No one knows the stats on how many people just quietly quit drinking on their own, but some readings suggest that that it a very common occurrence. This shocked me a little. I guess I thought the only reason to quit drinking was because you’d hit the bottom, and the only way to quit was through AA. I didn’t consider so many people quit on their own, or know that other methods and programs abound.
Like a lot of folks, I shied away from AA because I just don’t see myself as an alcoholic. Drinking too much, yes. Wanted to quit, yes. Additive behaviour, yes. Alcoholic, no.
I know AA to be a wonderful program, and I have been helped enormously by many people involved in AA who have shared their wisdom and insights through comments on this blog, emails, and other connections. In fact, my own father went to AA as a young man, before he was married. He was only 24 when he quit drinking, and although he quit attending meetings after he was married, he has always been proud of his sobriety. I’ve always known my dad to be an abstainer, and he’s open with the fact that he was in AA as a young man. I’ve always considered it to be a positive force, and I have had the best example of the results lived out right in front of me.
I felt I still had a choice, and I wanted to change my life while I held the power to do so. I could see it was only a matter of time before my drinking patterns swallowed me whole and recovery would be out of my control.
I’ve discovered a recovery support program called “SMART Recovery” (SMART being an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training). It is a program for recovery from various types of addiction through learning tools and techniques to support four main points:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation
- Coping with Urges
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours
- Living a Balanced Life
I am benefitting from the program through its literature but have so far not opted to take part in any meetings. There are online meetings as well as local ones, and podcasts of meetings are available as well (I’ve downloaded several). There are free newsletters on the website: www.smartrecovery.org and a bookstore to order literature and support materials.
What most appeals to me about this program is the notion that the recovery process is not eternal. Hold on, hold on – some of you are getting upset just reading that and are mentally preparing a scathing comment. AA teaches that alcoholism is for life, that you are always a recovering alcoholic, never a recovered one.
I don’t dispute that point. I don’t know anything about being a recovered/ing alcoholic. I only know what it’s like to be me, and as I said earlier, I don’t believe myself to be an alcoholic. In an addicted pattern, yes. Hating my life and wanting to change this stupid, horrible, self-destructive pattern I’d engraved, yes.
To say, “The change is complete – I am now a non-drinker and I will continue to be” seems entirely achievable to me. In fact, I feel I am almost there. 9 months and 2 weeks into recovery, and it is starting to feel normal. I feel I have shaken the addiction itself, but there is still other work to be done.
There is so much more to recovery than just the simple (albeit difficult) act of keeping booze from your lips! You really have to do a lot of soul searching and come clean with yourself about what you do and why you do it.
This past year, I have worked hard to understand why I am such a pleaser. Why do I work so hard for approval from everyone including the grocery clerk, cousins I never see, and total strangers on the street? Isn’t it interesting that I found my way into the performing arts, where approval is granted at the end of each song with a round of applause and maybe even a standing ovation at the end of the show? And more ironic that I also have myself on a hamster wheel running a business where sales, profits, and awards motivate my every move?
Who am I if I’m not on centre stage? Who am I if I’m not a top competitor in business? What would it be like to just lay low for a while? To just tow the line and only do things because I either need to or want to, not because I feel obligated to in order to make others like me?
So back to the 4 points of SMART, I built my motivation to quit and now, having quit, I have to work on staying motivated. (Going back and reading my earlier blogs sure helps! I never want to be in that place again.)
I have learned to cope with urges and have adapted some great strategies. I have found other ways to comfort myself and have good support in place.
Managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours is a work in progress and thank goodness! I feel I am a better person because I am spared the humiliation of pulling the wine bladder out of the box and squeezing out every precious drop. That alone is reason enough to have quit. Beyond the obvious benefits of abstinence and sobriety, there is the fact that I am becoming a calmer, gentler version of myself. I am finally being kind to myself. I am getting better but have a long way to go.
Finally, living a balanced life. This is the goal, really. To balance out your comforts and pleasures short term and long term. To be surrounded with good people, engage in positive activities. Be your best you.
I don’t want to get into a debate about which program is right or better. Different programs work for different people. The more options the better, as far as I am concerned! The goal is to get everyone back to sane town, so let’s illuminate as many paths as possible.