Three and a Half Years!

Personal Success
“Gentoo” – SMART Recovery Online Meeting Facilitator

“I got myself into this, and I wanted concrete, practical, science-based,
proven information about how I could get myself out – and for good.”

Gentoo PenguinI just celebrated 3.5 years as a non-drinker with SMART Recovery peer support, particularly SMART Recovery Online.

I drank heavily for decades. I developed a physical addiction to alcohol, where if I didn’t drink for an hour or two, I got shakes, sweats, anxiety. Then, drinking almost took my life. I had a serious fall when drinking, and it resulted in a traumatic brain injury. In ICU I was given a 50-50 chance to live. This caused pain to my husband and family. Thankfully, I made it. But I had to learn to walk again. And I had destroyed my career.

I attended an outpatient treatment center for alcohol and drugs where we were expected to attend one “outside” recovery meeting per week. We were given the choice of attending 12-step or SMART Recovery. And that’s how I learned about SMART.

I didn’t want to go to AA because I could not imagine standing up in front of a group and saying “Hi, I’m (real name) and I’m an alcoholic”. Although I go to church, I didn’t get the concept that just turning over my life to a “higher power” (and basically praying when I felt like drinking) is the solution, because I am “powerless”. I got myself into this, and I wanted concrete, practical, science-based, proven information about how I could get myself out – and for good, because another head trauma will almost certainly kill me. And so, I didn’t want someone like a “sponsor” telling me what to do, either.

SMART doesn’t tell you what to do; instead you are supported by great people in the same boat and pointed in the right direction.

I learned that I am the one who needs to do the work. I needed to read and learn and use the things I learned to quit drinking and stay quit.

SMART Recovery meetings are super-helpful. People share their personal experiences with the SMART tools and how they worked for them. The volunteer Meeting Facilitators guide the discussion. What you take and use is your choice. That’s why SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. Three and a half years later, without a single drink, I recently became a Meeting Facilitator myself. The training is very rigorous. And I deepen my commitment to my recovery by helping others the best I can.

The 24/7 support here online is fantastic. There’s always someone to talk with and share experiences or ask for support in getting through a tough moment without giving in. The website offers lots of meetings online every day. Tons of resources to read, learn and use for success! And good friendships, if you’d like that.

SMART was exactly what I needed. I think these SMART principles sum it up, for me:

Successfully recovered people:
:: Have a commitment to sobriety
:: Make a change in lifestyle
:: Prepare and plan for urges

Recovery takes the 3 P’s:
::Patience
::Practice
::Persistence

I wish everyone reading this the joy of recovery. It may not seem joyful at all when starting out, but I think you’ll agree one day – it is! You can recover your health, relationships, career, and more.


Gentoo PenguinAbout the author: Gentoo ‘got SMART’ in 2010 and serves as an Online Meeting Facilitator and a FUNdraising Volunteer. Her other passion is penguins and she is known as Gentoo (a species of penguin) in the online SMART community. She is often heard to quote Joe Moore: “It’s practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry.”


Gentoo’s recovery journey is an example of the importance of the services that SMART Recovery provides in assisting individuals seeking abstinence from addictive behaviors. The approach used is science-based using non-confrontational motivational, behavioral and cognitive methods. Your tax deductible gifts help us to bring SMART Recovery to even more people. Thank you for your support!


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14 Responses to “Three and a Half Years!”

  1. Kat133 says:

    That’s a very inspiring story. You know someone once told me that you should always believe that you can do anything if you try. And after all the hard work and dedication that you spent going through this recovering journey. You have definitely come a long way and congratulations for making it this far :D It really does feel good when you take control of your life and stop doing things that not only will be affecting you but the others around you. It probably wasn’t an easy journey for you or maybe it was (it’s just a matter of taking things one step at a time). But in the end, it’s definitely worth it and you’ll be feeling a lot better about yourself so yeah keep up the great work :)

  2. Ed says:

    I would like to learn how to stay sober the way you have done it. What I am doing is not working.

    I hope someone contacts me.

  3. Wezzie says:

    Thanks for having your story posted Gentoo! Unfortunately, I can really relate. Lots of surgeries, broken bones and a world of hurt. Hard surfaces never seem to get any softer regardless of how many times you hit them. I’m glad you are better and that you are here making a difference in people’s lives. Thank you!

  4. Lily says:

    I’m drinking right now but I need to stop. I have been to outpatient treatment twice, lost multiple jobs including the last one that I somehow managed to keep for 4 years. I cut out everyone who cared about me except for my boyfriend of 11 years so that I could drink alone and not be judged. He started drinking with me and now he’s a lush too. I didn’t have a traumatic life event and I don’t have a family history of alcoholism. I have extremely bad social anxiety but I don’t think that’s a reason to just throw away your life. I’m 30 and can’t really remember the last 10 years of my life. Any help would be appreciated.

    • Gentoo says:

      Hi Lily,

      Thanks for reading and responding to my story. You can choose to have your own success story too. It sounds to me like you see the downside of your drinking and wish to explore what you can do to change that.

      I invite you to visit smartrecovery.org and check it out. There’s a short Welcome video that will give you an idea of what SMART recovery is all about.

      SMART means “Self-Management and Recovery Training”. Self-management means you have the power and you are in charge of of the choices you make. And it’s Recovery Training where you can learn tools to help you succeed.

      Here is one thing to be aware of. If you have physical dependence on alcohol (get the shakes, sweats etc if you don’t drink) you may need to start with medical detox to safely stop. Then you’ll be ready to learn to make better choices.

      I invite you to visit http://www.withdrawal.org This site offers withdrawal resources; common symptoms and treatments. And I suggest asking your doctor.

      My very best wishes to you!

  5. bill says:

    Hi, I’ll make this shortbecause ihave been having trouble communicating with the the site (my fault I’m sure, but I’ll get it)Liked what you said, aa mtgs are close to me so i go, need help with obsessive ,urges, compulsion etc. I have trouble walkingh past a mouthwash rack!. Let me know if you got this. thanks, Billsmess.

    • Gentoo says:

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for reading and responding to my story. You can choose to have your own success story too. It sounds to me like you see the downside of your drinking and wish to explore what you can do to change that.

      It feels so good to be free of addiction and have a new, clear life not ruled by a bottle (of booze or mouthwash!) It feels so good when YOU are in charge.

      I invite you to visit smartrecovery.org and check it out. There’s a short Welcome video that will give you an idea of what SMART recovery is all about.

      SMART means “Self-Management and Recovery Training”. Self-management means you have the power and you are in charge of of the choices you make. And it’s Recovery Training where you can learn tools to help you succeed.

      Here is one thing to be aware of. If you have physical dependence on alcohol (get the shakes, sweats etc if you don’t drink) you may need to start with medical detox to safely stop. Then you’ll be ready to learn to make better choices.

      I invite you to visit http://www.withdrawal.org This site offers withdrawal resources; common symptoms and treatments. And I suggest asking your doctor.

      My very best wishes to you!

  6. Gary says:

    Im really interested in this smart recovery and to be honest today is the first time I heard about it.
    I agree with earlier poster about withdrawal being toughest part. I would personally recommend using a doctor.

    • Gentoo says:

      Hi Gary,

      I had medical help to free myself of physical addiction to alcohol. I was in the hospital for a few days. It was kept comfortable and I was treated with respect and compassion. I want to say that anyone considering it should not be ashamed or afraid.

      After detox, the physical symptoms we get from not drinking are gone. But that’s when we begin the work of healing and learning what we can do, and tools we can use to stay on track and over time, create a new, healthy life.

      To get started, I invite you to visit smartrecovery.org.

      Beside the tools to use in recovery, SMART has a 24/7 chat room for support and a message board forum where people post about concerns, questions, and successes too. Plus many on-line meetings every day.

      I hope to see you around SMART Recovery online!

  7. Charles J. says:

    Great post and congrats!

    Withdrawals have to be the hardest part of going through treatment. Kudos to those who can get past that phase of quitting.

    I was lucky enough not to have all the withdrawals because of the treatment process I chose.

    But regardless it still takes huge commitment and drive to keep going for three and a half years.

    You are an inspiration to us all.

    • Gentoo says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Charles.

      There is a SMART meeting facilitator who says “Nobody said it would be easy. But I promise it’s definitely worth it!”

      I ask, does anyone lay on their deathbed and say, “Boy I wish I had drank more!” Or took more drugs, gambled more, etc).

      We have only so long here on Earth. It’s so much better to live without your world being controlled by addiction. We have the power to choose which way we want to live.

      My best to you!

  8. patricia says:

    Hi sweety the feature is absoluty factual I enjoyed the read it hightlighted a real life experience that made me feel that I am not alone but more importantly it sends a message of hope thank u

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