The Veterans “Muscle Memory” Tools

November 10, 2020
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Provided by Michael Hooper, Veteran and SMART Recovery State Outreach Director for Ohio

Through my journey with SMART Recovery, I have seen certain tools hold immediate weight with the participants of the Veteran and First Responder communities frequenting my meetings. One of the defining reasons why these particular tools ring true to so many of them right away, I believe, is the fact that these tools have the ability to be used in a practical manner almost immediately. Many of the SMART Recovery tools, such as the ABC tool, need time and focus to be properly applied. Based heavily off of CBA techniques, tools such ABC are meant to be utilized in a manner where the participant has time to analyze and deconstruct certain life situations in order to break down the root of a problem. Though highly effective and indeed practical, a tool such as this takes time to master before it can be used in an expeditious manner.

The tools I am including have been proven to not only be useful in a number of different life scenarios (not just addiction related) but can also be used with little to no experience in recovery. Veterans and First Responders adhere quickly to this type of methodology due to our training being similar in many regards. They are expected to comprehend many different training aspects with minimal instruction as these techniques are meant to be used in strenuous situations where cognitive thinking may be impaired. As a result, participants are forced to rely on instinctual reaction or “muscle memory”, so to speak. The following tools can be regarded as the “muscle memory” tools of SMART Recovery as they are easily learned and can be utilized and practiced almost immediately upon assimilation.

Hierarchy of Values (HOV)

A tool asking the participant to identify what is most important to them within their lives. This tool is helpful to aid the participant in focusing on what is most valuable to them and their motivation to create change in their lives, thus contributing to Point 1 of SMART: Building and Maintaining Motivation.

Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA)

This tool outlines the pros and cons of the participant’s addictive behavior, and the same for practicing abstinence from that particular behavior in their life. What is unique about this method for SMART Recovery is that it also defines whether or not these traits have short or long-term effects on their lives. The immediate usage of this particular tool is obvious and, therefore, has been held in high regard by participants.

Disputing Irrational Beliefs (DIBS)

Thoughts can affect our emotions, and our emotional states can influence our actions. Learning to identify unhelpful thoughts and defusing them before they become problematic, is one of the first skills we value in the SMART Recovery Program. Learning how to identify whether a thought is logical, based in fact, and/or is helpful to our current state of being in recovery, can be an essential tool for combating urges, cravings, and triggers; this is Point 2 in our Program.

Deny/Delay, Escape, Avoid/Attack/Accept, Distract, Substitute (DEADS)

One of the most effective tools in the SMART Recovery arsenal for coping with urges and cravings, in my opinion, is the DEADS tool. The DEADS tool is helpful because it is what I like to classify as a “Crisis Management Tool.” This tool can be used with little experience in recovery, and offers multiple pathways to combat an occurring urge or craving.

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