[first posted December 31, 2013]
Playing the tape to the end
I’m walking down the same street I’ve walked down hundreds of times before. Nothing’s changed. It’s the same street. Same stores. Same liquor store, one that has never interested me before because it’s filled with things I can’t have, or rather, let’s say, things I choose not to have. But something is different this time. This time, I really notice the liquor store. This time, I hear a scotch bottle whispering my name.
Well, then, “beam me up, Scotty.”
I see myself walking into the store, picking up a couple of bottles of scotch and two bottles of wine, paying for them and walking back out onto the street. I have been feeling kind of down lately, maybe bored, frustrated, but nothing new has happened that has thrown my life into a tailspin. I’ve just suddenly fallen into a trance and decided to get drunk.
I go home and take out my favorite scotch glass and fill it to the brim. I make a toast to the ether and take a small taste. Ah, yes, the familiar warm feeling in the back of my throat. I remember that well. As the sips turn into gulps, a wonderful painless state begins to permeate my body. Free at last. No pain. No fear. No anxiety. Nothing to face. Nothing to work out. Loneliness vanishes. How could I have stayed sober for so many years? Why did I bother? Did I forget how completely perfect it is to get high, to forget, to feel nothing?
Then something begins to eat at me. I’m edgy. Uncomfortable. No, I don’t want to remember my friendships, the hard work I put into changing my life, the years of tears and struggle, the numerous panic attacks I overcame, those peak moments when I conquered my fears. No! I gulp down my drink and quickly pour another and another until I can’t remember how many I’ve had or what it was I was trying to forget.
I wake up the next morning slumped over the table, nauseated, depressed, scared, lonely. I can’t call anyone. I’m too ashamed. I can’t admit I did this. I open up the second bottle of Scotch and quickly gulp down another drink. Yes, I can just keep doing this. I can forget. Please don’t let me remember why I got sober in the first place. Please don’t let me feel the pain of throwing away all those years of sobriety. I can’t face myself. I can’t face anyone else. I’ll just keep drinking until everything disappears. Until I disappear.
And then this strange thing happens. I find myself standing outside that same liquor store. It gradually dawns on me that I never did go in. It was all just a fantasy, a completely unexpected urge that tried to send me reeling down a slippery slope of temptation. But I didn’t go there.
So why didn’t I drink? I used one of the tools I learned at SMART Recovery a few years ago from “Dawg” , an online facilitator at the time. I learned to “play the tape all the way to the end of the story.” And when I saw the consequences of that ending, I knew it would never be worth it. The only benefit would be a few minutes of feeling numb and then it would all turn into a train wreck. A long and costly train wreck.
Over eight years ago I decided that there was never a good reason to use or drink, no matter what happened to me. I went to numerous SMART Recovery meetings where I was cared for and supported by so very many wonderful people. I worked hard and spent hours and hours learning how to use the SMART tools. I made wonderful new friends. Life was becoming worth living. I loved going to bed sober and I loved waking up without a hangover.
One morning in 2009, my husband, David, woke up with a terrible headache. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Within a couple of minutes, he lost his balance and fell down because unbeknownst to me, he had just suffered a brain hemorrhage that would kill him in the next 24 hours. We never had a chance to say goodbye to each other. I felt robbed of my life and my love. At the time, David was my main reason to stay alive. I wasn’t sure I could live without him.
But I was sure of one thing, I wasn’t going to dishonor our love by drinking or using. Somehow I would live through this event. I had no idea how I was going to do that. But there was one thing I did know — I had a choice. I could choose to drink or I could choose not to drink. Nothing could make me drink. I was sure of that.
The first thing I did was to contact as many people as I could think of at SMART to let them know what had happened and to ask for their support. Within a couple of months, I became a volunteer at the SMART headquarters in Australia. I needed somewhere to go and I needed to be with like minded people that I could be open with about my addictive behavior. Volunteering in the office gave me a perfect opportunity to be useful to other people and to feel that I was in a safe environment. Sometimes I broke down crying while I was doing some filing. That was accepted and I was supported during those times. I will always be grateful for that.
I attended SMART face to face meetings in Sydney and that was another thing that helped me put the pieces of my life back together. I began to find a reason to live on my own without a mate. Gradually, by continuing to use the SMART tools, I’ve learned more and more about my addictive behaviors and how to live a fulfilling life without using or drinking.
I never thought I would find living so worthwhile as I do right now. Because of SMART, I have found a way to be responsible for my own actions, to be more loving, and more productive than I have ever been before. I recently completed the SMART Facilitator training and am currently volunteering as an Online Meeting Helper.
I tip my hat to you, SMART Recovery, with the greatest respect for all that you do. I don’t know how I could have come this far without you. I will do everything I can to let the world know about you, about your wonderful tools, your gifted trainers, facilitators and volunteers, and your philosophy that never judges, does not render me powerless and gives me the freedom to determine how I want to manage my own sobriety.
You have my deepest gratitude.
About the author: Questor7 has been a SMART Recovery Online Participant since 2005 and she is currently a Volunteer. She says that “you are never too sober to come to a SMART meeting.” She enjoys writing, playing guitar and teaching drama.
Questor’s story is an example of the importance of the service that SMART Recovery provides assisting individuals seeking abstinence from addictive behaviors. The approach used is science-based using non-confrontational motivational, behavioral and cognitive methods. Your tax deductible gifts help us to bring SMART Recovery to even more people. Thank you for your support!