Changing your behaviour is deceptively simple. All you have to do, when strip away all the layers of motivation, disinterest, cravings, and urges, is either take action, or don’t. Either drink, or don’t drink. Gamble or don’t gamble. Call your dealer, or don’t call your dealer. Unfortunately, simplicity is not equal to ease. Making a change may well be a yes-or-no decision, but often it’s the steps that lead to the first decision that are the hardest to take.

Human beings, although we’re capable of incredible things, are also very simple creatures. We may live in cities, build spaceships, and explore the deepest, darkest mysteries of our universe, but we also hate being wrong. You probably know someone who can never admit to being wrong, even on the losing end of a heated argument. You might even be that person! We’re reluctant to admit to ourselves that we could be unhappy, and we can be reluctant to take responsibility for that unhappiness. That’s entirely natural. However, a vital aspect of the SMART Recovery process is that we need to interrogate our own feelings and beliefs in order to overcome our own problem behaviour, all the way from stubbornness to chronic addictions.

In order to make a change, you have to realise that you both need and want to make a change. That requires, on some level, that you recognise your own unhappiness or discontent. Our egos, fragile as a spider’s web, often throw up excuses as to why we can’t change: “I have to drink”, the ego protests, “because I can’t talk to people sober”. “I can’t stop – this is the way I am”. Critically, this is where SMART Recovery differs from the twelve-step programme. While the twelve-step programme demands that its participants classify themselves as permanently diseased, we believe the opposite.

There is nothing wrong with you.

You have the power to change.

You are not diseased.

You can do it.

None of this is to say that change is easy, particularly when it comes to issues as harrowing for the body and soul as addiction. Quitting drinking can be so shocking to the system that those who go cold turkey have been known to die from the results. However, once you realise that you can change, and that you want to, the only thing stopping you is yourself.