1/2 gallons of cheap vodka consumed alone on a daily basis for a good quarter century, mounting numbers of job losses which eventually became outright unemployability, homelessness, isolation from loved ones and avoidance of everything good that actually made me ME, increasing hospital stays after horrific withdrawal seizures, etc etc ad nauseum.

    Something changed in me one night while drinking. You can call it what you will: an epiphany, miracle, cognitive-behavioral shift of perception, whatever - they all work. Anyway, since that night, I haven't had the slightest desire to pick up a drink (smokes came about a month later). What happened to me was organic, in that I wasn't trying to implement any new strategies or make any changes - it just happened.

    However, in the years following, I've been striving to "reverse engineer" my experience in the hopes of helping others achieve the same freedom as I have today - and I do say "freedom" as opposed to cure, since I accept that my particular system has been genetically set up to react differently to alcohol, and I can't change my physiology.

    I guess the turning point for me was when I realized that all the "good" things I'd ascribed to drinking (be honest - we do) simply weren't true. Perhaps there'd been some veracity to those perceptions years ago, but no longer, and not since I could remember. I came to the unshakable realization that night that there was simply nothing - NOTHING - good about alcohol - no benefit, even momentary, no "payoff", no relief, no escape. I'd seen in an instant that these things were all illusory; they were perceptions that I'd conditioned myself to accept as truth over the course of 25 years, and although I can't change my alcoholic physiology, I can and did change my perception about alcohol. The two don't have to continue hand-in-hand, though many tragically believe that they must.

    Last night I was leading a psychotherapy group during which I introduced the "pros and cons" sheet and had them fill it out. A common denominator among the pros was "escape". I like to draw seemingly unrelated parallels to addictive thinking in the hopes that it will spark some awareness of exactly how insane it is, so I put this forth: If you're trying to escape from prison, but your method is only digging you deeper into the prison again and again, can that then be considered a viable means of escape? [queue crickets chirping to wide eyes].

    There are some great tools here at SMART. Check them out. For me, I find that identifying and challenging the perceived benefits of drinking/drugging to be the most effective. After all, I'd had a pretty accurate assessment of the consequences suffered over a couple of decades, and that never stopped me for long - not when I still thought there was something good in that bottle.
    Bill

  2. #2

    Default

    Thanks for that terrific description. My mother went through a very similar experience as yours. I witnessed it and was amazed and greatful for her, as I am for you. Your explanation/description of the "digging oneself back into prison" to "escape from prison" was/is great!!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default

    Thanks, gila_moster! I appreciate that. Best wishes to both you and your mother.
    Bill

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Independence,Missouri
    Posts
    407

    Default

    I do like the prison analogy myself. If you don't mind I would like to use it.

    Mark
    It doesn't matter who knows I abused alcohol- As long as I don't forget it.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default

    Use away! And I already improved it in tonight's group. Don't forget to add in that with every failed escape attempt comes a harsher sentence.
    Bill

  6. #6

    Default

    Mr Pickles47. I am curious. For my mother (who is now deceasd), she described the epiphany moment as akin to almost a mini-stroke. And, she couldn't figure out what had happened in her head, literally, but something had changed. And, it felt organic as well. For you, was that similar? the reason I ask is that I wish for it to happen to me . I know intellectually and cognitively that while drinking might numb out feelings or depression for awhile (a very short term benefit, uh, sort of), that drinking is a nightmare in the end and is indeed digging myself back into the prison I want out of. Drinking also does stop urges. Which just keep coming back the next day. Perhaps that is the harsher sentence you mention. In any event, any thoughts on how you got the intellectual/cognitive belief to sink deep in your mind and heart?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default

    gila_monster, what happened to me was fairly subtle, in that I didn't realize at the time how huge it was. It was only later when I recognized the internal change. The heavens didn't open up, no choirs sang, nothing like that - but it was huge, nonetheless.

    I guess it could be summed up as a perfectly timed moment of clarity. You see, I was sitting there drinking, business as usual - not lamenting my choices or my life, nor waxing philosophical about what I'd done to myself. I was just drinking. It was what I did, and I thought I enjoyed it, at least while it was going on.

    Looking back, I've come to the realization that we, the addicted, actually have fallen in love with a fantasy, and every time we play that same fantasy over in our head, with all those warm, fuzzy, softly-lit associations between booze and good times, and THAT'S what gets us going - the anticipation of the reward to come. However, and especially with booze, the nearer to the "reward" we get, the more numb we become, and the less able to gauge the real value of the reward in the moment.

    So, my moment of clarity was akin to me being airlifted over the numb and dropped right into the "reward" with clear eyes. I was able to look around, as it were, like a scientist with a clipboard, making observations, and taking critical notes about my "reward" as it was happening - and what I'd seen with crystal clarity that night for the first time was that there was no reward. And I want to be very specific here; it wasn't guilt or shame, or anything like that that motivated me.

    For the first time in my life, I was able to perform a real-time appraisal of the chemical effects of alcohol inebriation. I was gauging my actual buzz with a clear head - I was able to see through the fantasies about drinking I'd conditioned myself to accept as truth for 25 years, and I'd seen that there was no pleasure, no relief, no escape - none of the things I'd attributed to it. Then, a second later, I had another epiphany. I realized that what I was feeling was no fluke. It wasn't some weird aberration. This is what drunk felt like, and this had always been what drunk felt like - I just hadn't seen it.

    I don't know if this comparison will work for you, but I think it suits my purpose: When I was young, I was told I needed to wear glasses, but I didn't because I wanted to look cool. Up until the time I entered the military, I never wore glasses. I perceived the world through eyes that needed glasses, but I didn't really know that, so I didn't care. That was how the world looked. That was "normal".

    Then boot camp arrived and I got my glasses. There's no saying "no" in boot camp so I wore my glasses - and I was amazed!! I was enraptured just looking up into trees that had pretty much been green blobs my whole life. Now I could see every leaf as it twisted and turned in the breezes. I could distinguish faces at a distance, I could read signs, I could see the ridges in the mountains on the horizon.

    You see, I'd been looking at all these things my whole life and I thought I saw them as they were, but until I put on those glasses, I didn't see anything clearly. That moment of clarity while drinking in the basement was my glasses. For the first time, I saw that my long-held perceptions of alcohol had been incorrect - and I've been seeing clearly ever since.

    This is why I recommend to anyone dealing with addiction that they spend some real time trying to be honest with themselves about the perceived benefits of using. Identify them, assess them, and then challenge them. Here's a couple that you wrote:

    "Drinking also does stop urges". No it doesn't. Positive associations to drinking create these urges. Identify these positive associations and challenge them. Are they still valid? Were they ever?

    "drinking might numb out feelings or depression". Emotional pain is tricky, but let's compare it to physical pain. Physical pain may suck, but it's there for a reason. It lets us know that something is wrong. It's an alarm. If you'd broken your foot but didn't suffer any pain, you might continue walking around on it and make things worse. Numbing the pain, be it physical or emotional, shouldn't be the first response. We have to face it and process through it whenever possible, and perhaps with a professional - and especially when addiction is a factor, chemicals only cause more pain than they numb, so that's actually not a benefit at all - not even short-term.

    I hope this helps, gila_monster. For me, what did the trick was to see that all the benefits I'd thought were there were false - every single one.
    Bill

  8. #8
    df2's Avatar
    df2 is offline SMART Message Board Co-Liaison
    Former SMART Meeting Helper
    SMART Message Board Volunteer
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    NW Minnesota
    Posts
    16,422

    Default

    Bill, when you first started posting, back in February, I was at a point where I was trying to change my beliefs about alcohol that Ned would mention. I knew if I couldn’t be happy that I wasn’t drinking I would eventually go back to drinking bottles of vodka, straight. For me there was no epiphany, it was something I had to work at. In one of your early posts you brought up the term “perceived benefit”, for some reason that clicked for me. I realized that I would not desire drinking unless I felt there was some benefit to doing it. For a while I almost enjoyed getting an “Urge” because it was an opportunity to examine what the perceived benefit was if I gave in. The only one that I could really come up with was the initial buzz, but when I thought about that I realized that for me it was a foggy feeling, a loss of clarity and a bit of euphoria. So I was giving up my health, my relationships, probably my job at some point and my self respect for a “bit of euphoria”. That reality made it pretty easy for me to move forward.
    That, of course, was just part of the journey for me. I have always considered myself to be lacking of any willpower. Finding SMART and the tools gave me a method to get past the first few days so that I was able to look at my situation while not drunk or hung over.
    Thanks for sharing your success story and thanks for taking the time for me last winter when I really needed it.
    "The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time". Thomas A. Edison
    It's easy to support SMART, just click here!


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default

    Thanks, dfiler2. I really appreciate that. Yeah, for me, challenging the perceived benefits were what tipped the scales. Taking that honest assessment of the effects of alcohol/drugs as you did is exactly what more people need to do. Way too often, I hear people say "Of course I wanted to drink. I'm an alcoholic". That's just not good enough - not if we want to be free.

    I know what you mean about "bit of euphoria", and I don't want to speak for you, but I realized that for me the "bit of euphoria" was really only due to anticipation of greater perceived rewards to come. After all, if the "bit of euphoria" stood on its own as the reward, I shouldn't have felt the need to finish the rest of the fifth, or second fifth, or 1/2 gallon. No, I wanted more euphoria, and more vodka was ticket to get there, right? Once I realized that there was no reward around the corner, that "bit of euphoria" just dissolved. After all, there was nothing more to anticipate.

    And I now know what "they" mean when they say it isn't willpower. I still have issues with limiting my sweets, and I have my ups and downs with maintaining a healthy diet, so my willpower obviously isn't rock solid.

    However, I've come to the genuine realization that there's not a moment's benefit from alcohol, so there's no desire to drink, so no willpower is required there - none.
    Bill

  10. #10

    Default

    Wow, MrPickles47! Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed response. A lot to think about in what you wrote. I appreciate your willingness to offer insights as to your experience. Your description reminds me of a time many, many years ago when I gave up illegal drugs (and I suppose then turned to alcohol). I had some moments when I knew the first taste always, always, always led to consuming more, much more, trying to get back to the feeling of the first taste. And, I never, never, never could recreate that first feeling, or stop at the first taste. I got clear as a bell on that and just quit, because there was no benefit possible for me anymore. And, I have never missed it a bit and in fact, been relieved that all that was behind me. So, I hope I can reach that with alcohol as well.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    73

    Default

    You totally can, gila_monster. In fact, you already have. You just need to apply that same logic to booze. It's essentially the same thing. I had my last cigarette about a month after my last drink by the same means. Challenge the perceived benefits.
    Last edited by MrPickles47; June 27, 2014 at 2:34 PM.
    Bill

Share this SMART Recovery Success Story!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •