Why SMART Recovery Is an Increasingly Important Alternative to AA

Why SMART Recovery Is an Increasingly Important Alternative to AA


Above is a great link to a piece about Smart Recovery and why it is an important alternative to AA.  Smart is much more modern that AA and offers real practical help for those who wish to stop drinking. It is not faith-based or religious and helps people make rational decisions about their addictive behaviour. Many alcoholics and addicts simply swap one addiction for another, but Smart is about building a well-balanced lifestyle.smart recovery

I had not heard of Smart when I stopped drinking and went to AA, which was not entirely appropriate for me, and I really hope that more people start to write about the positive experiences they have with Smart and other techniques that I have mentioned here.  https://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/options-alternatives-aa-12-step-alcohol-addiction-recovery/

People often need to try a few alternatives to find a support method that inspires them to stop, and not just stay part of the same group, sharing the same things, year after year. I find people who take responsibility for their own recovery, and try many ways to improve their experience of life seem to do a lot better than those who just site in 12 step meetings.

Substance.com has some good articles about the recovery world, and does not suffer from the stupid arguing that takes place on the fix , which has had much of its comment sections, taken over by “trolls” with extreme views, who chase each other around the web arguing, and not helping people recover.

Here is a section from todays piece by Helen Redmond

There are over 1,000 SMART groups worldwide, and in any given month, between 20,000 and 30,000 people attend meetings. These figures are climbing, although they’re still dwarfed by AA.

SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training; we’ll call it SR) is a self-empowering addiction recovery support group offering practical tools, techniques and strategies. Founded in 1996, the non-profit organization doesn’t base its work on any spiritual component, or on the idea that addiction is a lifelong, incurable disease. Tom Horvath, PhD, one of the founders, says, “For many of our participants, addiction is not a disease. They want an alternative approach to both the disease concept and the 12 Steps.”

So what is addiction? According to SR literature:

“Addictive behavior is overinvolvement with substance use, e.g., alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, food, etc., or activities, e.g., gambling, sexual behavior, spending, etc. We assume there are degrees of addictive behavior and that all individuals to some degree experience it. For some individuals the negative consequences of addictive behavior become so great that change becomes highly desirable.”

SR encourages members to think about the benefits and the costs of their drug use and fill out a “decisional balance,” stating: 1. Benefits for me of continuing and 2. Benefits for me of stopping.

That the program accepts that there are benefits to using drugs is significant; although many recovery support groups do not acknowledge it, drugs of course have numerous powerful and pleasurable paybacks.

I observed one SR group in San Diego where members discussed the benefits they got from drinking. The facilitator wrote them on a whiteboard:

* less shy at bars and parties
* relaxation after a horrible day at work
* tune out the kids
* my partner is more interesting [That got a huge laugh.]
* helps me sleep
* sex is better
* helps me forget my problems

It felt liberating to discuss the pleasurable and rewarding aspects of alcohol, and it gave participants permission to be honest. Recognizing the positive facets of drug use could help a person to learn how to manage painful emotions, awkward situations and unfulfilling relationships without drugs. Denying these benefits could block people from understanding why they continue to use.

The group also eagerly recorded the benefits of stopping drinking:

* save money
* I won’t need a liver transplant
* no divorce
* no DUIs
* no blackouts
* I won’t get fired

Looking at the list, Leia* remarked: “It helps me remember why I quit drinking—and helps when I have a craving to knock back two bottles of chardonnay.”

The decisional balance maps out in a visual way the role that addictive behaviors play, builds motivation for change and points out potential relapse triggers. Coping with urges is one of the points in SMART Recovery’s 4-Point Program:

1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
2. Coping with Urges
3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors
4. Living a Balanced Life

Teaching people how to manage urges and cravings is valuable, because both are inevitable when trying to quit addictive substances or activities and can lead to relapse.

In several SR groups that I attended across the country, members discussed lots of practical ways to resist urges to use—and unlike in AA, “crosstalk” is encouraged.






Commenting area

  1. Thanks for posting this. I am a big fan of SMART Recovery and think it has much to offer!

  2. They also offer free online meetings that more employers and courts/probation officers are accepting because they provide verification of participation.

    • I think it looks like a great program that could help many, if they actually wish to have a good attempt at recovery. I do not think that court ordered people often try that much!

  3. I think it is those that want help that will get the most out of it, and they will see right off the bat that it is not voo doo 12 step dogma, but actually an evidenced based program that is intellectually stimulating. Not like the dumbing down of people AA and NA do.

  4. I think court ordered people should have a special program for most of them – mor about the dangers of drinking or with shocking photos of people after accidents, not a general recovery group, as most of them are not that interested in abstinence.

  5. Border Collie Mix July 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm · · Reply

    That program would have been a great fit for me when I first stopped drinking. The only issue I see, for now, is that many folks are so down and out when they get to treatment that they literally need a safe place to stay until they can get a job and get back on their feet. I was one of those people. Until the halfway houses embrace non-AA alternatives, AA will still have a captive audience who won’t get information about other programs and get very poor, if any, mental health care.

    But hopefully times will change and we will see places set up to help people get their lives back together embrace alternatives to 12-step.

    • It is a good support method but they really need to get the word out more, especially to those that really need it. The halfway house only took people to very local AA meetings when I was going and I don’t think the people got the opportunity for other methods.

  6. robbie henley May 2, 2016 at 6:21 am · · Reply

    Thank you for perhaps the most level headed thing I have read today. I recently had to fill out a form and spent an enormous amount of time trying to find an appropriate BTW, there is an online service through which you can fill out a Smart Recovery Meeting Attendance Verification, the fillable blank is here https://goo.gl/eyQU6i.

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