When does it stop being a party and start becoming a problem? Is there a way to steer clear of addiction? Every Wednesday, Mike McGowan, host of the podcast "Avoiding the Addiction Affliction," explores substance use disorders with expert guests. The podcast series is sponsored by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition.
Original cover art created by
Kelly P. of Kenosha, Wisconsin
Certified Recovery Coach and Program Coordinator for Bridges Community Center, a program of Kenosha Human Development Services
One size doesn’t fit all in recovery. Finding people and programs that work for you is all that matters. Carrie Szulczewski is a Certified Recovery Coach and Program Coordinator for Bridges Community Center, a program of Kenosha Human Development Services. Carrie discusses SMART Recovery support groups and the many other programs available at Bridges Community Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin. If you are interested in learning more about SMART Recovery, information is available at https://www.smartrecovery.org and if you are interested in any of the Bridges Community Center services, more information is available on the website at https://www.namikenosha.org/bridges.html or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Bridges57187thave/
[00:00:00] [Jaunty Music]
[00:00:12] Mike: Welcome everyone to Avoiding the Addiction Affliction, a series brought to you by the Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition. I'm Mike McGowan. You know, we recently had a couple of conversations about spirituality and recovery and those conversations as expected focused on the 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous.
[00:00:30] Well, you know, one size never fits all. So we wanted to have a conversation about other types of support groups. My guest today is Carrie Szulczewski who facilitates many programs, including smart recovery with the Kenosha Human Development Services. Welcome Carrie.
[00:00:49] Carrie: Hi, thanks for having me.
[00:00:50] Mike: Well, thank you, Carrie I think everybody listening or, or, you know, we have a wide audience of, uh, everything from therapists to, uh, lay people, recovering people. Most people are familiar with AA, NA, and Al-Anon. But when I do talks, I find it not as many people are familiar with things like Smart Recovery. Um, what the other groups that your agency runs, but let's start with Smart. Can you tell us a little bit about the program and how it started?
[00:01:19] Carrie: Uh, sure. Well, it started in 1994 by some people in California. Uh, there's a detailed chronology on their websites, smartrecovery.org. But, um, if you want to know how I get started here at Bridges with that, I can tell you about that.
[00:01:35] Mike: Ya, please.
[00:01:36] Carrie: Okay. So, um, I was, uh, a receiver of Smart services about 25 years ago at the old alcohol and drug counsel. Uh, which is now known as the Hope Council, but at the really old building. And, uh, Tony Moore was facilitating Smart back then. And it was just something that I was like, it just stuck. And I, and I understood it and I, and it worked for me.
[00:02:01] So I've carried it with me through the years and I do the programming here at Bridges, and I just want to provide you know, any pathway to recovery I can, anything that works. So, um, I went through the training to become a facilitator, you know, my employer, Jeannine, they paid for it and everything. And I just started my own group here in about 2012. So we've been going strong since then.
[00:02:25] Mike: So how does it, how does it differ from AA?
[00:02:31] Carrie: Well, it's very different. Um, smart is self directed. It's a non-theist program. Um, you're not powerless as opposed to AA, you're powerless. Um, you have all control and you, you learn skills and coping tools to have self-efficacy in your recovery.
[00:02:52] So you direct it, you live it, you do it. You learn it.
[00:02:57] Mike: You know, I think that is, I think there are people who, when you say non-theist, it's interesting because there are especially a lot of young people I've met over the years, um, rebel with the whole idea of the 12 steps in God. So this takes that out of it and says, instead of being power-less, you can do this.
[00:03:18] Carrie: Yes, you're very powerful. You know, we, we, we have the power to do whatever we want, you know, um, I do have some people, you know, who are religious and do believe in God that, um, come to Smart also, you know, and sometimes they go to AA. So, you know, we just don't, we don't really get into the topic of religion.
[00:03:36] We just work on what we're here to do. Coping skills, teaching tools. Practicing.
[00:03:42] Mike: Yeah. Talk about the four point program a little bit.
[00:03:46] Carrie: Okay. Well the four point program is what Smart is built upon. Um, 0.1 is building and maintaining motivation. Um, 0.2 is coping with urges, 0.3, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and part four is living a balanced life.
[00:04:03] And in each point there are specific tools that we teach ourselves and work through. Uh, for instance in 0.1, uh, you know, we figure out what our values are and stuff, and, uh, using a thing called the HOV, Hierarchy of Values, um, it's pretty eye opening and you kind of get an aha moment because no one ever lists their addiction as their top value.
[00:04:27] It's usually missing from the list. So it's an aha moment where like, "Oh wow!", you know, so then we do a thing called a CBA tool, a Cost Benefit Analysis you can use. Yeah. [laugh] You can use that tool all the time throughout all of Smart, um, you know, weighing your pros and cons, the short and long-term affects. Um, it's a pretty good tool.
[00:04:49] And then we have a change plan worksheet in, um, 0.1 also.
[00:04:53] Mike: Hold on a minute, go back.
[00:04:55] Carrie: Yeah.
[00:04:56] Mike: You said that you got into the program yourself, right?
[00:04:59] Carrie: Yes.
[00:04:59] Mike: Do you remember then when you went through like your step one or pardon me, point one.
[00:05:05] Carrie: Yes.
[00:05:06] Mike: What was your aha? Like what were your values?
[00:05:10] Carrie: I can't remember that far back. It was 24, 25 years ago, but I do remember, you know, learning what CBT was, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. And it made sense to me, you know, changing my thinking and thoughts about things would change my behavior. And so that really stuck, it was practical and logical, and I understood it, but I can't remember the specific tools .
[00:05:36] The only one I can remember is the ABC, which is based off of Albert Ellis' REBT.
[00:05:43] Mike: Right. And, and, you know, when you, when it talks about growing your urges.
[00:05:49] Carrie: Yes.
[00:05:50] Mike: It, no matter what the addiction or know, condition you have, there are going to be, um, temptations, cravings, right?
[00:06:02] Carrie: Yeah. In 0.2, we learned to cope with our urges and their specific tools.
[00:06:08] Um, we learned about a rational beliefs. And we learn how to dispute them. Uh, we identify our triggers. Uh, some people like to use a log to keep track of them, and then usually a pattern develops, so we can figure out what triggering situations, people, places, things, all that is. And then we learn new coping strategies.
[00:06:30] Um, for example, Distracting yourself using a CBA tool, um, planning ahead, call your support person. There's lots of things you can do to cope.
[00:06:43] Mike: I love the idea of a, of a trigger log for lack of a better word, because,
[00:06:48] Carrie: Yes.
[00:06:48] Mike: It's so often we can put things in the back of our head and just repeat pattern after pattern, after pattern,
[00:06:56] Carrie: Yes.
[00:06:56] Mike: And keeping a log of. Oh, every time I see these folks, this is what happens, every time I go past here.
[00:07:02] Carrie: Right. It's really eye opening. When you put everything down on paper, the answers are right in front of you. And that's why I like Smart too. It's it's right there. You know, makes sense.
[00:07:15] Mike: So, will you have in a support group meeting where you have folks working on a variety of different things, will we, can we mix alcohol with gambling with, or is it separate?
[00:07:28] Carrie: Oh, yeah, for sure. Um, Smart is not just addiction to substances. Um, it's also addictive behaviors, gambling, sex. I mean, lying, any kind of behavior that you want to change, you can use Smart for. Yeah.
[00:07:43] Mike: Does that include emotions and feelings? Cause I think that's one of the big points, right?
[00:07:49] Carrie: Yes. Uh, 0.3 is managing your thoughts, feelings and behaviors.
[00:07:54] Mike: I been asking everybody that's slightly Carrie. What have you noticed in the last couple of years? Because every place I'm working at talks about a regression and coping skills over the last couple of years.
[00:08:06] Carrie: Uh, you mean due to the pandemic?
[00:08:07] Mike: Or just the isolation or, and so along with that, an increase in anger.
[00:08:14] Carrie: Oh yes. Um, in the last couple of years, you know, things have been really. You know, you're kind of living in the unknown in a lot of services just stopped. Um, you know, we have people that come here every day, you know, or they might have a case manager or they may see a psychotherapist, but the world just kind of shut down.
[00:08:34] Um, you know, I see that there's, there's been relapses, but there's also been people who persevered and survived and used some of their coping skills to get through this on their own.
[00:08:46] Mike: I'm curious to keep track of people who come for the first time. And did you see a drop during the pandemic people walk in?
[00:08:54] Carrie: Oh yes, I did. Uh, we had to actually close down for about 10 months in 2020, and then we tried to open it and, uh, 21. Um, but we had to close down, um, towards the end of the year again. So, but yeah, it was very quiet around here. You know, a lot of people we're excited to come back, but some didn't want to come back because they were afraid of the COVID.
[00:09:16] Mike: Yeah.
[00:09:17] Are you you're in person now?
[00:09:20] Carrie: Yeah. We've been open since. Yeah, that's right before Christmas.
[00:09:24] Mike: Do you notice that there's a difference between doing Zoom and being in person?
[00:09:30] Carrie: Yeah, there's a big difference. Um, we tried to do some Zoom, right when my closed down and, um, a lot of my folks and, and myself included, we didn't really like it too much, but, uh, I kept track, you know, kept in contact with people.
[00:09:44] In other ways, I called them a couple of times a week and, um, yeah, but none of us really get into the Zoom thing. So we were happy to get back to face-to-face.
[00:09:55] Mike: And, you know, as you and I were talking before this started you, you said that it's not unusual for you to have folks that dipped a little bit into both.
[00:10:01] So you can do, you can do Smart as well as AA, right?
[00:10:07] Carrie: Yes. You can, you know, take a little bit from here and take something from there. Whatever speaks to you. I say, go for it, use it. You know.
[00:10:16] Mike: I liked that a lot.
[00:10:17] Carrie: I know if you went to a certain program. They might not be happy to hear that you're using something else , but you have to do what works for you regardless.
[00:10:27] Mike: What, um, talk about some of the other, because I know you don't just do Smart at Bridges. What else is available?.
[00:10:35] Carrie: Um, well, recovery addiction wise on, we do a, I do a refuge recovery group. We also have dual recovery and a group called Procovery and then we have several different mental health support groups. Um, YMCA group, we go and, you know, we have recreation.
[00:10:53] We have a little bit of everything. Women's group, men's group, uh, VOCA provides a PTSD survivors group here from the main office at KHDS. We have a lot of things happening. There's something for everyone.
[00:11:07] Mike: [laugh] Yeah. I was checking off the list as you were talking about. I got that. I got that. So there must be a process by which somebody comes in, you chat with them and say, well, you might want to try this. You might want to try it.
[00:11:22] Carrie: Yeah, that's kind of how it works. We're really laid back here. And, uh, someone usually comes in and, you know, we introduce ourselves. So I get to know him a little bit. We talk a little bit, I find out why they're coming here. And then we usually look at the calendar together and I show them what we have and maybe this one might be good.
[00:11:41] And, but whatever they want to come to, they're welcome to, and it's free and you don't have to be a member. You just come on in. Eventually you can become a member. Yeah, you can come to anything.
[00:11:53] Mike: Ya, you were telling me, you have, um, quite a few, uh, clients, individuals who have mental health issues as well.
[00:12:00] Carrie: Yes. Yeah. Living with mental illness. Um, sometimes, you know, co-occurring with addiction issues as well.
[00:12:09] Mike: Well you know, back in the day, I'm older than you, but back in the day, they treated those things separately, which was, you know, ridiculous. Um, and then I think people discovered, oh, let's see if you're using a substance for a long period of time, it's going to affect your mental health and, um, you know vice versa.
[00:12:26] So yeah, it makes sense that you work with all that.
[00:12:31] Carrie: Yeah, it does. There's so many things in recovery, whether it's mental health or AODA or together, there's so many different things you need to work on.
[00:12:42] Mike: Uh, I saved this for the end cause I love this. Talk about the life balance.
[00:12:49] Carrie: Um, well in Smart, particularly we make, it's like a pie. Or you can call it a pizza either, or, and, um, we fill in the different parts of our life and the pie will show us, you know, pretty much what we're lacking in or what we might need more of, or, and you should kind of, you know, fill the, fill those up and all those different areas. You need all that stuff, you know, to live a balanced, fulfilling, happy life.
[00:13:20] Mike: Well and so many of us over the last couple of years have had to make cuts in the pie.
[00:13:25] Carrie: Yes.
[00:13:26] Mike: Social engagements.
[00:13:28] Carrie: Very, yes. A lot of people are starting to build those back up again. Yeah, we just, uh, you know, we've been running our support groups. Everyone's been running every hour on the hour. And, um, recently we just got the okay to go on our outings again and do some of our rec stuff.
[00:13:46] So it's been great. And we've been back to the YMCA and yeah, so lots a social stuff is happening again.
[00:13:53] Mike: When you can see the happiness in people's faces and in their dialogue, when they involve themselves in that.
[00:14:01] When you go out, when you go, when you go on your [inaudible].
[00:14:04] Carrie: Oh yeah, it's a blast. Sometimes, you know, sometimes people have never been to a Brewer game before, or they've never bowled or, you know, we went kayaking. It was everybody's first time kayaking but me, but yeah, we, we do normal things just like everybody else.
[00:14:21] So we are normal.
[00:14:25] Mike: [laugh] As normal as we can be. Right?
[00:14:28] Carrie: Right, what is normal?
[00:14:30] Mike: So if somebody, especially in your area, well, let me, let me do this first. Smart doesn't just exist. Um, here, it's all over.
[00:14:40] Carrie: Yes, it's global. Uh, they have in-person meetings all over the world, and then you can also find a smart recovery meeting online also.
[00:14:50] Mike: You know, which I think is really important to mention, because we do have people that listen to us in rural areas.
[00:14:54] And one of the things I hear there is, you know, in Kenosha you have quite a few offerings in Milwaukee and Madison and Wisconsin, you have quite a few to Fox Valley, but you get up to some of the places I go and, you know, you're, you're not having as many resources. So I like the online.
[00:15:11] Carrie: Right. Yeah, no, I mean, online is great because like you said, there's lots of rural up north and lot of barriers to treatment people don't have the access. So online is great, you know, better than nothing, so.
[00:15:27] Mike: Well, so tell me, um, if, if I was in your area and somebody was interested in finding more about what, uh, what they could do or what might apply to them, what could they do? How do they get in?
[00:15:40] Carrie: To Bridges? You can call me (262) 657-5252. You can stop in.
[00:15:47] Um, you can Facebook me through our, uh, Bridges Community Center Facebook page. You can email me, just pop in.
[00:15:54] Mike: We will put links to all of that in the blurb.
[00:15:57] Carrie: Thank you.
[00:15:58] Mike: And where are you? Where are you in Kenosha?
[00:16:00] Carrie: We're downtown at 5718 Seventh Avenue, right up the block from Subway.
[00:16:07] Mike: [laugh] That's great how we reference where we all are, right?
[00:16:12] Carrie: Yeah. Everybody usually walks past. So I always give that reference point.
[00:16:18] Mike: That's great. Um, well, as you say, Carrie, one size certainly doesn't fit all. And we wanted to emphasize some of the other alternatives out there because you know, when I hear somebody say, well, I don't, I don't like that stuff, so I'm not going to do it.
[00:16:31] It's like, well, then find something that works for ya.
[00:16:35] Carrie: Yes. There's a lot of, you know, different ways, different paths to recovery and keep, keep looking for something until it fits.
[00:16:43] Mike: Well, I like that. I like that. That's a good place to top it off. So what we'll do is, um, put the links to the bottom, uh, at the bottom of the podcast to your information.
[00:16:54] And thank you so much for talking a little bit about this. We're going to be exploring,
[00:16:58] Carrie: Your welcome.
[00:16:59] Mike: other people, their success with the Smart program.
[00:17:02] Carrie: Sure.
[00:17:03] Mike: So please feel free to listen in the next time for the listeners and until then, stay safe and find something that works.
[00:17:11] [END AUDIO]
The Kenosha County Substance Abuse Coalition’s mission is to support networking, encourage education, explore gaps, and realize solutions to improve treatment and reduce alcohol and other drug abuse in our community with a primary focus on families.