Smart Recovery Handbook

This is another book that I read ages ago but have only just managed to put on the site. I feel that this is a very important book for people in recovery and is really well written. The Smart Recovery Handbook should help a range of people, with its simple but effective approach. I am glad to see it is now available on Kindle and online from Amazon and I hope that this means it will reach more people who have not been to meetings.

Smart stands for Self Management Addiction recovery program, and will help people with any addiction, which is a really good thing, as most people with substance or other addictions often have multiple addictions or move from one behavioural issue to another.

The Smart Handbook is basically a compilation of tools, exercises and strategies to help people beat addiction. It covers the Smart four point program and teaches self empowerment and self-reliance. The program is fairly new compared to something like AA , but continually evolves and makes use of new developments in the addiction field.

Smart Recovery Handbook


Smart 4 point Program

1. Building and Maintaining motivation

2. Coping with urges

3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours

4. Living a Balanced Life

Tools and strategies to help your recovery journey.

There are chapters on dealing with cravings, motivation, and addressing unhelpful thinking (REBT/CBT). There are also exercises such as a cost benefit analysis of one’s problematic behaviour, creating a change plan and taking a look at one’s values etc, which help people see the bigger picture of the problems in their life and allow them to find a solution that is in keeping with their beliefs.

There is a good section on irrational beliefs, which is something that can often affect people with addiction problems and the book describes ways of disputing these beliefs. I talks about dealing with urges and then mentions the importance of living a balanced life. Simple things mentioned here such as exercise, sleeping well, eating good food, and connecting with others are all things that I have found helpful, and are suggested here.

The Smart solution is aimed at people in all stages of recovery and the book mentions that people will need different help at later stages to those who are at the beginning. I think the book will help a lot of people, as it is so down to earth, and full of common sense solutions. I like the way that there are many worksheets which encourage people to get involved and really do something about their recovery. It is certainly a good alternative to the 12 steps of AA which are religious in my opinion and make drinking a moral issue. I feel the Smart method will appeal to a different type of person to AA fans,  and that is a great thing.

We do things for a reason, even getting involved in an addiction, but the Smart solution laid out in this handbook will give people the methods to get empowered and change their lives for the better. I would really recommend that people read this book!

There are some other posts about Smart recovery on this site which contain some useful links. You can find them under the Smart menu on the category sidebar or here

Here is a link to the Smart Revovery suggested reading list which obviously includes this book, but has many others that are related.


Commenting area

  1. There’s a big difference between the “ABC” of Alcoholics Anonymous and the “ABC” of SMART Recovery.

    AA’s ABC is the three pertinent ideas in Step 3:
    (a) That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives.
    (b) That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism.
    (c) That God could and would if He were sought.

    CBT’s version seems much more useful:
    (a) An activating event, something that happens to me
    (b) My irrational beliefs about these events
    (c) The negative consequences of those irrational beliefs

    CBT allows me to fully understand my thought processes. If I address (a) and (b) I don’t need to waste time nursing (c), my bad feelings and irrational fears. They just won’t arise if I choose to cut them off at the source.

    By contrast AA’s “three pertinent ideas” don’t offer any real understanding of my thoughts and feelings, nor do they suggest a useful way through them.

    I sometimes think that’s the difference between “powerless” (the AA way) and “empowered” (the CBT way, which is how I now prefer to live).

    I also wonder if that’s why so many AAs seem comparatively neurotic compared to normal people. I was certainly neurotic when I was in AA. They told me it was “a sober condition”. I now think it’s actually because the steps don’t provide a healthy way to live.

    “Leaving AA, Staying Sober” at

    • I really like the Smart approach and feel annoyed with myself that I did not investigate it further, at the beginning of my recovery. CBT certainly helped me when I got round to it, which was about a year and a half into recovery. By this time I was really motivated to change things. I think that people that go to Smart have often already tried AA and want something different. I am glad the NHS has recognised Smart’s worth, but wish there was more advertising in doctors surgeries, as I always see an AA poster but never anything by Smart.

  2. This handbook is in it’s 4th edition now. Continuously evolving is a big advantage SMART has over a program stuck on the unscientific writings from an era where TV was not around. Great job explaining how the handbook can help multiple people or people with multiple problems.

    • Thanks for your comment, I agree there are so many advantages to the modern approach used by Smart, and I really hope that it grows. I am lucky to have quite a few meetings near me in London, but should mention that you can do meetings online as well, which is another good use of modern technology!

  3. I enrolled in SMART Recovery tonight. However, I don’t understand how to do the meetings online. When it says voice meetings do you have to have something special for your computer? I live in the US in Texas, sadly we have no meetings in my area, which is what I would prefer. I really like the plan SMART follows. I tried AA and had a terrible experience. I’ve written on your site before and the last time I wrote I was trying to drink in moderation. It went real well for a period, but I started sliding back into my old habits. I’ve decided to quit for good now and my doctor has told me I need to anyways because I’m diabetic, but fortunately currently my case is not too bad. Needless to say, I really want to quit and need to for medical reasons, but I refuse to ever attend AA again, which is what everyone is badgering me to do. I don’t know how things are in the UK, but I sure wish the US had more options when it comes to meetings. In my area it’s AA or nothing, which is irritating. Anyways thanks for your site, I really enjoy reading it.

    • For voice meetings you would need to use the computer microphone similar to using Skype. you would need to allow the chat to access it. Here is a guide that I hope helps
      There are also text based meetings if you do not want to use the microphone, using a normal chatroom,
      Hope this helps.
      For me abstinence is the answer, I also attempted moderation and found it really hard, and made me realise I had a problem. Although I have dealt with most of the issues that I believe were behind my drinking, I realise now how bad things were, and I want to be as far away from the old drinker that I was as possible. Good luck with everything!

  4. Thinks for the info, I will visit those links. Also, thanks for the support, I appreciate it.

  5. Great post. I’ve found some reviews here in case someone needs it urgently. I’m an author too. I understand that great content itself is not enough. A book is as good as its cover.

  6. Simon Templar May 26, 2015 at 2:29 am · · Reply

    Greatly appreciate your efforts/time well spent to allow others to know there is more to recovery than some religious faith healing group/with 5% success rate.I’ve always studied pyschology {my father was a psych} and treid to understand my own problems. Since Vietnam I have spent more than1 year in psych wards/hospitals.It required decades to learn basics about PTSD, PARANOIA,self-defeating personality disorder .When I decided to stop drinking –it took multiple hospitalizations {3 years,in and out } as in Vietnam, after a land-mine blast -may25th until 31 may {5 1/2 days }-I received no medical care.Was one Colonel who wanted me dead. I like the work you have done.
    G od ,Generator,Operator,Destroyer} bless Massive for her investments of her own money,small donations and hope she will have truly {tongue in cheek} Massive success with her film work.I know she has had simply huge emotional sufering/ distess attending the trial and seeing,hearing all these people talk about the DAMAGE DONE to them ,Wish You the very very best with your film Massive. Lighthouse in mtns. I SPY

    • That is an amazing story! Well done for getting through all that. I also hope that Massive has a lot of success with her film and that she reaches people who would otherwise be unaware of the issues in AA. I’m sure she will release it online at some point after all the festivals etc, but it is important to try and get it distributed by a broadcaster first if possible. The Claudia Christian film went through a similar process. Hopefully you will be able to see it where you are before too long! Best wishes!

  7. Love_Lies_Bleeding13 January 8, 2019 at 3:51 am · · Reply

    Thank you for making such a positive review of SMART Recovery. I too wish I had found SMART sooner than I did. I’m one of those rare persons whose problem with AA isn’t that it has a spirituality but rather how that spirituality is expressed. I have seen elsewhere on this site a Christian woman say that AA’s religiousness is very problematic to her. I started going to Smart 13 or 14 months ago and it has been extremely helpful in my life. I first heard about it many years ago but the person who told me who try to explain what smart is said SMART is for people who aren’t stupid enough to believe in a God who doesn’t exist. Well I was naive enough to listen to that person and believe that that was the SMART philosophy instead of doing research on my own. It turns out that’s not the SMART philosophy at all. The SMART philosophy is basically whatever works for you to have a better life is great. If that is religion that’s great if that’s lack of religion that’s great too.
    Thank you so much for having this site.

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