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The SMART Recovery
4-Point Programme

It's easy to make a list of annual New Year's resolutions and worthy goals – lose weight, save money, become a better parent, stop this or start that. Think of the last time you made such a list. How long did it take before your life found its way back to where it was before?

So, how do we stay motivated to make the change we sincerely want? One of the biggest challenges most people face in recovery is maintaining their motivation. "Wishing" is not a reliable strategy. Some of us talk about the changes we want to make as if just talking about them will get us there.

Motivation is key to your recovery; it's what drives you to meet your goals. Without it, you're not likely to change very much. You may not realise it but you're already motivated to change. It took motivation to start reading this booket or to attend your first meeting, even if someone forced you. You could have said no, but you didn't. This section will help you build on those first seeds of motivation and help you stay motivated during the change process.

You may have heard that SMART is a self-empowerment programme. It may sound a bit like pop psychology. It isn't. This concept is important as you prepare for the work ahead. You have power over the choices you make, how you behave, and the goals you set for your future.

EXERCISE, TOOLS & WORKSHEETS
TOOL: Hierarchy of Values
EXERCISE: The Three Questions
TOOL: Cost-Benefit Analysis
TOOL: Change of Plan

Learning to cope with urges is the difference between abstaining and using. It can be difficult. The feelings can be intense, and you're used to giving into them. It takes strong mental and emotional commitment on your part to change these patterns.

Some people report having no urges after they make the choice to stop. Others report that they have urges later on. Dealing with them may be mentally difficult; it may be physically and emotionally uncomfortable, but it's not impossible. You can do it.

Urges are psychological in nature and are different to the physiological withdrawal symptoms you may experience when you first stop using drugs or alcohol. Urges can be unpleasant and resisting them may involve some emotional discomfort.

The more you know about urges and understand why they happen, the better equipped you are to cope with them. Rather than an excuse to escape into your addictive behaviour, you'll be able to use urges as a catalyst in your emotional growth.

You can learn to recognise urges without acting on them. The more you do that, the easier it gets. Most people who recover from addictive behaviour say that, after a while, the urges go away completely as they replace the unhealthy behaviour with healthy alternatives. In the first few days and weeks of your abstinence, your urges may be very strong and may grow stronger for a while.

Beliefs About Urges
It's likely that you've been feeding your urges for so long that you don't even think about them. They feel like they're part of who you are. You may hold beliefs about your urges that are unrealistic or untrue, and make them worse.

Here are some opposing beliefs about urges that may help you understand them:
Unrealistic: My urges are unbearable.
Realistic: Urges are uncomfortable, but you can bear them. If you keep telling yourself that you can't bear them, you're setting yourself up to use. Urges won't kill you or make you go crazy; they'll just make you uncomfortable.

Unrealistic: My urges only stop when I give in.
Realistic: Urges may last only a few 9econds or minutes, but rarely longer than ten or twenty minutes. Sometimes urges come in clusters of several shorter ones rather than one long urge.

Urges always go away. Here's why: Your nervous system eventually stops noticing stimuli. If it didn't, you couldn't wear clothing because it would be too uncomfortable. If you fast, you know hunger eventually fades away. The dentist-office smell that was so strong when you walked through the door isn't even noticeable by the time you leave.

You can teach yourself to ride out urges. It does get easier over time.


Unrealistic: My urges make me use.
Realistic: Using is always a choice. When an urge hits, you have two choices: to use or to ride it until it subsides.

Unrealistic: Urges are a sign that my addictive behaviour is getting worse.
Realistic: They're a normal part of recovery. They may be stronger at first - or maybe later in your recovery - but they weaken, and eventually disappear. You can have a life without urges.

Unrealistic: Giving in to an urge isn't harmful.
Realistic: Giving in to urges prolongs their presence in your life because it reinforces the behaviour pattern. It will make stopping harder as the next urge will likely come more quickly and be more intense.

If you occasionally give in to your urges, you simply Prolong your dependence on the substance or behaviour as a way out when you believe the pain is unbearable.

What happens when a child nags for hours for a new toy and you say no until you tire of their whining and say yes just to get them to stop? You stop the immediate whining, but you teach the child that if they whine long enough, you'll give in. In the same way, you strengthen your urges every time you make the choice to give in to them, even if it's just occasionally.


Unrealistic: I must get rid of urges.
Realistic: Addictive behaviours trains your brain to 'want' you to keep repeating the behaviour, so urges are completely normal. The good news is that if you do not use, you will 're-train' your brain and the urges will fade away.

You can't control urges, but you can control how you respond to them.

It takes time and Practice to replace old thoughts and behaviours with new ones. Don't expect urges to end immediately, don't expect to be perfect, and don't give up.


Unrealistic: I'm self-destructive or I wouldn't do these self-destructive things.
Realistic: Our brains are hard-wired to seek out things that provide pleasure. Substances and behaviours that light up the pleasure centres in our brains can be destructive if the desire for them turns into a need. Oh, and as human beings, we all do stupid things.

Unrealistic: I use because I like to.
Realistic: While that was probably true in the beginning, it's probably more complicated than that now.

While using continues to light the pleasure centres in your brain, your rational brain can't ignore that the short term "Pleasures" are incompatible with your long-term goals. With more exploration, you will probably find that you have fallen into the "addictive behaviour trap," in which you ignore the benefits of stopping because you may be preoccupied with how difficult it will be.

SMART's tools and strategies give you an edge in dealing with your urges. The tools and strategies - along with your motivation - can make it possible for you to successfully cope with urges.

TOOLS, EXERCISES & Worksheets
EXERCISE: Identifying Your Triggers
EXERCISE: Urge Log
STRATEGY: Defeat Urges With DEADS
TOOL: DISARM
TOOL: The ABC For Coping with Urges

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