Branding wasn’t a strong point…
The meeting was easy to find on their website and the facilitator replied to my email in minutes. So, this afternoon I decided to try a local SMART Recovery meeting.
SMART Recovery (Self Management and Recovery Training) is an international non-profit organization which provides assistance to individuals seeking abstinence from addictive behaviors. The approach used is secular and scientifically based using non-confrontational motivational, behavioral and cognitive methods. Meeting participants learn recovery methods derived from evidence-based addiction treatments.
Substance/activity dependence is viewed by the organization as a dysfunctional habit (rather than a disease), while allowing that it is possible that certain people have a predisposition towards addictive behavior. [Source]
Does this mean you don’t like A.A.?
I’m very happy with my experience at Alcoholics Anonymous. The 12 steps, my sponsor, and my home group are very helpful. Without these resources, I don’t know how I could have made it to 99 days sobriety. Before I tried SMART, I went to my own AA meeting this morning.
I’m open to any source of help to beat addiction. That’s been my policy since the beginning – do whatever it takes to stay sober.
I want to invest as much energy into my recovery that I once wasted chasing my addiction.
That means books, meetings, counseling, Twitter friends, AA sponsor, praying, step work, exercise, and diet changes. I will do whatever it takes to stay away from the alcohol trap again.
How was it different?
The setting was a residential rehab, that meant about 50% of the group were in the program and doing SMART meetings everyday as their primary group therapy. Here are a few other differences from my AA group:
- Intentionally secular (spirituality is not a part of the program)
- Labels are discourages (don’t say alcoholic, addict, alcoholism)
- No routine readings (except the one paragraph introduction)
- Group therapy principles (the facilitator always asked permission before altering agenda)
- Open discussion (people didn’t need raise their hand but simply spoke up when there was silence)
- Facilitator was trained (AA chairpersons don’t appear to be)
- Different vocabulary (more therapy words versus Big Book words in AA)
- More open-ended, less certainty (AA meetings frequently quote the Big Book in a semi-authoritative way, this group had nothing to quote but the principles of SMART Recovery as interpreted by the group) If there are no wrong answer does that mean there are no right answers? ????
- They had many more “newcomers” because half the group was in a 60 day rehab program. My AA group has mostly “old-timers” with wisdom, jokes, and experience to share.
How did the meeting go?
5 minutes – Welcome from the facilitator and a brief reading explaining the principles of SMART Recovery.
20 minutes – Check In. Each person made a brief introduction and how they are doing. They were instructed not to use labels such as alcoholic or addict. For many this became a time of progress sharing about whatever was on their mind. The group was 25 people so this took a long time.
25 minutes – Topic discussion. The group decided on the subject of “complacency versus motivation.” Because it was open floor the same 5 people spoke several times, while the other 20 people mainly listened. The conversation was interesting and on point, but it clearly took some assertiveness to inject your ideas.
10 minutes – Check Out. Each person made a few closing thoughts about the meeting and what they took away from the conversation. This was unanimously positive.
What did I learn?
The group leader said I should visit 5 times before I decided if it was helpful. That being said, I can already see several things I liked (and disliked) about this group.
???? I like their emphasis on “choice” and the idea that I can overcome addictive behaviors with the right strategy. I started this journey “powerless” over alcohol, but in recovery I know the simple choice not to drink makes me powerful again.
???? I missed the certainty and hope from my AA home group. With the 12 steps comes a guarantee that my Higher Power can and will any who seek Him. With SMART the highest source of help was behavioral therapy and a sense of self-reliance.
???? I like the “evidence based” idea behind SMART. We should be growing in our understanding of addiction and be willing to try what’s new. The traditionalism of AA sometimes makes me feel like a science-denier.
???? I appreciate the emphasis on building a sobriety toolbox. The spiritual work of the 12 steps is very rewarding, but when I’m in a crisis I’d like to have techniques besides willpower.
???? They ignore the spiritual side of recovery. My Higher Power, even with our strained relationship, has saved my ass more times than I can count. Not inviting him into my recovery process is a little short-sighted.
???? I missed the prayers and readings. I love the prayers, the promises, and the 12 steps. They are often the best thing said in meetings.
???? It’s not an exclusive pathway. Most of the people in the room were also working the AA program, receiving counseling, and some even on detox medications. As the group leader said, “SMART has a lot of powerful tools. Take what you need from the program to help your recovery.”
More About SMART Recovery
You can read more and find some free help on their website. They also posted this introduction video.
First thing I always love to ask about Snowflake Recovery or so-called “Evidence Based” recovery is, “Where is the evidence that it works?”
That notwithstanding, your observations were.mostly excellent. One that surprised me:
” The traditionalism of AA sometimes makes me feel like a science-denier.”
Relying on science to.save one’s bacon from addiction (i am not afraid to call it what it is) is a bit like placing my faith in me. Science won’t bail me out when I’m looking at a beer. My sponsor and “recoiling as if from flame” and working some steps and with another addict or alcoholic will though, and there’s a MOUNTAIN of evidence that it does work.
You cant be a science denier, in any case. You don’t do labels.
I agree with the whatever works approach, I just prefer the emphasis to be on “works” rather than “whatever”.
Sober Tony says
The language about “evidence based” is their buzzword, something I’ve seen in a lot of recovery literature that’s trying to say in effect, “we’re the professionals – stand back.”
I get skeptical too, but the group leader didn’t hammer on that point so it wasn’t a big detraction.
Maybe “science denier” isn’t the best description. I would like to imagine addiction treatment would have advanced since the Big Book, even one of the readings says something to that effect about seeking to improve the program. But I’ve got my own baggage from fundamentalist church life, where the archaic vocabulary is considered proof that things are true.
The label thing was their rule — I like the label alcoholic and it was weird to hear people not use that in their introduction. In my AA home group, that bit of humility makes everything feel more honest.
Thanks again for comments. I always appreciate the conversation.