George has been using SMART for 3 years to help him reach his substance use goals. Many of us stop using illicit drugs only to increase our alcohol use. Others use both illicit drugs and alcohol and would like to deal with them better. SMART focuses on the behaviour, not the substance.
Here is George’s experience.
I have been struggling with substance use of one sort or another since I was a teenager with ADHD and a skateboard. My use saw me go from a top student with discipline problems to a drop-out with legal problems. I managed to get my drug use down a little, with the support of my girlfriend at the time and an old principal who helped me get into TAFE. But I just swapped substances to alcohol and soon I was having my first drink as early as 6:00 AM then drinking all day.
Then my brother died of an overdose. He was also my best friend and I went through a really hard time. I went overseas on a holiday with one of his close friends to try and get a handle on things. On that trip a series of drunken accidents and fights turned into a major wakeup call. I now knew what was obvious to everybody else but me. My drinking was out of control.
I did want to get a grip on my substance use but I had no idea how to approach the task. I had support from friends and family but not the tools to change my behaviour or my attitude.
I attended an AA meeting but left after 20 minutes as I didn’t feel it was right for me nor did I want to abstain totally. A close friend suggested I attend a SMART meeting with him.
I intended to observe only but within 10 minutes I was openly discussing my challenges and the reasons I thought I was in the position I was. By the end of that meeting I had identified some of the causes, triggers and reasons for my substance use. I had also begun to explore some of my attitudes and misguided beliefs.
I find the informal group discussion format of SMART meetings gives me a comfortable place to look at the challenges I face regarding my substance use. I can share my experiences with others going through the same thing and hear their fresh ideas. Their advice has been truly invaluable. I like sharing my successes and struggles with others and enjoy sharing in their journey
I really like the 7 day focus of SMART meetings. By talking through the previous 7 days with the group, I can picture what I need to fix. I can work out how I can improve and plan the next 7 days from a fresh start. It is easy to say ‘I am not going to do this’ but I have found I just repeat my mistakes if I don’t have a plan of action. Each week I refocus on my goals and alter my approach. It’s also important for me that I stay accountable when I haven’t had the best week. While I never feel judged by the group, I do feel I have let the others down when I let myself down.
I have been attending a weekly SMART meeting for close to three years now. In that time I have changed the way I think about my substance use in a HUGE way.
The change began slowly. I identified my end goal – controlled drinking – then set milestones. I decided on a number of drinks per day that I felt was achievable. I reduced gradually til I met my goal. It took an increasing level of commitment and dedication, but after about a year and a few months I had my first alcohol free day (AFD) in close to 13 years!
Since then I have dramatically changed the way I think, my approach towards activities, my decision making processes and my view towards my friends’ alcohol consumption.
I am now in the last year of my first uni degree with a distinction average, I successfully completed Dry July last year and exceeded 35 AFDs. I have a better relationship with my family, especially with my younger sister who worried I would follow my brother to an early grave. I am generally much healthier and happier than I have ever been in my life and I owe a great deal of my success to the SMART meetings.
SMART has enabled me to see that I can ‘DO IT’. I truly believe in the SMART meetings and the methods used and whole heartedly recommend SMART to others. It’s not over yet but the light at the end of the tunnel has never been closer nor brighter!