Addiction Recovery – A Sports Analogy

Posted on September 30, 2014

​How do you change from a team you’ve supported for a long while?

-HughK, SMART Recovery Facilitator

SupportersImagine you are in a stadium FULL of people. The game is drawn and the outcome hangs in the balance.

One team gets the ball, heads towards their scoring end and the crowd, or half the crowd, starts to cheer!

They score! Half the stadium goes WILD! The other half groans! It is the same actual event that they both see – the emotion and depth of their reactions depends on which side they support, and how intensely emotional they feel about their team.

In addiction recovery I was attempting to change teams from the Addiction NAL (in the National Addiction League), to the Engaged NWL (in the National Wellness League). These two teams constantly played off in the Super Bowl of my life!

Some of my family and some of my friends couldn’t understand WHY I ever supported Addiction NAL. But I had my reasons:

· I have done it for a long time.

· I like it in some ways.

· It works for me on some levels.

· It is a passive way to play the game.

One day I looked up and saw that my team wasn’t headed in the direction I wanted to go – or more importantly, WAS headed in a direction that I did NOT want to go!

I looked into it further using SMART tools, specifically my CBA (Cost Benefit Analysis) and my Hierarchy of Values (HoV) and I found my support for this team was no longer in my best interests – was never in my best interests.

So how do I change sides?

My mates are all ardent supporters of the Addiction NAL and often try to get me back. I had all the scarves, jumpers, banners – all the supporter’s paraphernalia!

To change sides I had to immerse myself in what Engaged NWL supporters are immersed in. I found SMART Recovery and I CHOSE to sit on the Engaged NWL side and say and do what supporters of that team say and do. It meant I had to WORK at it. I had the support and encouragement of some dear new friends. I was given access to ideas and tools I could use to affect change.

That involved attending regular supporters’ meetings and putting the tools for an “Engaged NWL life”, into MY LIFE – on a regular basis.

What I have found now is that the supporters of the Engaged NWL sit on the sunny side of the stadium; the players on their team are much healthier and happier. To play well, they attend regular training and aren’t really all that concerned about scoring – they are more concerned about playing with as much of their expressed ability as they can. They are, however, playing as a team.

Still, I sometimes see the players and supporters of the Addiction NAL and I miss them. Not for any good reason, just because I do. There is naturally a nostalgic tie there. Doesn’t have to make any sense :P.

However, I have ultimately realized that there really are no supporters on either side. There are no seats for spectators. There are only players.

On the Addiction NAL side I know what some of the costs to play are, but a lot of the costs come over time and are out of my control. Playing on the Addiction NAL team might be apparently passive as far as life is concerned, but it is hugely expensive. Not many of the players ultimately enjoy playing – nor are they left with anything positive to show for it. They are not concerned with the team as a whole and their skill base atrophies, withers and eventually apparently disappears. There are always remnants.

On the Engaged NWL side, I choose to pay the costs of attending (Practice, Persistence and Patience) up front. It is a team that is concerned with my skills development and with me as a person. Each time I go out to play, it is with a sense that I may not get it right, however I will be encouraged to learn and have another go.

No cheering from either side happens if an Engaged NWL player temporarily runs out for the opposition; however a mighty cheer goes up when one of the Addiction NAL players takes a staggering step onto the ground to play on the Engaged NWL side for the first time, or for the NEXT time.

Perhaps stay a while. Maybe play a while. Possibly help another player settle in. Share with the team the goals you kick, that weren’t possible before now.

We love that you are on our team – back on your own team.

No step leaves you in the same place.

Go Engaged NWL!!

HughK is a SMART Online and Face-to-Face facilitator who facilitates a weekly meeting in Melbourne Australia and, with translation available, a weekly online meeting on SROL.

The tools mentioned by HughK in this post can be found on the SMART Recovery website under Resources>Tools and Homework.

9 thoughts on “Addiction Recovery – A Sports Analogy

  1. Layde

    Hugh, as a lady not totally engaged in sports, this analogy hit home. I am having a horrible time remaining abstinent. Yet as I read your analogy, I realized I needed to get into the game, chose a side and PLAY! I think I am sitting back, waiting for the magic cure. Ain’t happening! 🙂

  2. bill

    I love sports analogies, I raised my son on them! Every day, when I wake up, it’s like walking up to the plate. And, because of SMART and my recovery, I am confident that I’ll perform well. I don’t always hit a home run, but I’m sure not striking out as much as I used to!

    1. HughK

      No doubt your son thanks you – or it would be preferential that he did 🙂
      Well done yourself Bill, and that is really the key.

  3. Wintersong

    This is a really helpful perspective. It was very powerful for me to realize that it takes equal energy, skill, practice and motivation to play for either team. I can’t just sit out the game to overcome my drug of choice, I have to use the SMART tools with equal or more effort than I put into the NAL.

    Thanks much!

    1. HughK

      Love it!
      “I CHOOSE TO use the SMART tools with equal or more effort than I put into the NAL”
      How could you do other, than very well, eventually 🙂

  4. Gentoo

    Hugh, may I buy season tickets to NWL games? 🙂

    I like this sports analogy too: If a baseball player strikes out in a game, does he quit playing baseball?

    Of course not. He thinks about the pitches, his swing… the reasons why he struck out. Then he gets up to bat again, with a plan.

    That is just like a lapse or relapse. We may “strike out”, but that doesn’t mean we’ve failed at recovery and will never be successful. We can learn from what happened, and make a plan.

    Best wishes to all!

    A sports fan,

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