An Introduction to SMART Recovery®

Addiction is a serious condition that affects every part of a sufferer’s life. The recovery process is different for every addict. Almost every method, however, eventually entails analyzing one’s own behaviors and assessing environmental influences on the addiction. SMART Recovery® helps addicts eliminate addictive behaviors through careful self-analysis using scientifically based treatments.

Understanding SMART Recovery®

While most people are familiar with AA, or Alcoholics Anonymous, it is heavily faith-based and often supported by religious communities. Conversely, SMART Recovery® is secular and based on scientifically supported evidence and treatments. SMART Recovery® branded itself as such in 1994, after being known as the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Self-Help Network, or ADASHN, founded in 1992. This option can be extremely attractive for addicts whose personal convictions conflict with the religious sentiments extolled in AA meetings. The SMART Recovery® system is often listed as an alternative to AA and similar 12-step programs. One similarity to AA is that SMART Recovery® meetings are free to attend nationwide.


Six Steps of SMART Recovery®

Unlike 12-step programs, there are six major steps to the SMART Recovery® system.

  • “Pre-contemplation” is the first step, and at this point, the addict may not acknowledge or even realize they have an addiction.
  • “Contemplation” is the second step. During this phase, the addict starts to perform a cost-benefit analysis of their addictive behaviors in order to assess what their addiction does for them and what it costs.
  • The third stage is “Preparation”, in which the addict develops a plan for personal changes.

The final three steps involve putting that plan into action.

  • The fourth step, or the “Action” phase, is just that: the addict develops a plan to address the parts of life that contribute to his or her addictive patterns and attempts to handle those behaviors in more constructive, healthy ways.
  • After several months, the addict is considered to be in the “Maintenance” phase – the fifth step of the SMART Recovery® system. During this period, the addict strives to maintain the positive changes made to his or her lifestyle.
  • Once addicts have completed these steps and remained substance-free for an extended time, they may choose to “graduate” from the SMART Recovery® system and carry on with their lives. In some cases, the addict may relapse into addiction at some point in the recovery process.

Although indeed setbacks, many recovered addicts who have experienced relapses consider them valuable learning experiences. Relapses may be disconcerting and disheartening, but they can also bolster an addict’s resolve and push them toward more commitment to recovery.

Managing Addictive Behaviors

One of the unique aspects of the SMART Recovery® system is the four-point system program directors use to help addicts identify their own addictive tendencies and what triggers their addictive behaviors. These four points include:

Building and Maintaining Motivation

It’s very difficult to rid yourself of an addiction if you don’t truly want to do so. This part of the program centers on finding what personal factors will motivate an individual to seek an addiction-free lifestyle.

Coping With Urges

For an addict, every day means facing countless reminders of his or her addiction. The second part of the program helps addicts find healthy methods for handling urges and developing coping techniques for serious psychological withdrawal.

Managing Personal Behaviors

Friends, family, children, and significant others of addicts will often tell you how the addict was a completely different person before his or her addiction. Pushing toward a substance-free lifestyle is by no means an easy road. This part of the program is geared toward getting the addict in control of his or her own life again. Managing personal behaviors is a big part of recovery, and the addict in this phase learns how to organize their thoughts, display their feelings constructively, and manage their behaviors throughout the recovery process.

Working Toward a Balanced Life

Addicts often report how their addiction affected every aspect of their lives. The fourth phase of the program is tailored for those working to rebalance their lives after an addiction threw it off-kilter. This phase entails rebuilding relationships, working toward healthful goals, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle free of addiction.

Seeking Help through SMART Recovery®

Anyone looking for an alternative to traditional 12-step recovery systems such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous may find SMART Recovery® an attractive option. This organization emphasizes self-reliance and empowerment throughout the treatment program. Addicts receive encouragement throughout their emotional and psychological journeys as well as scientifically based resources for addressing the physical effects of addiction.

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