Nick Goodwin – A Pathway to a Purpose

December 22, 2020
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Nick Goodwin was a Marine Corps Infantry Officer with an attitude of invincibility. Then he ran into a wall of self-doubt. One question kept coming up, morning after morning.

“On the one hand I’m telling myself I’m the strongest person alive—you’re a Marine Corps Infantry Officer, you’ve led 300 people—and then the other part of it is saying what the heck, why do I wake up in the morning convinced that I’m never going to drink again and by 7 p.m. I’m drinking again?!”

Nick decided that the reason was a combination of factors. Here’s the short version.

Nick joined the Marines two days after his high school graduation, then spent almost nine years staying in top shape, travelling throughout the Pacific theater, becoming an officer, and being responsible for hundreds of men and women serving their country. Important, high stakes stuff. He speaks of valuable lifetime experiences in the military, including the chance to see so many different countries and shape lives. Plus, some of the fun to be had by hanging out with Australian Commandos.

Near the end of his service, the last year or so, Nick started struggling with over-indulgence of alcohol. He now sees the slide as a reaction to his pending discharge. Nick knew, without a doubt, that life was going to change dramatically, and knowledge that revved up his anxiety, which led to more drinking, which caused its own anxiety. Around and around he went, like many others struggling with alcohol addiction. But in Nick’s case, the party was just getting darker. 

Upon leaving the service, Nick’s marriage fell apart. Divorce is rarely easy, and in this case, it was quite harsh. All the issues of finance, custody, living arrangements, etc. packed a punch. What made it a knockout, Nick later reflected, was the complete loss of a goal orientation for his life, something he has always had in the military.

Nick was in trouble and he knew it. He tried AA and SMART, but didn’t stick with either. He kept drinking. The rest of the details don’t really matter. What matters is what happened next.

Isolated and disconnected from others during COVID, Nick turned to the Veteran’s Addiction Recovery Center and asked for help. He wanted inpatient treatment, believing it was the only way he would succeed in what had so far been a losing battle. The VA informed him that it was not an option but suggested he try SMART Recovery again, this time online. Nick dove in and found the tools and resources he needed. The best part is that they were right for him—a hard driving, goal oriented, cocky ex-Marine with a nagging sense of self-doubt. Nick explains the connection.

“I don’t like being told what to do, which is [what you get] in a lot of the programs I found. It’s kind of somewhat of a method they use. But SMART Recovery, they view it as a choice.”

Nick believes this focus on choice is consistent with addiction itself, in that his addiction was self-managed, so his recovery should be too. He also appreciates that meeting facilitators don’t control meetings. Instead, participants share ideas and experiences with one another and use SMART materials that are practical and science-based. Whatever the substance or activity that a person struggles with, Nick explains, changing negative thinking is one of the keys. 

“When they talk about leading a balanced life, to me, if you do that, addiction becomes a kind of a symptom. It has been very effective in my life dealing with depression and anxiety…without this program I wouldn’t have cured those things.”

Nick decided that he wanted to use what he knew about his own recovery as a way of serving others, so he became a trained SMART facilitator. Naturally, he directed his attention toward what he knew best helping to guide and provide opportunities for veterans. With the help of another SMART facilitator who was also ex-military, a meeting for Veterans and First Responders was started. Bringing the circle around again, this time in a positive direction.

Today, the combination of positive self-talk and a renewed goal orientation has brought Nick to a good place. The kind of place that includes purpose.

“[SMART] not only keeps me sober but keeps me enjoying life. SMART Recovery, really helping people recover, is my purpose now.”

There is a strong ripple effect when a person embraces SMART Recovery. Nick relies on SMART’s tools for himself and has chosen to pay it forward by becoming a SMART facilitator and working with veterans and First Responders. This ripple is possible because mutual support group meetings and science-based materials are available to those who desire a self-empowered, stigma-free Life Beyond Addiction, where meaning, purpose, and positive growth are the norm.

Your year-end gift to SMART Recovery will be used to launch our important work in the best possible way. Our goal is to make 2021 a less isolated and difficult year for individuals and families that are battling addictions. SMART Recovery is poised to make a significant impact and help individuals live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

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