Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Personal Update, SMART & HOV

My name is Russ and I haven’t had a bet today or since my last meeting. It’s been a few weeks of big changes to my recovery since my last blog post. First of all, I no longer have a Sponsor due to reasons I do not want to go into right now but let's just say there was a clash of personalities and faults on both ends and one of us (me) held our hands up but the other did not. Since then there has been no contact from him and it’s just not how I expected my Sponsor of over a year to act. He also runs the Problem Gambling Support Group I have talked about in the past which ran meetings via Skype before moving to Zoom and I have, with a heavy heart, left those meetings as well. Those meetings were a big part of my recovery and I’ll be forever grateful to the people in them but to be honest, I haven’t been getting anything out of them for a number of months. The way they are run now with the amount of people in them just wasn’t working for me. So I, along with two other close friends in recovery, decided to move on and set up our own group with a different format and a smaller, more intimate feel. We have had a fantastic couple of meetings already and I look forward to seeing how this group grows going forward. The main thing for us is to keep what we feel makes the group special and worthwhile. 

I did attend three Problem Gambling Support Group meetings a week so I have replaced one of them with the new group, I also have a weekly catch up with my Sponsees via Zoom and I attended my first SMART Recovery meeting on Friday night via Zoom. I really enjoyed it and hope to make it a regular Friday thing for myself. That’s why the first line of my blog has changed. I have removed the fact I am a compulsive gambler because the label, I feel, is unnecessary. Now that’s not to say I’m cured or anything, it’s just factual that I am not a compulsive gambler anymore, I am in recovery. Am I an addict? I believe so and it is my opinion I will always be an addict and I need to maintain my recovery for the rest of my life. 

I also removed my bet date because I don’t say it in meetings so I don’t see why I am saying it here. If it ever changes I’ll be sure to write about it but it remains April 2nd 2019. I don’t get too hung up on my date to be honest. Yes, milestones are amazing and I like to celebrate them in my own way and I love celebrating other people's milestones but the only thing that is important to me is getting through today. It’s all about the journey and there is no destination and if this journey is going to be for life, well, I don’t feel the need to focus on my last bet date when sharing. It doesn’t bring anything to the table for me or others. When I first went to G.A. I immediately listened to those with longer in the program (maybe I guessed that those with longer would be older as well but don’t tell them) because I assumed that they would know best but over time I realised it doesn’t matter how long someone has been in the program, everyone has something to offer me if I actively listen. Also, with what has happened recently, I realise that those with years in the program aren’t always the ones I should be looking to for guidance as they have their own issues and defects, some more than others. 

So yea, it’s been a frantic start to May and change can always be a scary thing at first and I’ll be totally honest, when the stuff happened with my Sponsor it did get to me. Luckily, I knew what I needed to do. I reached out to those I knew I could trust and talked about it. It took a few days but I got over it and began to look to the future. I saw this as an exciting new opportunity in my recovery to go on an adventure and sample the various delights in the recovery world. I have always said that there is no one size fits all approach to recovery and I am open to new ideas and thought processes and I will build the bespoke recovery program that works for me.

So, onto the actual blog post which is going to be based around SMART Recovery and one of their tools called the Hierarchy of Values (HOV). Now, before I get to that, what exactly is SMART Recovery? According to the SMART Recovery Handbook (which you can purchase here for UK folks and here for North America);

What is SMART?

SMART Recovery started in 1994. SMART, an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training, emphasises “self” - your role in your own recovery. We’re a nonprofit, science-based program that helps people recover from addictive behaviours.

Whether your addictive behaviour involves substances - alcohol, smoking, or drugs - or behaviours - gambling, sex, eating, shopping or self-harm - SMART can help. We understand the work ahead of you. No matter what your addictive behaviour, you’re not alone.

So instead of Steps like G.A. SMART has The 4-Point Programme. The fours points are:

1 - Building and Maintaining Motivation
2 - Coping with Urges
3 - Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviours
4 - Living a Balanced Life

SMART says these are not sequential for some people but I bought the handbook and I am going to get my money's worth out of it and work through it all. The handbook is a really good resource and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in other ways to potentially improve their recovery. So now onto the Hierarchy Of Values and you can get this worksheet below from here.


From the work of Joe Gerstein, MD

(As written by Lorie Hammerstrom and Jim Braastad)

Joe Gerstein, a very generous man who was a major player in the founding of SMART Recovery®, served as its first President and a long-time member of the Board of Directors has a great little tool that he has used with people in the SMART Recovery® meetings he’s facilitated. It’s called the “Hierarchy of Values, and goes something like this:

Take a few minutes or so and make a list of the things that are important to you. Once that is completed, pick out the five things that you would place at the very top of the list—the five things that are MOST important to you. There is no "right" or "wrong" answers, as these are the things that are most important to YOU!

(NOTE: If you haven't already done so, please take the time to create your own “Top Five” list before you read on. This exercise will have more meaning and a greater impact if you take the time to determine and write out your “Top Five” before continuing.)

(I used questions 1 and 2 from here to answer A and then used question 3 to answer B)

Hierarchy of Values Worksheet

Complete this worksheet to determine what is MOST important to YOU.

Effectively used for which of the 4 points? Building Motivation

Take a few minutes or so and write down a list of things that are important to you:

Family, Appreciation, Encouragement, Health, Kindness, Love, Passion, Quality,Relationships
Responsibility, Simplicity, Thankfulness, Thoughtfulness, Usefulness, Well-Being.

Friendships, Contribution, Credibility, Dependability, Loyalty, Reliability, Teamwork, Trustworthiness.

Recovery, Acceptance, Accountability, Benevolence, Calmness, Caring, Challenge, Commitment, Compassion, Dedication, Empathy, Fairness, Honesty, Humility, Mindfulness, Open-Mindedness, Optimism, Self-Control, Understanding.

Humour, Cheerfulness, Enthusiasm, Fun, Happiness, Individuality, Joy, Originality, Playfulness, Uniqueness, Warmth.

Personal Development, Advancement, Ambition, Consistency, Flexibility, Growth, Knowledge, Learning, Motivation, Resourcefulness, Success, Versatility, Vision, Wisdom.

From the list above, look through and choose those that you consider to be your “Top Five”…the five things you consider to be the MOST IMPORTANT to you (in no particular order):

  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Recovery
  • Humour
  • Personal Development

What’s missing? Is it missing from your list as well? What Joe has noticed is how rarely people put alcohol (or whatever other substance or maladaptive behaviour) in the list of the things that they deem “most important” to them. Yet often their actions would suggest otherwise… that it was the most important thing in their lives!

When we sit down and really think about what we value most in our lives, it's (most likely) safe to say that our DOC (drug of choice) isn’t one of them. Yet every time that we use, we are placing those things in jeopardy; we are gambling with the things that we treasure and hold dear, putting them at risk with the potential of losing them.

So effectively, when we choose (and yes, it IS a choice) to drink or drug (or whatever other maladaptive behaviour), we are choosing that over the things we value most! Even if that choice is made mindlessly or without thought, it doesn't change anything—our DOC is being chosen over what we deem to be most important!

That was quite eye opening for me as I didn’t realise how many values I actually have now and that is down to recovery. When I was gambling, it was the top priority for me over everything listed above. To be honest, half of those things wouldn’t have been on my Hierarchy Of Values if I had done this when gambling. It would have just been gambling and me as those were the only things I cared about. Working that tool has made me realise what I would be throwing away if I went back to gambling but it also helped me see how far I have come already in my journey. I am looking forward to using more of the tools from SMART Recovery and I will be sure to write about them.


Friday, 1 May 2020

Working The Steps: Step 10

Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and
when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

Step 10, Exercise 2

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. I am on to Step 10 and there was a previous exercise which was writing down 3 things I did well and 3 things I could have done better at for a week. I couldn't get the table attached due to formatting issues but trust me when I say you didn't miss much and most of it is covered in the questions. As always, anything in bold or italics is taken from the work sheet and the rest is my own.

Write about:

What insights have you gained from doing the Daily Inventory for a week?
Acknowledge areas of growth, achievement and progress.

I’ve realised how much I make myself available for people who reach out to me and it is something that I enjoy doing. I am a firm believer that you have to give it away to keep it and I will continue to believe that. I have also started to eat healthier and my running has improved. I managed to run for an hour which is my longest length of time and the distance of 8.5km was also a personal best. I can see that I do a lot with my family and for my family. These are things that I enjoy doing such as cooking for them. It’s the little things in life that make me happy. I can see growth in me just in the past week and I am trying to do the right things each day and I know if I continue to do that I will not gamble.

Are you promptly admitting when you are wrong? If not, what are the barriers to your doing so? (for example: denial, ego, pride, justification)

I feel like I am promptly admitting when I am wrong because I am not afraid to hold my hands up and say sorry I shouldn’t have done something. If I behave in a way that hurts someone else then I will apologise because I never intentionally go out of my way to hurt someone. Things happen though and in life, feelings will get hurt. I am willing to be an adult and make the first move when this happens. If the other person chooses to forgive me, well that is up to them. 

Are you living in a more spiritual way -- this is, with kindness, generosity, honesty and humility? Be watchful for any patterns of selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear.

Again, I am going to have to say yes to this question for the most part. I like to hope that I not only talk the talk about kindness, generosity, honesty and humility but that I walk the walk. Actions speak louder than words in my eyes and I would not want to be a person who says one thing at a meeting but when it comes to putting it into practice can’t quite manage it. I have certainly experienced resentment and fear about certain things that have happened but I am aware of how to deal with these. For me it’s important to talk about them, write about them and seek advice from other people who have experienced similar things. The worst thing for me to do is bottle stuff up because I have done that in the past and it ends up with the relationship eventually falling apart because small issues have been left unresolved and festered. You are then sitting on a powder keg and at some stage something small ignites it all. These patterns will no doubt continue to come up as I continue on my journey and for me the important thing isn’t trying to stop them from happening (because I think that is impossible and a waste of time personally) but it’s reacting in the right way when I start to feel them. 

How do you intend to continue to practice Step 10? (for example, do a daily, nightly, or weekly inventory; schedule a review or reality check with your sponsor)

I had a reality check with my sponsor, and it didn't end well. All joking aside I do not intend on practising Step 10 in written form going forward. I know this probably goes against traditional G.A. views but I don’t feel like I need a daily, nightly or weekly inventory on paper. If this is something I cannot be aware of in my day to day life then writing it down on paper each day isn’t going to help. What I am going to commit to doing is a written Step 10 at least once a year.

Have you developed constructive ways of releasing/expressing feelings? If yes, what are they? If no, what could work for you that you would be willing to make a part of your Step 10 practice?

The answer to questions regarding feelings and emotions are always the same for me. I talk about them and I write about them. Those are the constructive ways for me to deal with these feelings.

Are you taking better care of yourself and minimizing stress in your life? Give specific examples.

I am running at least twice a week (was three times a week but dodgy knee) and I am tracking my calorie intake. I also purchased a NutriBullet as I was not eating any fruit and veg in my diet. I have never felt as fit and healthy as I do today and it’s helping me keep stress to a minimum. Listening to relaxing music in the evenings is another thing I have started doing and just trying to switch my brain off a bit when I get time. Life moves so fast and I am starting to realise that I need to slow down a bit to really appreciate it. 

I’m going to be brutally honest here, this was probably the Step I got the least out of but it is something I would work once a year just to make sure I am still living the way I think I should be in recovery. I would hate to think I was lying to myself and acting in a way that reminded me of pre recovery and Step 10 would help me see this.