Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!

Posted on June 3, 2014

by Margaret Speer, SMART Recovery meeting participant

I believe in self-empowerment and the power of choice. I successfully used these techniques to remain mindful and sober. I’ve improved my confidence, self-acceptance, and increased my independent positive decisions. I lived my life too long and blind to the power I hold within myself. Sobriety through self-empowerment was the hardest journey I have ever accomplished. I developed a healthier lifestyle within my daily routine and recovery goals. I know it is going to take my lifetime to maintain my recovery in addiction to alcohol while developing patience for my impulsive behaviors.

Since I was 15 years old, I have experienced complications with my involvement with alcohol. I was consistently battling, and failing with every attempt to stop my chemical use. Finally when I was 30 years old I woke up and removed my blinders – eyes wide open. I was experiencing the worst bone pain in my life. I can only describe it as a deep, constant, and a thrombosis throbbing ache. I felt as if I was in a pain coma. I accepted the fact that by self-medicating with straight vodka, I was taking the edge off the extreme and unbearable pain. Unfortunately, I was fueling the poison of alcohol to my body daily and for over a decade. Because I was so stubborn by the time I went to the hospital it was already too late. I was hospitalized for double pneumonia, anemia, dehydration and I was diagnosed with a bone disease called Avascular Necrosis. One of the primary causes of AVN is prolonged excessive alcohol intake. That is the hardest reality that I have, knowing I did it to myself because of my drinking, and this will be my life-long consequence. My bones will never recover and sadly it is not something that will heal itself or with medicine. They are only going to deteriorate with time. This reality I live with and it kicks me in the butt every day.

The date I embraced self-empowerment was October 18th 2013. I found myself sitting in a new psychiatrist’s office, at a new facility. My appointment time was 9:30am. I started admitting more truth than I had in quite some. I had been losing myself to my addiction to alcohol and I was also fighting my un-manageable highs and lows of bi-polar including other serious mental disorders. I was scared, yet she made me feel safe. Safety was another emotional feeling I had lost along my journey. I was ashamed and I was uneasy to hear myself admit this out loud. I pushed through my tears and I said: “My last drink was at 6am this morning. I took a nap, I got up, and I brushed my teeth. My home health care worker drove me here. I am trying to seek help with an addiction counselor and attending S.M.A.R.T. Recovery self-help meetings.”

Luckily she still decided to help me. There was a small gentle lecture given with care and compassion. She took a look at my medications and asked me for my opinion on which ones I felt were helping, and which ones I was not even taking. She also added new medications that I agreed I would try. She proceeded to tell me, “Go home. Take the medications, and take a nap!” I was floored with her concern and I went home and I did as I was told. Having some quiet time got me to think and it was in those moments I knew I had to make better choices for myself, my future, my health, my family, and my loved ones.

My recovery was not the traditional 12-step program. I’ve had a dozen treatments that labeled and treated me as though I had a disease and needed to be “fixed”. What I needed was based more on cognitive reconstructing of my thoughts and beliefs, thus enforcing my ability to decrease my negative impacts (internal and external) that have occurred in my life. I learned I am a fallible human being. The American psychologist Albert Ellis is the originator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT). Dr. Ellis is one of many I have to thank.

I went through the Stages of Change and I will explain them as follows: first there is Pre-Contemplation: For years I was drinking, in such a way I didn’t think it was a problem. Yet in reality it was. I always believed that no one knew. The next stage was Contemplation: That was when I was sitting in my psychiatrist office and the idea of change was intriguing to me. The day I was diagnosed with my bone disease was when I went into abysmal thought. I weighed out the positives and negatives of using. I thought about the possibilities. I could even further my education if I wanted to. I needed to be absolutely sure that I wanted to be sober and be clear-minded, a possibility that I fell in love with. The next step was Preparation: I could look for the first time and realize I could have a future. I knew I had a lot of hard work ahead of me. I started to seek out providers. I was currently in art therapy and seeking mental health professionals for my medications. I learned that an addiction counselor I knew of through S.M.A.R.T. recently moved to a treatment facility that believed in a behavior and thought cognitive reconstructing form of treatment that I wanted. Action: It is where I am now. I completed 22 weeks of REBT therapy. I have 1-on-1 meetings with my addiction councilor every month. This currently is the longest stretch of sobriety I have had  since the age of 15. That to me is total action stage in working condition. I attend my S.M.A.R.T. meetings every week. I changed my personal relationships and engage in healthier activities that support my current recovery efforts. I am an artist and a painter, my dining room is my art studio. The local  drug/alcohol free environment coffee house, became my clubhouse. I even enrolled in college to further my education, with the help of Vocational Rehabilitation. Becoming the stage of Maintenance: Which will be a constant work in progress. This is where I cope with my daily stressors. I have to remember to breathe, and then breathe again. I keep on seeking out a support network. I even joined the sister’s circle at the Salvation Army, in which I started to have healthier friendships with females.

I knew that S.M.A.R.T. stands for Self-Management And Recovery Training. I had been going on and off the program for 4 years. In the beginning, it was hard for me to understand the concept that thoughts cause feelings and behaviors. I used to believe I acted before thinking or didn’t have the time to think before I acted. Thus I was always acting on impulse. I needed to learn how to become more self-aware and how to slow down to process my current attitudes, assumptions, and beliefs. I learned to manage my emotions by figuring out the underlying thoughts. I have to remember that I have a choice!

Margaret Speer resides in Minnesota and is presently attending college, majoring in Paralegal. She says: “Years and years I tried the traditional 12 step program and it never worked for me. It wasn’t until I was introduced to SMART Recovery and outpatient cognitive re-constructuring that things made sense in my mind. I am working on 8 months clear headed and straight. SMART changed my life and saved my life at the same time.”

10 thoughts on “Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself!

  1. Olivia Hughes

    A phenomenal story and I want to wish you all the best for the future. Thanks for sharing and I think sometimes with help, sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. In some cases, you have to try a few out until something works for you and you have to be ready. You have to want to get better and that was the case with your story. Changing your thought process is easier said than done but it can be achieved through the power of choice.

    1. MargaretS

      The power of choice is what got me through the early weeks, reminding myself I have a choice. Creating internally believing I was growing stronger with each week day minute that paced I had made a smarter choice. Gradually it got easier, but still everyday reminder I am one choice away from slipping the wrong way!

  2. Margaret

    Thank you everyone for your encouragement including Jamie of course I remember you! For everything I have been through and the work I have done to get this far is amazing to me still. Almost as if it has not sunk in yet. To Cuzzbelly I am not comfortable sharing the name of my councilor because I don’t know If I have his permission. Thank you everyone and to others don’t be shy post something please…..

    1. Cuzzbelly

      I would really appreciate if you would check and ask if ok to pass along his name and contact info. It sounds like program that could help.

      1. Margaret

        Where do you live depending on that I could share with you privately through e-mail, find me on facebook, Margaret Speer

  3. Arjuna

    I deeply appreciate your post. While doctors have told you that your bone condition is hopeless, I would encourage you not to necessarily accept that conclusion. While it MAY be true, there is more and more evidence that the way we think (and feel) affects the performance of our genes. Dr. Herbert Benson’s latest book, Relaxation Revolution: The Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing, opens the door to thinking about this. Our mind is part of our environment. No harm in spending time every day visualizing your bones growing stronger and healthier, bathing them in loving kindness. And do as much as you can to find a nutrient rich diet that promotes health, as well as a movement routine that you really enjoy doing. An honest but gentle mind is an asset in all situations.

  4. Cuzzbelly

    Great that you shared your story Margaret, thanks!
    I’ve been recently thinking of starting a similar program, can you please pass on name of the addiction counselor and treatment center this REBT program is offered from?

  5. Jamie Lockwood

    Hi Maggie. As someone who has known you since your were 12 and struggled through some of the same battles, I’m happy to see you are finding your potential. I am going on 10 years of being sober and can say it does come easier with time. The future is so bright. Upon reflection, it is amazing to see how dark things really were and how much better it is on this side. You were such a fun, bright, amazing friend in our childhood. You were dealt a couple of bad hands, and I’m happy you are seeing your inner strength by overcoming them. Much love.

  6. Natalia A

    Thank you so much for sharing. I too found the part about slowing down to process our thoughts/emotions useful. I’ve spent the last three days going off the rails because I didn’t slow down to think things through or to reach out to someone for help. Today is day 1 of starting over, without hating or blaming myself for my recent relapse.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  7. Gentoo

    Margaret, thank you for sharing the inspiring story of your recovery. The concept of stopping, breathing, and thinking before acting on “autopilot” is really key to me as well. And this carries over from recovery, to benefit me in all kinds of situations in daily life as well. Thanks to SMART Recovery’s tools, I feel that I move through my world with so much more calm, grace, and ease. Best wishes for continued success to you!

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