Paul's Story

Thursday, Jul 12, 2018

My true recovery path started when I went to San Quentin State Prison after being convicted of a DUI. I had heard about SMART Recovery twenty years ago and I was looking all over for an alternative and I couldn’t find one. I knew I needed an alternative to AA I was in and out of AA court ordered for twenty years.  AA wasn’t working for me because I am agnostic and I couldn’t fit in with the rigidity, religion and dogma aspect of the program. I understood the rules of the AA program and that it had positive results for those who were religious. As long as I was only doing AA I knew that I couldn’t stay sober.  I knew in my heart I needed a secular program to fully recover from alcoholism. While I was in prison I was able to get a start in my recovery through the starting point program and during this time Jenn Peoples started a SMART Recovery group at Interlink.

While I was in San Quentin I had a long time to reflect about my life. I met a psychologist who gave me a pen with the inscription “loving what is”. This helped me to realize that everything is in me not outside of myself. I started to learn about other methods besides AA and learned about SMART at Turning Point treatment center where Jenn Peoples had dropped off a flyer about SMART Recovery.

SMART Recovery changed my life and increased my desire to stay alive. When I first came to see Jenn I was flooded with traumatic memories of my childhood and suffering severe depression. I was consumed by the memories of when I was in my own country in a concentration camp as a child. I liked the facilitator very much and I liked how she conducted SMART because it allows the freedom and liberty of thinking that reminded me why I came to America. I liked the group atmosphere, non-judgmental environment that is forgiving and loving, I was looking for love all over.  I gradually realized how much there is in me that I neglected and ignored because of my prior self-hatred and distrust of myself. Until I came here I was parroting what AA was teaching me and I didn’t believe it honestly. Smart Recovery helped me to process my trauma and depression so that it did not consume me. The coping skills have helped me to learn about myself and my potentials and the different levels I can think rather than in absolutes which are promoted by the AA program. I can now have 3 dimensional multiple ways of thinking. I learned how to separate myself from myself my brain from my mind and it has been empowerment for me.  I can guide my impulses and emotions now; it is a beautiful process and I feel like I am walking in a beautiful garden.  Smart has helped me to improve my family relationships with my daughters through the coping skills I have learned from SMART.  I had held onto guilt from not being there for them growing up due to alcoholism and SMART has allowed me to release this prison of guilt. My family and I have improved our communication through the tools SMART has taught me.  MY spiritual maturity and intelligence has increased and recovered thanks to SMART Recovery. I now have so many freedoms within that SMART has helped me to discover and I no longer live in a prison that I created within myself. Interlink has allowed me the opportunity to fully learn how to recover and be a better man, father and teacher. I facilitate a deep breathing and relaxation group every Tuesday at Interlink after SMART Recovery and the members positively respond to this group. Thank you Goodwill of the Redwood Empire for having Interlink available to help people with mental health and addiction.

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