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When someone with an alcohol use disorder makes the decision to give up alcohol, it requires a permanent life change. After detox, the recovery process includes lifestyle changes and creating a support system.
While the most known program is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and the 12 Step program, this faith-based program doesn’t work for everyone. SMART Recovery is an abstinence-oriented, not-for-profit organization for individuals struggling with addiction.
Their science-based program focuses on self-empowerment and teaches the skills required to achieve self-directed change. It is open to anyone suffering from alcohol abuse, substance abuse, drug addiction, or any other type of addiction.
The effectiveness of recovery support programs for alcohol use disorder is scientifically unproven. SMART Recovery recommends that individuals attend meetings for all available programs to find the one that works best for their recovery goals.
What is SMART Recovery?
SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. Like AA, the goal of SMART Recovery is to support individuals that choose to give up and abstain from alcohol and substance use. The program is based on current scientific knowledge of addiction, but they commit to evolving the program as researchers learn more about addiction recovery.
The goal of SMART Recovery support groups and meetings is to teach people how to move forward after addiction. They accomplish this by encouraging self-empowerment. Some of the main topics covered in the SMART recovery include:
- Encouraging self-responsibility, self-discipline, and self-motivation throughout the recovery process.
- Teaching how to replace self-destruction thoughts with rational, healthy beliefs.
- How to set achievable goals throughout recovery.
- Learning coping skills in order to resist urges and reduce negative behavior.
- Learning how to accept that impulses and triggers are a natural part of recovery.
- Understanding how to deal with triggers when they occur.
- Making SMART Recovery lessons and tools a part of everyday life situations.
The SMART 4-Point Program
The 4-Point Program is the foundation of SMART Recovery, with the goal of helping individuals gain independence from addiction. The four points are:
Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation
When a person makes the decision to enter detox and recovery, they do so with a motivation for change. The goal of this point in the 4-Point program is to focus on ways to motivate oneself in order to maintain sobriety. As they point out, the primary goals of all humans include survival, the avoidance of pain, and happiness.
Those with alcohol use disorder turn to alcohol in order to achieve these goals. SMART Recovery helps individuals understand how alcohol may be a short-term solution but, instead, impairs your long-term happiness.
Point 2: Coping with Urges
SMART Recovery understands that urges and triggers are a natural part of recovery. The goal of the program is to help people recognize urges and learn healthy coping mechanisms. This includes setting boundaries, eliminating harmful relationships, and learning how to avoid or handle potential triggers.
Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
How you feel about addiction and yourself, as well as how you deal with emotions, play a major role in addiction and recovery. SMART Recovery focuses on helping individuals identify negative beliefs and situations, as well as how to adjust them for a more positive outlook. In addition, they work with members to better deal with anger, guilt, anxiety, and low self-esteem by helping to increase self-acceptance.
Point 4: Living a Balanced Life
Long-term sobriety requires life changes. While this includes alcohol abstinence, it also means following a healthy diet, participating in regular exercise, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and working to maintain a positive attitude.
SMART Recovery Tools to Gain Independence from Alcohol
SMART Recovery offers many different recovery techniques and tools to help individuals, families, and friends through the recovery process. These tools help individuals work through the four points of the program.
SMART Recovery Meetings
SMART Recovery face-to-face meetings are open to the public and free. (A hat is passed around for donations). There are also online SMART meetings. They usually run 90 minutes and follow the following outline:
- Welcome and Introduction (5 minutes)
- Check-in (10-20 minutes)
- Agenda Setting (3 minutes)
- Working Time (40-50 minutes)
- Pass the Hat (3 minutes)
- Check-out and Closing (15 minutes)
In addition to face-to-face and daily online meetings, some of these tools and techniques include:
- Hierarchy of Values – This tool helps individuals determine what things are important to them. Reconnecting to what is important helps people visualize what they want their future to look like and find the motivation to reach those goals.
- Stages of Change and Change Plan Worksheets – This technique involves understanding the five stages of change and how to make the changes. The five stages include the precontemplation stage, contemplation stage, preparation stage, action stage, and maintenance stage.
- SMART Recovery ABC’s –This exercise helps individuals analyze specific situations and how to modify negative thinking and behavioral patterns.
- Destructive Images and Self-Talk Awareness and Refusal Method (DISARM) – This program helps individuals recognize negative self-talk and how to change that way of thinking.
- SMART Recovery Activities Scale (SRAS) – An assessment tool designed to help individuals see how far they have come in their recovery process.
- Unconditional Self-Acceptance (USA)
In addition, the SMART Recovery website offers a variety of different worksheets and homework assignments designed to help throughout every stage of recovery.
The SMART Recovery program focuses on the present day. Meetings help individuals understand self-destructive behavior, how to positively address it, and move forward.
How is SMART Recovery Different?
Many addiction treatment programs center around a spiritual foundation, such as AA. In these programs, you learn how to turn your addiction recovery over to a higher power. SMART Recovery is different, with a foundation based on self-empowerment and self-reliance. Meetings encourage participants to talk with each other, rather than to each other. They do not allow certain labels, such as “alcoholic” or “addict.” Instead, this program focuses on recovery and how to make self-directed positive changes.