Yesterday, after weeks of dragging my feet and slowly making plans and hoping that I wouldn’t have to follow through on any of them, I hosted my first SMART Recovery* meeting.
I was nervous (but also eager) as I waited for people to arrive. My head was a fuzzy bowl of anxiety, and if I hadn’t been familiar with the feeling after a lifetime battling through it to find my thoughts in times of stress, I would have worried about passing out in the cozy, calm room at the hypnosis center where my meeting was held. Fainting, in this moment, would have actually felt preferable to sitting with my feelings and facing the people brave enough to trust part of their recovery to me in my first meeting.
I didn’t pass out. I never can muster the nerve. Instead I had to sit there, and think.
In the days leading up to this meeting, I hadn’t wanted anyone to show up. I was hoping that I could sit in the room alone for thirty of forty minutes and then call it a day (and maybe, in this fantasy, call the entire facilitator experiment). But as I scribbled my fears into my journal I realized I had gone too far outside my comfort zone to fail. If I was going to put in effort of making phone calls to people I did not know, writing emails to people I only vaguely know and with whom I haven’t kept in very good touch, asking for help, choosing a day and a time and a space -all logistical things that, for reasons beyond the scope of this post, make me want to hide in a hole.
(Even writing about the process of setting up my meeting has caused my mind to go off on a memory-tangent about high school, of all things, and how I always felt totally uncool because, unlike my peers, I was unable to make friends with teachers or administrators. I guess the two (meeting logistics and high school uncoolness) points to the feeling of connection and purpose that I have struggled with for years.)
I began then to worry that no one would come, that whoever doles out wishes didn’t hear that my mind had changed. I worried my old wish would come instead of my new, more willing-to-be-held-accountable one. I worried that I had failed.
But, guess what? I didn’t fail, because I had done the hard work and I had shown up at this meeting as I had at dozens of others over the past year or so. And my boyfriend came, and my friend from another meeting came and this friend brought a new friend who had never been to a SMART meeting. And for ninety minutes we talked and shared and learned.
It was small, and I made mistakes during the course of the meeting and probably didn’t explain things well enough and there were lots of silent gaps in conversation. But I was there and they were there and for now I will call that good.
SMART Recovery is a science-based mutual support group designed to help people manage sobriety from substances and behaviors. I started attending SMART meetings in 2014 in support of my boyfriend who was learning how to abstain from alcohol. I continued going for myself, to manage anxiety and the urges to self harm that still exist years after I stopped this destructive practice. SMART focuses on giving individuals control over their lives and sobriety and provides a variety of tools to mitigate urges and deal with triggers. I have found it enormously helpful in my own life and I have seen the good it has done for other participants. Because of what I have learned in SMART, I no longer live my life in a constant state of wanting to hurt myself; my internal life has reached a level of calm that I had thought was impossible. Becoming a facilitator is my way to give back and say thank you. I urge you readers to look at their website and pass on the information to anyone you know in need.