Former maladaptive behavior: crack cocaine and alcohol
Sober: three years (with slips) and counting
I first came to SMART Recovery® just shy of three years ago. I was absolutely despondent after having tossed out 8 months of sobriety for one afternoon of drinking with friends. I say tossed out because there was a lot at stake at that time; it resulted in my losing my 2 youngest children to my estranged ex-boyfriend in an emergency custody hearing and then some time later losing custody entirely — for ONE damn afternoon! We had been in the midst of a custody battle, and I was almost there. I was desperate to find some help, and I just could not face the idea of going back to AA, although AA had been kind to me before. I drank for nearly 30 years with many long stretches of sobriety, mostly on my own, a couple of times with AA/NA — for each of my pregnancies and when the babies were infants — and a few other approximately year-long stretches as well. Oh, I also did lots of drugs from a very early age, most notably and damaging, crack, but that was something I was able to give up many, many years ago, and the alcohol became my fixture. The thing I went back to over and over.
I stopped drinking when I first registered and started posting for about five weeks or so and then had a binge. I count my stop date from July 11, coming up on three years, though I have had some big full-blown slips/relapses. A couple were very short. One was very long — off and on for almost six months not so very long ago. I still count from July, when I’m inclined to count, but clarify when asked.
I was terrified of the time commitment of AA and being told that the little time I had with my children might be infringed upon as well as the idea that this was a life proposition. I felt like there had to be a better way, and I googled and found SMART Recovery® . The boards utterly fascinated me, and after some time, I worked up my courage to both post and to try out an online meeting. I was so scared!!! I had never been in chat or posted anywhere publicly. I was hugely drawn, though, by the genuine warmth, kindness and compassion I found, and I gradually began to feel comfortable both here and more in myself. I’m not very good at asking for help, and it was all such a learning experience. I wanted what I saw others giving and getting here, particularly on the message boards, and so I found some courage and was able to grow that. I started posting every day on one of the check-in threads as a small first commitment to myself. I started attending meetings as often as they were held. I ultimately became very involved in volunteering — in pretty much every way possible. That first year or so of volunteering was incredible. Pure magic.
I went through some very difficult things with that custody battle, also lost my regular job (not related to drinking), and I found a huge amount of support here throughout. I got pretty good at facilitating (totally surprising to me). I gradually learned how to find comfort in being me. The REBT stuff made a ton of sense to me from the beginning, and I was somewhat familiar with it. When I started actually USING the tools here, so many things started to change. I made very, very good progress for about 18 months and then started to have some difficulties. The custody battle was lost. I felt very alone. I felt strong in not drinking, but lonely. There was more to this stuff that I wasn’t feeling like I was making progress on, and it felt (TOO) hard. I had a brief lapse shortly after that, and have had approximately 6 months stretches of sobriety since. I feel comfortable with the sober part. What I think I was not so comfortable with is that there were many other patterns in my life — my relationships, USA, need for approval, fear, anger — that I was not/am not very practiced in. I KNEW the tools for these, and I gave lip service to applying them. I did not WORK them, as I had when stopping drinking, and it caught up to me a few times. I felt like I KNEW this stuff, and didn’t do the work that it takes to really work through these things, though I will say I tried.
There are still a lot of core type beliefs underneath that are hard for me to really truly believe I am in control of. When things were going pretty smoothly and I had a lot going on in my life I was pretty much okay. When things were tough emotionally, I still didn’t really know how to cope. I continue to look at these things, and I feel like I’ve had many breakthroughs, AHA moments. I believe now, that this will be ongoing work. Not that I have to use over these things, but that they may NOT just go away as I sail away in my sober life. There are many layers, many years of faulty thinking and coping. It is both discouraging and exciting to keep finding these things that are buried deeply. When I can’t quite get to what they are, it is frustrating, and I suppose that’s when drinking/using has begun to become an option for me. During my last major lapse, I even started smoking crack again for a few weeks off and on — something I had not done in over 13 years! Now that was a shocker! Depression, too, has been a factor for me, and it goes hand in hand with using, but also rears for other reasons, usually loss of some kind, or feeling overwhelmed. Much of that, for me, is a result of faulty thinking too — giving into that.
So, I continue to learn about who this me person is. I continue to find new things and new ways to look at my world and new healthier ways to cope with my life. I am learning to care for myself and to be mindful of that. I am learning to look to myself rather than bury myself in others’ needs, but also to give of myself without expectations in return. I am learning to forgive and accept others, life, myself. I am learning to ENJOY my life in its sum, as well as all the little moments, as I can, I am learning that it is okay to be the me that is imperfect and always will be. I continue to be a part of SROL and I attend F2F meetings (did not for the first 2 years or so) a couple of times a month maybe. I have these tools, and they are effortful to use at times. The results for me have been very good when I am actively engaged in working with them.
I am above all grateful to SROL. It has taught me many lessons of friendship, altruism, tolerance, what giving is all about, how to not get upset or overly involved with fixing others, how to not take things personally, though I am imperfect in all of these and may well always be. I am glad that I have stayed thus far, as I have also seen how things change, just like in life. SROL has given me a place that is somewhat of a mirror for real life for me, though the friends I have made are very real. It has been a place where I can practice and repeat the things I have learned to myself and others, reinforcing them to myself. I love the way those who have been around for a while grow and stretch, and I love seeing new people come around and have those wonderful flashes of insight and begin to build their confidence, their lives. I love that I have been able to watch this in myself as well as others. I love that I have useful ways to help my children make sense of their worlds. This note too has been helpful. It has been some time since I tried to make a summary of where I am and where I came from. Oddly, I do not feel over-emotional this time, but centered, calm. I am where I am. I can choose how I am going to continue on. I have tools. I have friends. I have a place I feel comfortable where I can work things through. And I have learned more about finding what I need within myself even with all the support that is around me.
I am grateful to SMART Recovery and SMART Recovery Online for allowing me to create a space where I can grow in my own time and in my own way. I like that it is up to me how I choose to go about that and how I measure my own progress.
Thank you, SMART Recovery.