Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a method of overcoming substance use disorder. However, while most people might be familiar with 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, SMART is a relatively new approach to recovery. SMART helps people overcome their addiction by teaching them how to spot the negative thoughts that lead to adverse outcomes. Thanks to therapeutic methods, alumni of SMART programs tend to control their urges over the long term and eventually achieve full recovery. SMART is a highly scientific approach to overcoming addiction. Thanks to their dedication to scientific principles, the group constantly updates its methods when new information becomes available.
SMART recovery is quite different from twelve-step programs. In these programs, the focus is on asking for help from an external entity. These programs are also very religious and promote spirituality and belief in a higher power in their attendees. SMART believes in the power of the individual and, as such, approaches the recovery process differently. They try to empower their members to take action instead of waiting for something to happen. They encourage discussions and questions about recovery and teach practical methods of avoiding relapse. SMART provides a readily available peer support network that helps to hold recovering individuals accountable. The support network is crucial in ensuring that a person knows others care about them as they go through the stages of recovery.
Concepts of Mutual Support and Assistance
Mutual support is one of the core tenets of SMART. The community can be a crucial factor in helping a person overcome substance use disorder. The SMART community provides that support in the form of others who are going through the same problem. Many attendees of SMART recovery will highlight that the approach is unique in that it gives the person the power to make their own decisions and control their lives through conscious decision-making. Unfortunately, the ability to make decisions for oneself is only part of the equation. The other half of the issue is having the support of a group. Mutual aid in the SMART world means being there for others who are also in the program.
This mutual support doesn’t even have to be in person. Many mutual support groups are formed through zoom meetings and incorporate SMART attendees from different parts of the country. Addiction recovery requires a person to focus on themselves for an extended period. Without the perspective a person will get from this mutual support, it can be all too easy to lose oneself in one’s recovery journey.
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What Are the Stages Of SMART Recovery?
Similar to 12-step programs, SMART programs also have distinct stages of recovery. These are:
- Precontemplation: individuals in this stage tend to be unaware that they have a problem or might be in denial of their issue. They might go to great lengths to avoid facing the problem head-on.
- Contemplation: Patients look at the advantages and disadvantages of remaining in their current lifestyle or changing and recovering from their substance use disorder. They do this by building a cost/benefit analysis.
- Determination/Preparation: Recovery is not something that happens overnight, and it will require a lot of planning and foresight. Here, patients determine whether they want to change more things in their lives and potentially prepare a change plan worksheet.
- Action: Patients in this stage accept that they need to change their behavior and seek out ways to do so. Some of the most common methods include seeking help from professionals, relying on group therapy and support, or utilizing self-help. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and each person has to find the ones that work best for them.
- Maintenance: After a few months, a person’s behavior may adapt to their current situation. At this point, they may be seeking ways of ensuring that they remain away from the substance. Maintenance allows them to figure out how to manage their current situation best so they don’t feel the need to use the substance again.
- Graduation/Exit: Patients have the option of graduating or exiting the SMART program once they achieve a certain level of success. Some patients wait for longer to do this than others, depending on how much of an assistance the program has been to them.
- Relapse: Occasionally, relapse does happen, but it’s essential to manage these situations. SMART recovery understands that these things happen, and they have ways to help a person cope with the feelings that accompany such a state.
Where Do SMART Recovery Meetings Happen?
SMART meetings take place in a variety of areas. In the past, SMART would have local meetings that would be accessible by calling a number in the local phonebook. Unfortunately, since the program is not as widespread as others, they could only manage to have meetings in larger cities and more population-dense locales. However, SMART Recovery meetings have been moving towards a more virtual format over the last few years. Thanks to this shift, individuals from anywhere in the country are welcome to join a meeting. Some professional centers also offer SMART meetings on their premises since their residents may also benefit from the recovery meetings.
Meetings usually run for ninety minutes, but some might extend further than that, depending on the attendees. New participants aren’t forced into interacting, and many first-time visitors just sit quietly and observe proceedings. Unlike other recovery programs, SMART doesn’t focus on people’s pasts and their life stories. Instead, the focus on recovery itself as a goal. There is less discussion about the substance itself and more talk about how to achieve the purpose of complete recovery. Although some sessions rely on a “pass-the-hat” system to collect donations for the hosting location, these meetings are typically free. There is usually no need to book in advance for in-person meetings, and attendees can simply turn up when the session is scheduled.
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Other Alternatives to Twelve-Step Programs
SMART recovery is one of the many options that people have to recover that is different from the traditional 12-step programs offered by Narcotics/Alcoholics Anonymous. However, SMART isn’t the only option available for those who want an alternative.
Developed under Buddhist principles of finding the path to enlightenment, Refuge Recovery is another alternative support group system to 12-step programs. Patients learn how their dependence on a substance keeps them locked in pain. According to Buddhist principles, the solution is to have compassion for oneself and understand why one wants what one wants. Through dedicated therapy, patients can learn how to love themselves and find ways to cope with their unhealthy urges and habits.
Women For Sobriety (WFS)
Created as a group to help women, in particular, suffering from alcohol use disorder, this recovery methodology has seen great strides. WFS sees alcohol use disorder as a regular part of living in a society like ours. Stress, trauma, anxiety, depression, and shame all compound to drive a woman to substance use. WFS groups help their patients understand the underlying reasons and faulty thinking that led to substance abuse. They focus on understanding their core needs and how to take care of them.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)
One of the earliest non-religious recovery programs in the country, SOS, was established in 1985, based on the writing of its founder, James Christopher. SOS focuses on personal integrity and values, using personal responsibility as the impetus for remaining sober over the long term. Instead of going the “higher power” route, SOS expects its members to hold themselves accountable and responsible for their behavior. It teaches that anyone can become and remain sober if they make sobriety their number one priority.
Rational Recovery and Ending Addiction
Ending addiction is not as simple as just deciding to quit and following through. However, with SMART Recovery, rational recovery is possible. Since the focus in rational recovery is on the thoughts that can often lead to a person’s mindset changing, the onus is on the individual. SMART Recovery covers four “pillars” that are different from the twelve steps of the Anonymous plans:
- Building and Maintaining Motivation: Motivation needs to be consistent throughout the recovery process. A recovering person must find and maintain the willingness to remain sober. The best way to do this in a rational manner is to make a list of the positives and negatives of sobriety. This gives recovering individuals a solid foundation for their motivation.
- Coping with Urges: Urges are the most significant reason individuals end up relapsing. To cope with one’s urges, one must first identify what causes them. Distraction techniques help avoid these urges. Another crucial, rational point in recovery is spotting the irrational beliefs that lead to usage. By debunking these ludicrous claims, a person can move forward logically.
- Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors: Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors all play a part in preventing relapse. This point focuses on how exactly those facets can impact a person’s recovery or lead to deterioration. Once a person has figured out the role of these elements, they are in a better position to deal with them.
- Living a Balanced Life: Becoming sober after having a substance use disorder is a significant life change. It can be difficult to cope with this, and there will always be things that try to bring you back to your old lifestyle. Living a balanced life comes with setting goals and focusing on the future. This tenet helps recovering person find that impetus to move forward and live a balanced life free of the substance.
What are the Benefits Of SMART Attendance?
Why would someone consider attending SMART recovery? Several critical elements of SMART recovery recommend it as a method of recovering from substance use disorder.
Rebuilding Interpersonal Relationships
Substance use disorder has the nasty side-effect of destroying a person’s ability to interact with those close to them. Through SMART recovery, a person learns how to fix those relationships that might have been damaged during their past. SMART Recovery also teaches its participants how to set, recognize, and respect boundaries, both within the peer group and outside of it. This aids in conflict avoidance and resolution and can help a person recovering from substance use disorder to operate more respectably in society.
Learn Important Life Skills
One of the significant sources of stress that recovering individuals have is trying to reintegrate into society without the proper life skills. SMART Recovery teaches individuals how to set and attain goals. They encourage a recovering person to set achievable goals, strive to accomplish them, and celebrate the accomplishment. Individuals in the recovery program learn how to gauge their abilities and separate wants from needs. These skills carry over into other areas of life and ready a person for dealing with the world outside of SMART recovery.
Understanding who you are and what you want out of life is critical for leaving substance use disorder behind. SMART recovery teaches a person to seek out what they want in life. Good addiction treatment is more than just detox. It’s about helping a person rediscover the world around them. Recovery grants a person a change plan that is all about their self-recovery. As a person grows, their needs and values will evolve and adapt. The self-awareness they get from SMART Recovery aids them on this journey of evolution and self-development.
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What are the Drawbacks to SMART Recovery Meetings?
There are a few sticking points to SMART Recovery. One of the contentious points of SMART Recovery is that it does not require the current leaders of a group to be sober. Unfortunately, this means that other members of the group may be influenced because o the behavior of the leader. SMART Recovery also doesn’t adhere to the accepted diagnosis of substance use disorder as a disease. Instead, it aims for a psychological approach to overcoming the illness. The psychological process may not benefit individuals who experience guilt when they drink. This guilt may compound and lead to a worse outcome for the individual.
However, despite these issues, relying on SMART Recovery alongside other recovery methods does show good promise. If a person starts going to SMART recovery in a registered rehab facility, they won’t have to worry about the leader being sober because it would be a foregone conclusion. Additionally, having support like SMART Recovery alongside mental health professionals can show significant progress and even help individuals reintegrate into society. The self-empowerment aspect of SMART Recovery recommends it as something for individuals who want to take command of their lives.
Lasting Recovery is Possible with SMART Recovery Meetings
Emerald Isle Recovery understands the need for long-term recovery and, as such, provides a location where someone can safely and securely go through therapy for substance use disorder. Alongside our mental health professionals, detox facilities, and inpatient/outpatient treatment, we also provide an area for support groups like SMART Recovery. Community is the most crucial part of recovering from substance use disorder.
Using proven methods alongside SMART Recovery deals with the disadvantages that may exist for SMART Recovery programs. If you feel like you’d like to leave your substance use disorder behind but don’t know where to turn, contact us today. We’ll be glad to walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have. EIR is here to help you through every step of your recovery journey.