SMART Recovery is one of the largest alcohol addiction and abuse support groups in the world, and helps members overcome alcoholism.
What Is SMART Recovery?
Self-Management and Recovery Training, commonly referred to as SMART, is a support group for individuals recovering from alcoholism and other addictions. It helps individuals, family members and friends learn how to move forward with their lives after rehab. The tools and techniques taught in SMART Recovery meetings are based on scientific research that can help people make healthy life choices. The organization has programs available in many cities worldwide, as well as treatment centers, correctional facilities and online group meetings.
Some types of addiction that SMART Recovery programs help treat include:
- Drug addiction (heroin, cocaine, marijuana, antidepressants and oxycodone)
- Behavioral disorders or “process addictions” (food addiction, Internet addiction and gambling addiction)
While 12 step programs, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, have long been used to treat alcoholism, SMART Recovery has grown substantially over the last decade. In the United States alone, SMART reached a milestone of 1,500 meetings in 2015. The United Kingdom and Australia have also seen an uptick in SMART Recovery programs in recent years.
With countless post-rehab programs available, it’s important to find the right one that fits your needs and lifestyle. Our treatment specialists are here to guide you through every step of the recovery process, including aftercare programs. Give us a call now to explore support groups and other recovery resources nearby.
How Does SMART Recovery Work?
The key focus of SMART Recovery groups is self-empowerment. Meetings and other support resources provide information on staying motivated after rehab, preventing cravings and the importance of living a well-balanced life.
The topics covered in SMART Recovery programs include:
- Showing self-responsibility, self-motivation and self-discipline throughout recovery from substance abuse
- Replacing self-destructive thoughts and ideas with rational, healthy beliefs
- Setting achievable goals and milestones throughout the recovery journey
- Accepting impulses as part of the recovery process and recognizing when they occur
- Learning how to resist urges to drink or act on a negative behavior
- Being patient with the recovery journey
- Applying SMART Recovery lessons and resources to everyday situations
At SMART Recovery meetings, relapses are not viewed as weaknesses or failures. Rather than starting over in the recovery process, this program views a relapse as an opportunity to talk about what happened and how to get back on track. Recognizing a relapse as a mistake, rather than a failure, increases an individual’s chance of returning to abstinence.
To teach individuals about recognizing and overcoming various triggers, SMART Recovery programs use an exercise called the ABC’s. This exercise is used to help people analyze situations that may arise, and learn how to modify their thinking and behavioral patterns.
SMART Recovery’s ABC’s
A: Activating Experience
Every trigger starts with a specific situation that has occurred. The first step is to define the event that urged you to drink or fall back on bad habits.
When you think about the particular event that has occurred, how do you see it? Take into consideration what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling. Beliefs can come in many forms: rational, reality-based, logical, irrational, wishful-based thinking, illogical and self-defeating.
Every thought and action has a consequence. The consequence is a result of “A” (the activating event) and “B” (your beliefs).
Take any negative beliefs that you may have, and turn them into a series of questions and answers. This will help you take a deeper look at why the event made you feel a certain way.
Effects are the result of replacing irrational thoughts with logical and rational beliefs. With practice, you will begin to see new behavior patterns form and your urges decrease.
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SMART Recovery 4-Point Program
The information taught in SMART Recovery are based off of a 4-Point Program. Each aspect of the program helps a person develop a safe, sober and healthy lifestyle after rehab.
Here’s a closer look at the individual points of the 4-Point Program:
Point 1: Build and maintain motivation
After inpatient or outpatient alcohol rehab, it’s important to focus on ways to motivate yourself in order to maintain sobriety. Temptations to drink are part of the recovery process. It’s up to you to determine how you will handle certain situations and overcome impulses. Attending counseling sessions, talking to other sober peers and establishing a support system can help you stay encouraged.
Point 2: Cope with urges
SMART Recovery programs help you recognize urges and learn how to cope with them. Every person handles situations differently. Consider what’s acceptable and unacceptable to you, and set up boundaries based on that information. Boundaries can include avoiding alcohol-related events, eliminating harmful relationships from your life and steering clear of potential relapse triggers.
Point 3: Manage thoughts, feelings and behaviors
Replacing negative thoughts with positive and uplifting beliefs can make a significant difference in your recovery journey. The recovery process is filled with many highs and lows; however, the way you choose to view these situations can make a huge difference in your continued sobriety. For instance, rather than thinking about how you can’t overcome an urge, modify your feelings to believe that you have control and will get through it.
Point 4: Live a balanced life
The best chance at long-term sobriety involves committing yourself to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This includes staying away from alcohol and drugs, eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep and having a positive mindset. Make sure you set aside time each week to do the things you enjoy most. When your lifestyle matches your sobriety goals, you’re much more likely to continue on with the recovery process.
More than 90 percent of SMART Recovery members say that recognizing that they have the power of choice has been important in their recovery.
Roughly half of SMART Recovery participants also attend other recovery programs. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other 12 step groups are some of the most common programs.
SMART Recovery meetings are offered face-to-face around the globe and online. The organization’s online message board, chat room and in-person meetings provide 24/7 access to recovery support services.
SMART Recovery Meetings
SMART Recovery meetings take place throughout the world and online, and are open to anyone. The program is extremely beneficial to not only an individual in recovery, but also their family members and friends. While there is no cost to attend SMART Recovery meetings, many groups accept donations for the cost of materials and offer volunteer opportunities.
Facilitators recommend going to at least five meetings before deciding whether or not SMART Recovery is right for you. This will give you enough time to learn more about the organization in order to see how it fits within your recovery plan.
Although SMART Recovery meetings can provide a person with the fundamental resources for long-term sobriety, it is up to each individual to practice and apply what they learn in meetings. Alcoholism support groups, like SMART Recovery, cannot do the legwork for you. Support groups provide guidance for overcoming urges and maintaining sobriety. This allows participants to take full responsibility for their own recovery and success.
How SMART Recovery Meetings Help Family Members and Friends
There are no requirements for attending SMART Recovery meetings. Many SMART Recovery programs open their doors to the family members and friends who are affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. Some individuals who take part in meetings have loved ones who are currently seeking treatment at an alcohol rehab facility. Others may go to SMART Recovery programs to receive advice on coping with a loved one’s drinking problem.
Alcoholism can affect a loved one’s professional and personal life, as well as their overall well-being. SMART Recovery programs teach these loved ones how to communicate and support someone suffering from a drinking problem. They will also learn how to provide encouragement and motivation without enabling the person’s drinking behaviors.
Family members and friends can attend SMART Recovery meetings for as long as they see fit. Even if it’s been several months or years, loved ones are always welcome to check back in with the group, give updates and find assistance for challenges that arise.
Find the Right Group for You
SMART Recovery programs offer many benefits to people in recovery, as well as their loved ones. However, it’s imperative to find a program that’s the perfect fit for you.
Medical Reviewer — Last Reveiwed: April 12, 2019
SMART Recovery. (2016). About SMART Recovery Local Meetings. January 2017. https://www.smartrecovery.org/local/
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Hogan, Jan. (2017). Southwest Las Vegas Recovery Center an Alternative to 12-step Approach. January 2017. http://www.reviewjournal.com/local/summerlin/southwest-las-vegas-recovery-center-alternative-12-step-approach
Stoner, Tad. (2016) SMART Recovery Charts New Addiction Treatment. January 2017. https://www.caymancompass.com/2016/08/30/smart-recovery-charts-new-addiction-treatment/
Allwood and White. A Chronology of SMART Recovery. January 2017. http://www.williamwhitepapers.com/pr/Chronology%20of%20SMART%20Recovery.pdf
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (2015). Alcohol, Drugs and Crime. February 2017. https://www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/alcohol-drugs-and-crime
SMART Recovery. (Spring 2016). SMART Recovery News & Views Newsletter. February 2017. http://www.smartrecovery.org/resources/library/Newsletters/Newsletters/spring2016news&views.pdf
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