Category Archives: Managing Thoughts

Veterans Enjoy the Comradery of VA-facilitated SMART Recovery Meetings

Posted on November 9, 2015

By Melinda Gaddy, Ph.D.

Make the impossible possibleA SMART Recovery group member at VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System (Dwight D. Eisenhower Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center) stated during their first meeting back after a period of absence from SMART, “The ABCs are so annoying, but they really do work.” We had just finished setting our agenda for the meeting. I believe the individual was speaking not only to a group member newer to SMART, but also to themselves as they settled into a chair, ready to begin again in applying SMART’s well-researched tools to their life circumstances: recently released from the hospital and solemnly resolved to do what was needed to rebuild. I appreciated the statement for a number of reasons. It helped other group members to get focused and ready to dive into the ABC tool, it conveyed hope, and it was a great example of just how good Veterans are at telling it like it is. Opinions and experiences can be offered without need for a “polite filter” since meaningful bonds are formed quickly among Veterans in recovery. This makes facilitating SMART Recovery groups within the VA an incredibly dynamic and rewarding experience.

In recent decades, VA has become increasingly focused on providing military Veterans in the United States with evidence-based treatment programs and recovery tools. Continue reading

To Tame An Urge

Posted on November 3, 2015

Magnifying glass on the word Redefine and related terms such as revise, redo, revisit, review, reposition, rethink, reconsider, reinvent, remodel and reevaluate

We all have triggers. It might be a situation or an emotion; a sight, sound or smell; a holiday or a time of day. Something that our brain learned over time to associate with our addictive behavior, and that it needs to unlearn as we start to break that connection. For me, it was cocktail receptions. They weren’t the only situation I associated with drinking – far from it – but they were one of the toughest. At the end of a long day at a conference, having watched what felt like 11,000 nearly-identical presentations in a row (and gulping down way too much coffee in order to stay alert) those clinking glasses and twinkling lights exerted a powerful pull. And the few times I ‘slipped’ after I quit (fortunately, one-drink slips) were at cocktail receptions. After the second time it happened, I knew I had to confront the situation…by avoiding it. Continue reading

Tackle Your Demand for Instant Gratification

Posted on October 27, 2015

I Want It, and I Want It Now!
by Alina Boie, M.S.

Self ControlWe live in a world full of instant self-gratification and we have little patience to wait or delay access to our “treats”. Almost everything nowadays is at a click of a button – literally! It is so difficult to say no to those appealing coupons and “must-have-it” deals. Everything around us attempts to help us get what we want faster – instantly, if possible. We want faster cars, faster computers, readily available food, easy access to the movie we want to see, appliances that work without problems, etc. While this may appear as a very appealing benefit of the modern society, it also undermines our ability to manage our frustration, when we do NOT get what we want immediately. Continue reading

Addiction Recovery Analogy

Posted on October 12, 2015

(Originally Posted on January 20, 2015)

The Horse and Buggy of SMART Recovery
by Rev Dr Kim Miller, SMART Recovery Facilitator, Australia

First, a story: Back in the days of the 1930s depression, which saw many people traveling the countryside looking for work, there was a man walking along a back road from one town to the next. He was carrying his stuff in an old bag over one shoulder and was obviously weighed down by it all. A local farmer in a horse and buggy pulled up beside him.

“Like a lift, buddy? Hop up here.”

So the man got up and sat on the seat next to the farmer, his bag of belongings still over one shoulder. After a while the farmer looked over and said to him, “Why don’t you put your stuff down behind the seat? It looks heavy.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that,” said the man. “You’ve been good enough already, giving me a lift and all. I can’t expect you to carry my stuff as well.”

It’s the story of SMART Recovery.

Getting help comes in all shapes and sizes, and happens at different levels. Walking into a SMART Recovery meeting is where we get up on the seat next to the driver. Getting the load off our shoulder is a different level altogether.

It’s possible to sit in a SMART Recovery meeting and say nothing. We have that right and nobody is forced to speak. Most people start slowly because building trust can take time, but long term silence is a different matter.

It’s also possible to speak without saying anything of our own situation. We might find it easier to give advice to another attendee, or speak in generalities or quote other people or use catch-phrases and proverbs that seem to hold a bit of wisdom. There are many ways to talk without saying anything that will promote our recovery.

The important part of SMART Recovery to catch is that at one level we are dealing with our thoughts, feelings and behaviours as an individual – and this is where personal change always happens. At another level, we know that the way into those thoughts, feelings and behaviours is through the guided group conversation of an active SMART Recovery meeting.

When we get up in that farmer’s buggy we can still be carrying our stuff over our shoulder and be reluctant to put it down. Be assured that a SMART Recovery meeting can take the extra weight when we let go our hold of all that stuff.

The irony is that when somebody sits in a SMART Recovery meeting and says little or nothing of their own situation, the other attendees pick up on it. They might not say anything but they notice. And in noticing, they are carrying some part of the weight anyway. Just as when the man sat in the buggy with his stuff over his shoulder, the driver noticed it and the horse up front still felt the weight.

When you walk into a SMART Recovery meeting, give a little thought to the man carrying the bundle of stuff over his shoulder. The story might be enough to encourage you to be a little more open, a little more trusting, and perhaps get you a little further along your road of addiction recovery.

Kim Miller is a departmental prison chaplain in NSW, Australia. He is the department’s only community chaplain, working in a post-release project called Home For Good. The team includes drug and alcohol counselors and Kim joins them in facilitating SMART Recovery meetings. His PhD work involves the psychology of personal growth and transformation and how we become more fully ourselves. Kim enjoys writing and has published several books.

USA and UOA: Unconditional Self-Acceptance and Unconditional Other Acceptance

Posted on September 8, 2015

by Jonathan von Breton, CCMHC

“The greatest sickness known to man or woman is called self-esteem. If you have self-esteem, then you’re sick, sick, sick, because you say: I’m okay because I do well and because people love me, so when I do poorly, which I’m a fallible human and will, and people hate me because they may jealously hate me or they just don’t like me, then back to shithood I go.”

Albert Ellis, Ph.D.

 wearenotThis is number 1 of the 3 basic “musts” that cause human disturbance:

 “I absolutely must perform well on important projects and be approved by significant people or else I am an inadequate and unlovable person!” (Leads to) Feelings of serious depression, anxiety, panic, self-downing. ..… Personally, you can’t always succeed not to mention succeed perfectly. Being a fallible human, you just can’t.”     Albert Ellis

Yes, rating one’s behavior as opposed to one’s self is much easier said than done. Yes, our society strongly encourages the opposite. In fact, our society has a vested interest in doing so. I still have a hard time with it myself and I’ve had years of practice.

In general, I find it helpful to rate my behaviors as:

Successful, they help me get what I want and avoid what I don’t want.
Unsuccessful, they fail to help me get what I want and avoid what I don’t want.

Effective or Ineffective. This is another way of saying successful/unsuccessful.

Consistent with my goals, values, ethics, beliefs.
Inconsistent, counter to, my goals, values, ethics, beliefs.

However, those are all behaviors. They aren’t my ‘self’ (whatever that is).  The behaviors can be measured and rated, at least to a certain degree. The self can’t even be defined, let alone rated. Continue reading

“Mindfulness” and SMART Recovery

Posted on August 25, 2015

Shoreline I started practicing meditation about 10 years ago, at the Shambhala Center in Chicago.  (Shambhala is an international organization founded by Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist – see  I was in early recovery from alcohol, and I decided I wanted to learn how to meditate.  It just seemed like a good idea at the time.  I’d been told I could show up on a Sunday morning at the Center and ask for someone to show me how, so that’s what I did.  After  about 15 minutes of instruction, I joined the others who meditate together there on Sunday mornings.  Eventually I went on to take some meditation trainings and started reading stuff (anything by Pema Chodron).

I now meditate with a group about once a week and at home daily (more or less; these habits took some effort to instill, and there has been a bit of on-again / off-again over the years).  The results show up in daily life as an increasing capacity for clarity and calmness, and for seeing more possibilities in difficult situations.  Oh, and things like moments of joy and appreciation. Continue reading