What is SMART Recovery?

Posted On By Yossef Kader
woman meditating by the sea

Every person that suffers from addiction is unique. Most people can admit that, while they could not control their drug or alcohol use, the real problem was learning to control their emotions, and how they reacted to life. SMART Recovery is a program of action that is geared towards empowering people of all shapes, sizes, creeds, and backgrounds, to learn to live an addiction-free life.

The Power of Choice

SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. The driving force behind SMART Recovery is to give its members, who have chosen or are considering a life abstinent from any and all addictive behaviors, a program of action to recover from those behaviors.

Unlike a 12 step program, members of SMART Recovery can work the same program for a variety of addictions ranging from:

  • Alcohol
  • Drug Abuse
  • Substance Abuse
  • Drug Addiction
  • Gambling Addiction
  • Sex Addiction
  • Eating Addictions
  • And other substances or activities

Signs

How Does it Work?

First and foremost, SMART Recovery aims to teach its members how to identify and reverse self-defeating thinking, emotions, or actions. Many people who suffer from addictions have often been exposed to some sort of trauma or learned behavior from their childhood that can create the behavioral patterns that fuel addictive behaviors.

SMART Recovery is based on what they call the 4 Point Program. This program was created and designed for scientific knowledge and research, which allows it to evolve as scientific research evolves. The 4 Point Program consists of:

  • Point 1: Building and Maintaining Motivation
    • This point encourages and promotes creating motivation to abstain from addictive behaviors
    • The program does that by encouraging the individual to use coping tools, such as CBA (Cost/Benefit Analysis) and listening to the rational voice, rather than to use.
  • Point 2: Coping with Urges
    • By retraining the mind and behavior patterns to learn and understand that urges ARE temporary, they DO go away, and the individual has complete power over listening to them or not.
  • Point 3: Managing Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
    • By using rational and practiced coping techniques to manage and respond, rather than react to emotions and behaviors
    • SMART Recovery encourages focusing on the positives in life, by focusing on progress and short-term goals.
    • The program also encourages seeing through our addictive behaviors, and pushing past them, by moving towards our goals despite the discomfort.
  • Point 4: Living a Balanced Life
    • Balancing short term and long term pleasures and satisfaction in life through identifying and appreciating all emotions, not just the good ones.
    • SMART Recovery does not promote only positive emotions, but it does promote learning how to deal with the unpleasant ones in a healthy way

The critical principle of SMART Recovery is that people or situations cannot MAKE anyone feel a certain way, but instead, it is the individual’s reaction to the situation that controls how they will feel towards it.

The ABC Process

This process is the cornerstone by which SMART Recovery is based around. The ABC process is their primary method in analyzing and negating irrational thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. Through practicing the ABC process, members will be able to resist any urges or cravings and promote that motivation that begins at Point 1.

When it was created, the pioneers of SMART Recovery created their ABC process with a scientific method called the REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) Approach to Addiction. This modality was created around the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are the basis of human functioning and that our perceptions of them are what influences our actions.

REBT and the ABC program are focused on the self-healing the self, in the example, through self-responsibility, self-discipline, and self-motivation. The ABC’s are:

A – Activating Event: What is happening/What do you think happened/What would a camera see?

  • For example, if you are at a wedding, trying to remain sober

B – Beliefs about Activating Event: What did you tell yourself?

  • You could tell yourself: this is awful without drinking, everyone thinks I’m weird
  • I’m going to have fun anyway, I know for sure that drinking will only cause problems

C – Consequences: How did you act/feel?

  • I am going to have a drink
  • I am not going to have a drink

After ABC is completed, the person can then move on to D and E.

D – Disputing Irrational Beliefs: Irrational beliefs are any demands we make on ourselves (I must, I should) or low frustration beliefs (this is intolerable, I can’t handle it, I am overwhelmed) followed by self and another rating (I/He/She is bad, failure, coward, etc)

  • These beliefs are rationalized out by thought – Where is this belief getting me, what is the evidence supporting this belief, is this situation really as awful as I am telling myself?

E – New Effect: Reinforcing old, irrational absolutes with new, rational ones

  • This is uncomfortable, but I can still have fun
  • This feeling I have will go away, it is not life-threatening
  • I know for certain that engaging in my craving will result in trouble

After this process is done, the program encourages identifying the new feelings that are present and setting new short-term goals for oneself.

SMART Recovery

While this program is not one of the most recognized programs for recovery, it has helped thousands of people get back on their feet and live functioning, happy, productive lives again.

The benefit of SMART Recovery is that it places all of the choice and freedom into the hands of the individual. They offer meetings around the world to people interested in the program of recovery. These meetings can range from being face to face with groups of attendees to online meetings, to message boards, and even telephone facilitated meetings.

This program is not spiritually based, and some research has pointed that it works as well as a 12 step program!

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