You probably recognise Matt Scarce’s name and friendly mug from the news, or from our recent coverage of his huge journey paddleboarding along the Queensland coast. He returned to the safety of dry land (well, dryish – it is tropical Queensland we’re talking about) earlier this week, and I was fortunate enough to ask him a few questions about his journey, his personal philosophy, and his involvement with SMART Recovery Australia.
1. You just paddled 1300km of Queensland coastline. How did you stay motivated doing such an arduous task day after day?
SMART Recovery is a fantastic program. My motivation has always been the same, and that is to share my experience, strength, and hope with people who are wanting to change. Helping them to believe that it is possible for them, and give hope to parents and the children of people with problematic behaviors that their loved one can turn their life around for the better.
Out on the water I used a running app that would give me information on my distance, time elapsed, and speed for every kilometre. Each day was broken down to 1km goals and I would have a certain average speed I would need to maintain each km to stay on target for the day. Any time I needed to change position on the board or have something to eat or drink, I would have to complete that kilometre first. Each kilometre lasted between eight and ten minutes, and the process would reset each time. My focus was on consistent, efficient paddle strokes, my breathing, and waiting for an opportunity (such as a change in the wind or tide) to present itself and then take advantage of it.
Early recovery is very similar, for some days need to be broken right down so you can apply consistent effort repeatedly, reset, then go again. In time, opportunity presents itself and you need to be ready to take advantage of it when it does.
2. What was the most remarkable thing you saw or experienced out there?
There were some incredible sights and experiences. I saw whales for the first time, saw the different kinds of terrain and waters that the Queensland coast has to offer, and experienced paddling further and longer than I thought I could. But the most overwhelming and blissful experience I had was the realisation that I had gone that one step beyond my fears and was truly living right now, in the moment, creating and sharing an experience. It was like breaking the sound barrier, where all of a sudden there is no noise in your head and everything is incredible.
It didn’t matter if the going was easy or if it was the hardest day I had. I was still out on the leading edge creating an experience and living in the here and now of it all. To experience that for 25 days? Nothing else comes close to it.
3. Last month, you said you anticipated having to adapt quickly to changing situations over the course of your journey, and that this is not dissimilar from the early stages of recovery. How did your skills and techniques from SMART Recovery stack up on the ocean?
The skills I’ve learned in my recovery and through SMART Recovery meetings stacked up like the Louis Armstrong song “What a Wonderful World”. Timeless and as relevant today as the day it was first penned!
I was able to sit down each evening and plan the next day’s goals, then break them down with questions. “OK, if this happens where am I going to camp?” or “OK, I’ve got a very high chance of reaching tomorrow’s destination, so how can I lighten my board to help ensure I stay on target with my average speed goal?”
When things didn’t go quite to plan, I had skills to go back and work out where I could have made changes earlier, and when a similar situation presented itself each time I would be able to adjust quickly and move on. Soon I was learning, growing, and adapting on the go or almost seamlessly.
4. What changes would you like to see in Australia in the world of recovery?
I would like to see more people who are in recovery doing more to promote the benefits, both for themselves personally and the ripple effect their recovery has had. I believe “everyday” non-celebrity people that share their experience, strength, and hope will reach more people wanting to change, who will be able to relate and believe that it can be possible for themselves too. Government and the media could do a lot more with their influence to help this and help change attitudes towards people who are still dealing with problematic behavior.
5. You’ve been involved with SMART Recovery Australia for just over eight years now. What is it that you appreciate about SMART Recovery and our approach?
I really appreciate the SMART Recovery approach to working on the here and now by addressing the past 7 days, and setting goals to focus on for the next 7 days that will have a positive impact on myself and those around me.
In meetings, I’ve had other members who are at a much earlier stage of recovery offer their point of view on a current issue I’m dealing with, and it has proven to be exactly what I needed in order to continue with my recovery.
The opportunity to work together as a collective mind in a meeting provides a member the chance to gain a different perspective. It can be a perspective they may not have considered in the past, and that can make a massive difference to the quality of their recovery.