I do not work for SMART Recovery® and do not have any SMART Recovery® training certifications. This is written from only one SMART Recovery® practitioner’s perspective.
SMART Recovery® is one of my preferred methods of recovery because it provides practical exercises for developing a plan to change addictive behavior. Smart stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. I was introduced to this program in 2014, and I have found it to be very beneficial. The SMART handbook offers a great set of tools and strategies to help people during their recovery process. Their website provides PDF printouts of the program’s tools and homework worksheets that have contributed to my recovery. The cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is one of the first exercises I did and is listed under the Building and Maintaining Motivation section. I return to the CBA from time to time to help me remember the costs and benefits of using and the costs and benefits of sobriety. I am going to share my CBA exercise in hopes that it will be beneficial for others who are seeking help or currently in recovery.
Something I learned through SMART is that I drank and did drugs because I was benefiting from using. It took me a little while to grasp that because using seemed to do nothing but make me miserable. The CBA exercise helped me understand this, and I am now able to work on finding those same benefits without using. The first action I take when doing my CBA is to answer the following four questions about my addiction:
1. What do I enjoy about my addiction, what does it do for me?
I enjoy using because it makes me feel like I am having fun even if nothing is happening. It helps me relax and feel comfortable around people, and for a few hours it makes me not feel depressed. Using helps me pick up the phone and have conversations with my friends and family. It also helps me forget about my past mistakes and helps me to not worry about my future. It sometimes helps me get out of the house and socialize. Using helps eliminate cravings and eases withdrawal symptoms and helps overcome thought rumination. Using also increases sexual pleasure, makes me feel more attractive, and makes me feel normal.
2. What do I hate about my addiction, what does it do to me?
I hate that using causes the people around me to feel uncomfortable, and the fun I have doesn’t last very long. When I use, the amount of time spent feeling depressed outweighs the amount of time feeling good. Using causes people to not want to talk to me or be around me. I wake up feeling bad about the things I did or said the night before. I use again to forget those things only to do the same things, and the negative consequences pile up. I rarely socialize when I use and spend the majority of my days in total isolation. Using causes me to have cravings and withdrawals that seem impossible to overcome. I have unprotected sex with strangers and put myself in risky and dangerous situations. Using lowers my confidence, ambition, and causes me to stop taking care of myself.
3. What do I think I will like about giving up my addiction?
I will like having more time during my day. It will be nice to wake up without hangovers, and I look forward to getting past the cravings and withdrawals. I know once I give up my addiction, my appearance will start to look better. The color in my eyes will come back, and I will not have black rings around them. I will not have to worry about doing something, like drinking and driving, that will get me arrested. My anxiety and depression levels will go down. People will start wanting to be around me. I will start working on accomplishing my goals and being happy again.
4. What do I think I won’t like about giving up my addiction?
I know that I will not like facing cravings and withdrawal symptoms. I do not look forward to facing anxiety and depression. There are things I have done in my past that I will have to face, and I am nervous to see certain people because of things I’ve said while intoxicated. Using provides a sense of comfort, and it is scary to think about lifting that veil. I fear that I will be overtaken by boredom and life will not be fun. I also worry about loneliness and isolation. It is fun to use and listen to music and go to parties, and I do not know how I will ever enjoy doing those things sober. I have a close intimate relationship with alcohol and drugs. They have become a part of my identity and giving that up frightens me.
The things I hate about my addiction are almost exact opposites to the things I enjoy. For example, using makes me depressed but it also temporarily numbs my depression. Now that I have identified the things I like, I can begin working on doing those same things in healthy ways. I know using causes my friends and family to not want to be around me because I call them drunk and say things I regret. I love my friends and family, and I want to be a part of their life. I can make a schedule to call friends and family while I am sober, and they might start wanting to be around me again. This might help mend those relationships. I can now examine all of my answers to start developing new strategies for living a healthier lifestyle.
Now that I have answered these four questions I will fill out a CBA worksheet. It is divided into 2 rows and 4 columns. The first section is titled Using or Doing and the second is NOT Using or Doing. It essentially answers the same questions, but in a different format, and it asks me to label each item as long term (LT) or short term (ST). Here is an example of my CBA worksheet:
Using or Doing
1. Benefits (Row 1, Column 1)
2. Costs (Row 1, Column 2)
NOT Using or Doing
1. Benefits (Row 2, Column 1)
2. Costs (Row 2, Column 2)
When I look at the benefits of using I see they are short term benefits. The costs of using are long term. I risk long term costs for short term benefits. Using suppresses boredom, but I risk having life long health problems. I need to work on finding healthy ways to overcome boredom, and I will be at less risk of long term health problems. The benefits of using are what I want and finding healthy coping skills will cause positive changes in my life. The costs of using are pretty extreme. When I use to receive these benefits, I am doing all sorts of destruction that can take years to recover from.
The majority of the costs associated with not using are short term, but I must understand I’ll have to do things like use coping skills long term. However, this long term cost will bring about long term benefits. My CBA allows me to see what I need to work on in order to maintain sobriety and to be happy. The benefits I get from drinking are the things I should be learning coping skills for. Overtime, I can experience the same benefits without drinking but at a much lower cost. I now have a list of goals to achieve and know what new coping skills, behaviors, and lifestyle changes I need to make so I can be successful and happy in my recovery.