Member Story: Ulf – Stockholm, Sweden
What is my independence story?
When did my personal way of working towards independence start? Well, I´ve asked myself that question a lot lately and I don´t really know when exactly my journey to independence started.
And I don´t either know if I can call myself independent yet or ever. So I will narrow it down to trying to figure out when my recovery started. But also here I find it very difficult to say when my recovery started.
Was it when I first came to SMART? Was it when I went to my first AA meeting? Or was it because of the decision I made, when I had to go through withdrawal by myself after a 6 day around the clock binge, to finally give up and seek help? Was it because I felt like I was dying under those two days when I suffered in complete solitude going through terrible withdrawal symptoms like having the cold sweat, the warm sweat, not being able to eat and barely being able to drink water, seeing strange and scary shadows in a room with the drapes down, twisting and turning in my bed for more than 60 hours before calling a hospital. Was that when my rocky road to recovery began?
Or was it a few years back working a 12 month contract in an IT position in Ireland under unfortunate conditions? Was it when I ended up for the first time in a hospital’s emergency room coming out of a black-out? Was it when I realized I had blacked-out on my bicycle and crashed heavily drunk? Was it at that moment, when I came back home to my house sharing apartment in Blanchardstown on a Sunday morning, and from the chock of all that had happened opened up a bottle of High Commissioner´s Scotch Whiskey to escape from the excruciating agony that seemed to haunt me down every alley I tried to escape, is that my rocky road to recovery began? Most likely I will never know exactly when my recovery began or even how it began. What I do know is that before I came to SMART Recovery my life was a terrible mess, badly balanced on fragmented pieces of functional and dysfunctional ways of coping and dealing with life in general.
As I told you earlier in my story I did end up going to my first AA meeting after those six dreadful days of withdrawal on my own, and I had the most fantastic feeling of gratification at that first meeting. And in the years to follow AA would play an integral and also most of the time a very happy part in my life. It´s always rewarding in a sense to admit to having a problem and to try to work on a solution for that problem, so in that sense I felt a breeze of freedom or independence by admitting myself to being an alcoholic.
I hung around in the fellowship as much and as often as I could and I loved all the conventions here in Stockholm, Sweden with visiting American service speakers. I even shook hands and hugged Clancy once and had my picture taken together with him. Now, for those of you who don´t know who Clancy is – let me just tell you that Clancy is an icon in the AA history and by many believed as the founder and father of the legendary Pacific Group in LA, Ca.
No one should be denied the opportunity of choice in making your own personal decision in which program of recovery best suits one´s needs and preferences.
I believed every word I heard spoken in AA to be true (more or less) in my early days in the 12-step recovery program. I bought all the literature and I started to read it. I went to meeting after meeting after meeting and I shared and I shared and I shared. I even started working the 12 steps together with three different sponsors at three different times, but nothing seemed to work alright. I was a fully fledged “fake it until you make it” actor fooling no one but myself.
It didn´t come out as a striking fact at once or anything that AA didn´t work for me, but it gradually and very painfully grew to my awareness that something was missing in the AA concept. I spent more than two years in AA trying to recover. I was a miserable, hopeless and despaired chronic relapser in AA, and when people told me that perhaps I wasn´t ready yet I believed them.
The change came about one year ago when I realized that I would never be able to find a solution in the 12-step program. I shared in one English spoken meeting about my total disbelief in the concept of turning your life and will over to the care of a higher power and through that be liberated from the compulsion to drink, and about me being 100 % non 12-step programmable. Until then I had been told that AA was the only working solution for alcoholics and if I couldn´t accept their solution then I would have no chance at recovering from my disease. Hearing that being said over and over scared me enough and kept me coming back, relapse after relapse, for a long time.
But there was one guy there at that meeting who at that time was a visitor from Boston, Ma (he now lives here as an ex-pat), and I am ever so grateful for this person, who showed me enough consideration and compassion to realize that I was in trouble and that I needed something different. I can still very vividly remember him telling me: – Ulf, If you can´t get it straight from this program you could try looking for “AA for atheists” on the internet.
I did what he suggested. I typed in “AA for atheists” in a Google search field. I didn´t find AA for atheists, and I´m not sure if there is such a thing, but I found SMART Recovery.
I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical in the beginning, especially with how SMART sees the addiction as maladaptive behaviour instead of a disease and also that one´s not powerless over alcohol. I had been spoon-fed long enough in AA to fully accept the disease model and the powerlessness concept, even though I never liked it. I often shared in AA meetings that I was completely aware of having the disease but not being ok with that. SMART just seemed too much in contradiction with everything I had learned from the 12-step program and I think that maybe I felt afraid and confronted with yet another idea that I didn´t know whether it was true or not true. So I kept on relapsing like I always did. But after my last (hopefully I will remain to be the last one) stay in the detox (I had to go into detox eight or nine times in a seven month period before I started in SMART) I decided to give SMART Recovery a try. I have relapsed only once since then in the SMART Recovery program.
I started working with the tools and reading the material that is downloadable for free from the on-line library at the SMART website and it didn´t take very long for me to start to feel that I for the first time could see a solution to what caused me to engage into my addiction. I also came to agree with the SMART way of seeing my addiction as maladaptive behaviour and that I´m not powerless, and when I started to see things this way it felt like a breath of fresh air coming right at me, giving me hope and motivation to work more on my own personal recovery.
I have stayed sober 10 ½ weeks today (July 4th) and I sometimes get urges and cravings and I sometimes also have addictive voices in my head trying to manipulate my mind. But since I started to work on a daily basis with tools such as the Cost/Benefit Analysis, the ABC and DE of REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy) and not to be forgotten the DISARM (Destructive Self-Talk Awareness and Refusal Method) I have successfully over and again been able to cope with the urges and cravings and I have been able to mobilize the needed motivation to stay sober. Before I used to struggle not to drink, today I prefer to stay abstinent and for me that´s a huge difference and a tremendous progress! I can stop to think today – not stop for that drink – and make the right choices for myself. My life is getting better and better week by week and I know and I feel today that I have a chance on working on long term changes and goals which has never been possible for me until now, and it´s all because of the SMART choices I make for myself and because of all the help, support and friendship that I have in the SMART Recovery on-line program and community.
I have now been a member of the SMART on-line message board since October 2009 and I try to be as active in the on-line forum as I possibly can. I live in Sweden so there is a time difference in 6 hours from US Eastern Standard Time. I have made the JvB Friday night and Monday night voice meetings as my regular SMART meetings and I also try to attend the Aslanthelion Thursday night voice meeting and the Ohansen Saturday night text meeting on a regular basis.
To wrap things up I just want to share with you that I have an intention of bringing SMART to Sweden and to let people here know about SMART. No one should be denied the opportunity of choice in making your own personal decision in which program of recovery best suits one´s needs and preferences. As I have now written this it is now July 5th and my birthday – what better gift could I possibly give to myself than to have the privilege to share my story with all of you!
Thank You All!
SMART – Makes People Talk!