Join us September 22-24 in Ft. Lauderdale
by Bill Greer, SMART Board Member
We are looking forward to seeing you in sunny Florida at #SMARTcon2017 as we celebrate National Recovery Month.
Under the theme Rising Strong, the 2017 SMART Recovery Annual Conference features numerous training and learning opportunities for SMART meeting facilitators, recovery professionals and others dedicated to helping people overcome addictions.
The theme recognizes SMART’s exponential growth to more than 2,400 weekly meetings in over 20 countries – up from less than 700 as recently as 2011.
The event will take place September 22-24 at the GALLERYone DoubleTree Suites hotel in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
The program highlights:
The key player in addiction
By Shelly Tichelaar, CEO & Executive Director, Ranch Creek Recovery
Yes, there really can be too much of a good thing. Dopamine is a chemical neurotransmitter in the brain that relays feelings of pleasure to the brain when we engage in an enjoyable behavior or activity. While human beings inherently rely on dopamine to reinforce survival behaviors such as eating and procreating, this brain chemical also happens to be the key player in addiction.
Out of Control Dopamine
Activated by such things as eating certain foods we love or engaging in romance, dopamine signals the brain that a reward is on its way. When we engage in these pleasurable activities, dopamine sends its chemical message to the brain — the association between the stimulus and the reward become hardwired, a process called conditioning. This stimulus and reward pattern allows the human species to survive.
But when it comes to drug or alcohol use, dopamine levels are released at five to ten times the normal level, flooding the mood center of the brain. The user’s brain associates the extreme rush resulting from the spiked dopamine levels with using the drug of choice, reinforcing the desire to repeat using it. Ultimately, the brain requires more and more of the alcohol or drug to achieve any feelings of pleasure at all, resulting in compulsive drug-seeking behaviors.
Dopamine and Addiction
Most drugs target the brain’s reward system, activating a surge of dopamine that overwhelms the brain. Continue reading
Words of wisdom for those in the New Recovery Advocacy Movement
Guest Blogger: William L. White
Of all the experiences I have had as a recovery advocate, none have been more heart-rending than receiving news that a person prominently involved in recovery advocacy efforts has died of a drug overdose. It reminds me once again that personal health and recovery are the foundation of all larger efforts to educate, advocate, and counsel within the alcohol and other drug problems arena.
This is not a new lesson. Consider, for example, the following stories. John Gough got sober in the Washingtonian revival of the early 1840s, but relapsed three times in the early period of his long career as America’s most charismatic temperance reformer. The lawyer Edward Uniac always stated that he was more vulnerable to the call of alcohol during extended periods of rest than when he was moving from town to town giving his temperance lectures. But Uniac suffered repeated drinking episodes and died in 1869 of an overdose of whiskey and opium while on a temperance lecture tour in Massachusetts. Luther Benson tried to use his own personal struggles with alcohol in the temperance lectures he gave across the country. His tales of continued binge drinking while on the lecture circuit were penned while he was residing in the Indiana Asylum for the Insane. His 1896 autobiography was entitled, Fifteen Years in Hell. Benson truly believed that throwing himself into temperance work could quell his own appetite for alcohol. In retrospect, he was forced to admit the following:
“I learned too late that this was the very worst thing I could have done. I was all the time expending the very strength I so much needed for the restoration of my shattered system.”
The stories of Gough, Uniac, and Benson are not unique. Similar tales were told by others who sought to cure themselves on the temperance lecture circuit. However, recovering people did achieve and maintain stable recovery working in the 19th century temperance movement and within treatment institutions of that era. An important lesson emerged out of the 19th century recovery movements: service activity, by itself, does not constitute a solid program for continued sobriety. This lesson was relearned throughout the 20th century, particularly within the modern rise of addiction counseling as a distinct profession.
A New Recovery Advocacy Movement is spreading across America and beyond, Continue reading
by Windy Dryden, Ph.D., Dept. of Psychology, Goldsmiths College
I have worked as a counseling psychologist for over ten years. One of the most common problems that people consult me on is anxiety when the source of that anxiety is unclear to them. When people are anxious about specific things in the world, like dogs, spiders or other people’s negative reactions, then at least the person knows what he or she is anxious about. However, a lot of people are anxious about being anxious and this is so common and yet so frequently misunderstood that such lack of knowledge leads to more anxiety.
Anxiety about anxiety occurs when you first experience a fearful reaction, say, while shopping, riding in a lift, driving in a car or even in your home. Having experienced this anxiety (problem 1) you begin to become anxious in case you get anxious again (problem 2). This double-barreled situation is the breeding ground for the development of your vicious circle of anxiety from which you find it so difficult to escape. Understanding this process is the first step to solving the problem.
Let me explain this vicious circle in greater detail. Once you have experienced anxiety “for no good reason,” you then bring an anxious attitude to the prospect of getting anxious. You think something like “Wouldn’t it be terrible if I got anxious.” Thinking in this way actually leads to anxiety. You then notice your anxiety and think something like “Oh my god, I’m getting anxious.” This leads to increased anxiety which triggers a further thought like “Oh my god, I’m losing control. What if I faint (or panic, have a heart attack or act crazily); wouldn’t that be terrible!” Anxiety is again heightened which leads to more anxious “thinking” and so on. Now this pattern occurs incredibly quickly and you probably are only aware of a building sense of panic. In addition, you may be one of a large number of people who “overbreathe” when you get anxious. This means that you take in too much oxygen and feel, paradoxically, that you need to breath in more air, whereas you actually need less. “Overbreathing” leads to such sensations as tingling, faintness, giddiness and heart palpitations. Without knowing this, you may consider that these sensations are evidence that there really is something wrong with you and “that would be awful.” This though leads to more anxiety and the vicious circle continues.
By Jim Williams, SMART Recovery Facilitator from British Columbia, Canada
As it was a holiday Monday, experience had taught me to expect a small crowd at the SMART meeting I facilitated in White Rock. As the clock rolled over to starting time there was just two of us, John and I. John was one of those consistent, zealous types and reliable as hell. He was, I believe, taking the Facilitator’s course at the time and would later become our Regional Coordinator. As John and I were talking shop and deciding how long to wait, a slender bearded man walked in.
“Hi I’m Andrew,” he said, shaking both our hands, “sorry I’m late.”
It turned out Andrew had known about SMART for over a year but had never come to a meeting until today. He’d decided six months before to quit drinking but had recently slipped and had a bad six weeks. That’s when he decided that he needed support and came to our meeting. Continue reading
Guest blog post by Lisa Hann, author of How to Have Fun in Recovery
Every day we’re given countless opportunities to learn. We may not always “get it,” but over time we amass a set of values and skills that guides us through our lives. We go through different stages where we’re met with different challenges in which we get to “practice” the things we’ve learned and to learn even more. Addiction and recovery are stages that offer some of the richest experiences and learning opportunities. Today I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned in recovery.
The first thing I learned is what I’ve already mentioned – that we’re always given opportunities to learn. When you see people making the same mistakes, it’s because they haven’t learned anything from their experiences. I want to improve myself every chance I get, so I actively look for the lesson in every situation. When something bad happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this doesn’t happen again?” When something good happens, I ask, “What can I learn so that this keeps happening?” The answers aren’t always obvious, but they’re there. Continue reading