By Tracey Helton Mitchell, author of “The Big Fix; Hope After Heroin“
Recovery is not a sprint, it is a marathon. What this implies is that we use the tools at our disposal to plan for the long journey away from substances and into a new life. Putting down the drugs and alcohol is only the start. We have to find the motivation to press on. We have to cope with our urges to give in or give up. We have to push out negativity as we deal with the flood of emotions as we push forward. Finally, we have to find a way to accept ourselves and our limitations as human beings. SMART Recovery is a four point program that logically allows a person to plot their course along this journey. It allows for participants to move at their own pace, evaluating their own goals and their own reasons for change.
When I quit using drugs eighteen years ago, there were few alternatives for those seeking recovery. At 27 years old, I was pulled out of a dirty hotel in handcuffs. I was quickly told I was an “addict” that had little chance of success unless I followed rigid rules. Yet, I felt much more engaged in my own process when I thought about the potential benefits of staying off drugs. There was the reintroduction of my family. There was the return to work which gave me a feeling of self reliance. There was the joy I felt from simple things like taking myself out to the park on a warm day. There was meeting new friends, going new places, seeing the world through a new sober lens. When I gave up one thing- drugs- I gained everything. Instead of focusing on a recovery that was based on what I had lost, I began to focus on all the wonderful things I was able to gain (and keep!) by not getting high.
None of these changes were easy at first. The transformation from a street “junkie” to a successful mother of three took place incrementally. The changes I made took place so slowly, I could not always recognize them. By plotting things out on paper and reviewing them with my peers, I began to see how far I had come over time. I learned to accept my past for what it was- history. I learned to manage cravings by putting them in their proper place. A craving, to me, is a memory. It only has power when I waste my energy on it. I kept moving forward until the hours became days became weeks became months became years. I can only speak for myself when I say even the most hopeless of users can stop with a plan and support.