“Be smart, not strong,” counsellors and persons fighting nobly to overcome addiction exclaim in discussions and articles on recovery from substance abuse.
Being smart is something that is grown and cultivated, often by being curious enough to seek out new information and by recognising what you do not already know. It is the ability to focus, concentrate and communicate, the ability to put ideas together, and create solutions to problems, Matthew Buckely (2022) states.
Now take a look at how strong and, more specifically, inner strength are defined:
Heather Plett (2015) explains “When you think of words like resilience and perseverance, they are both tied to a deep sense of inner strength and purpose.
“I saw a description that described it as the strength of the soul – which I love. It is the power you have to deal with difficult situations; to give your all to a development goal or dedicate yourself to taking care of others.”
The two terms are clearly intertwined. By being smart, a person could be or become strong. Not so?
In interviews with two persons in recovery – we will call them Brigitte and Samuel for the sake of anonymity – recognition for a sense of community reveals their smartness. They have both paid heed to that and become strong:
Brigitte, a well-known media personality, has the following to say about kicking alcohol out of her life:
“I knew that on my own I would not be strong. So, rather smartly, I would say, I joined a support group for persons recovering from and still struggling with an addiction. This for me, means being smart. In my life, it goes hand in hand with being actively involved in an alcoholics support group.
“You have to fox that devil, Alcohol. One way is to establish a new friendship circle with people. This has given me fun without regrets.”
She has not touched alcohol for 14 months now. As the days and months go by, it becomes easier. Alcohol still beckons. But the emptiness and despair in her life have been filled up by a new circle of friends. Alcohol has lost it power to lure her back into its snare.
Samuel returned home from a rehabilitation centre in April 2021. “I had been on the bottle for 30 years. I saw myself heading down a road to self-destruction.
“The harsh reality of loneliness hit me soon after settling in at home again. I joined SIMCHA. The daily WhatsApp contact with people struggling in recovery, as I am, and the zoom sessions two or three times a week, where counsellors are also present, have changed my life. I have learnt invaluable lessons about the power of communication. It has helped me gain motivation for change.”
Steve Rose (2022) says about support groups (indirectly): They cannot change people, but there are things that can be done to help them change themselves. This involves listening, developing empathy, and asking questions to help them figure out their own reasons for change.
Group work enables being present with others, creating a non-judgmental environment, and allowing all to work through their thoughts and emotions.
Rose (2022) explains such work entails holding space for others: When we hold space for someone else, we let go of trying to fix them, instead offering them the gift of our presence. We provide them with support without taking their power away. We are simply there, present and highly engaged.
At its core, holding space creates a sense of safety in the other person. They feel safe expressing their authentic thoughts, feelings, and desires without feeling shut down, ignored, or judged.
Once persons have formed the foundation for a helpful relationship, they are ready to explore potential paths toward change.
Now ain’t that smart? … And strong.
Buckley, M. 2022. _ What does it mean to be smart. Available: https://www.psychreg.org/what-does-it-mean-smart/
Plett, H. 2015. What it means to hold space for people. Available: https://heatherplett.com/2015/03/hold-space/
Rose, S. 2022. May newsletter. Available: https://steverosephd.com