Old Dog, New Tricks
This coming Friday will mark my one year anniversary on SMART Recovery Online, as I registered as a “member” on January 22, 2009. My last “drinking episode” took place on the evening of October 3, 2008… so I came to SMART with a little over 3 months of what’s been called “white knuckle” sobriety. I came across SMART while searching for an alternative to AA and the traditional 12 step programs, as I had trouble accepting the “disease” model concept and that I was “powerless” over alcohol. I am not “knocking” those programs- they have helped many on their journey to sobriety and it is not my place to extol the virtues of one over the other. What matters is finding what “works” for you! I found what “works” for me here at SMART Recovery®. During this past year, I have learned (and am continuing to learn) many things about this guy called “Me”.
I’ve likened myself this past year with SMART to the “Transformer” toys my grandson is so fond of. I’m sure you’re all familiar with them- they start out as one thing and then by moving the pieces around, they “transform” into something else. Like the toy, my “Transformer” had all the pieces already in place. Everything in my past- all the good, the bad and the ugly- are what have made me “ME”! I’m the result of everything and everyone I’ve come in contact with over the years- all the people, all the places, all the things I’ve experienced in my life. Those are the “pieces” I had to work with and “transform” into something else.
I’d say the most important thing I’ve learned is the fact that I have full and complete control over my thoughts, feelings, behavior and actions. Granted, there are “outside influences”… but that doesn’t change anything! I’m still the one with sole control over me. With this knowledge and the use of SMART’s ABC tool, I’ve begun to “re-think” my thinking- to question, to be mindful and aware of my thoughts and beliefs about any given situation. By doing so, I’ve discovered many of those thoughts and beliefs I held were irrational and fueled a self-destructive behavior.
I’ve also learned that every time I chose to drink, I was picking alcohol over the things that are most important to me, gambling with them and placing them in jeopardy.* The things I was “gambling” with were my family, friends, health and well-being, self-sufficiency, independence and my sense of humor. As with any type of gambling, one experiences losses… NOBODY wins all the time! It wasn’t any different for me.
I recently added up what my last DUI has cost me. I still shudder at the thought! But the thing is… that dollar amount was only taking account of this most recent incident! It didn’t include any costs from prior arrests, let alone the money I spent on drinking over the years! While that amount is huge, it isn’t my biggest loss…
All the time I’ve spent related to drinking has been, literally, pissed away! There’s no way for me (or anyone else) to make up for lost time! The thing is, it wasn’t only my time that was lost… my actions caused others “lost” time as well! I don’t know how much time family and friends spent “waiting” for me while I was in the bars, how much time they lost while hauling me around when I was without my driver’s license or how much time was lost while they sat and waited for me while I was in court. This “list” goes on and on!
My behavior also caused a loss to my self-sufficiency and independence. I hated having to be dependent on others for rides to work, the grocery store, to appointments, to court, etc. I hated putting that burden and additional stress onto them. My sense of humor, something I deem important, suffered as well. I’ve found having a sense of humor has been extremely beneficial to me over the years; it has kept me sane in an often insane world! I’ve discovered maintaining a sense of humor is a rather difficult task when you’re sitting in jail!
I’m the result of everything and everyone I’ve come in contact with over the years- all the people, all the places, all the things I’ve experienced in my life. Those are the ‘pieces’ I had to work with and “transform” into something else.
These are just some of the things I wasn’t “thinking about” when I chose to drink, just some of the losses I encountered by “gambling” with what is most important to me. By “re-thinking my thinking”, I have become aware of these things and keep them front and foremost in my mind. They are my strongest motivator in my sobriety, as I am NOT gambling with those things again!
Through SMART, I’ve discovered “triggers” are something I have control over as well. I’ve learned that “triggers” don’t trigger anything, as they, by themselves, are only an invitation to one action or another. When you practice accepting such invitations, you become good at accepting and will do so quickly and easily, without any thought. The same is true for the opposite… If you practice refusing such invitations, you become good at refusing and do so quickly and easily.**
In these past 12 months, I’ve experienced the full spectrum of emotions. I’ve had emotional highs and lows. I’ve had both good times and bad. I’ve experienced extreme joy and deep sorrow. At one time, any of these things would have been a trigger, an “invitation” to drink. And I’ll be the first to admit there was a time I was well-practiced at accepting such invitations! But that has since changed. I’ve now become “well-practiced” at refusing those invitations to drink; I’ve become a “party-pooper” to my past self-destructive behaviors.
Instead, I have reframed and redirected those “invitations” to activities that are productive, not only to me, but others as well. One of these activities is my involvement and volunteering here at SMART Recovery. The time I spend doing this has been (and continues to be) beneficial to my recovery and it’s allowed me the opportunity to give back by helping others as well.
I’ve also started doing some writing again, something that had been put on the “back burner” quite some time ago. I’ve finished numerous projects around my house that had been either half-finished or on my “To Do” list for a long time. I’m currently working on stripping and refinishing an antique oak dining room table… something I intended to do when I first bought it 7 (8… maybe 9???) years ago. I’ve even managed to get some book reading in, which again, was something I used to do and enjoy, but let go by the wayside. Every day, I don’t have to look very far to find something I accomplished the day before, which gives me a reminder and confidence that I AM in control of my life once again.
All the pieces of the old “me” are still there. They’re something that can’t be taken out and tossed away. Over this past year, I’ve taken all those pieces and rearranged them into something different… I have “transformed” them into a different shape and form. So what is it that’s going to keep me from “transforming” back to my previous shape? GLUE!!! The ingredients of that “glue” are all the things I listed above… the things that are most important to me.
I am really liking this new guy called “Me”! Being sober does not make me feel like I’m “missing out” on something. Nor do I feel like I’m being “cheated” out of being able to drink, because that IS still a choice I could make. I choose not to! I’ve come to realize how much of life drinking has cheated ME out of… how much it has taken away from me! Sobriety is allowing me to show up for life. And by simply showing up, I’ve had the opportunity to “fall in love” with life… all over again!
So if I ever hear somebody recite that old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” I’ll argue with them for sure… as SMART has provided the tools to teach this “old dog” some “new tricks”!
Thank you, SMART Recovery!!!