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SMART Recovery

One of the oldest and most well-known addiction recovery resources is the Twelve Step program, but it is not a solution that works for everyone. Several alternatives to the 12-step approach have emerged in the world of addiction recovery, with SMART Recovery being one of the more popular options available. SMART Recovery is a non-profit organization that provides free Nevada support groups to people working in recovery to maintain their sobriety from drugs or alcohol. It is important to understand this alternative program and its principles before deciding if it is a good fit for you.

What is SMART Recovery?

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This program is based on scientific, evidence-based recovery techniques, avoiding the spiritual focus that characterizes 12-step programs. The methods used in SMART Recovery draw upon principles of motivational interviewing and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Members of the program are taught to control cravings and urges to use by focusing on long-term goals and underlying thoughts and emotions. This program continuously updates the strategies and techniques used based on what research proves to be most effective. Nevada meetings are free to anyone who wishes to attend, and more than 1500 groups currently exist worldwide.

Core Principles of the 4-Point Program

SMART Recovery’s program is built around four essential points:

Building and maintaining motivation:  Motivation is the key to change. Without motivation, it is unlikely that you will have what it takes mentally and emotionally to achieve your goals. The program’s focus on self-empowerment reminds participants that they are in control of their choices and goals for the future.  Participants are urged to use a cost-benefit analysis in regard to their addictive behavior: Is it worth it to continue this behavior, or does it make more sense to choose abstinence?

Coping with urges:  Learning how to deal with cravings and urges is critical to continued abstinence.  When you understand why these urges happen, it’s easier to recognize and cope with them.  Members learn to identify the triggers that lead to cravings and, ultimately, to urges.  Instead of using urges as an excuse to slide back into addictive behavior, you can learn how to develop a resistance to them.  These changes lead to self-empowerment and emotional growth.

Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors:  This point centers on one of the key premises of cognitive-behavioral therapy: When you change your thought patterns, you can change your behavior.  When you can identify unproductive, negative thoughts and replace them with a mindset of acceptance, you’ll begin to feel better and act in more positive ways. Rather than avoiding or ignoring your problems, you learn to work through them by managing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is easier to solve problems when you don’t let your emotions take over.

Living a balanced life:  Every person who has battled with addiction knows that there are certain areas of one’s life that require more attention than others. You may have neglected your physical or mental health or abandoned old activities as a result of your substance use disorder. Recovery is an ideal time to start taking better care of your body and mind, rediscovering former interests and developing new ones. Taking up hobbies that promote meditation and relaxation, such as exercise therapy or yoga, are also effective ways to promote balance in your life.

A Different Approach to Recovery

This recovery program has several defining characteristics that distinguish it from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and other Nevada 12-step programs. It has a completely secular approach that stands in contrast to the spiritually-focused 12-step groups:  There’s no mention of a “higher power” or any other religious references. While Alcoholics Anonymous and the other 12-step groups emphasize the idea of being “powerless” over your addiction, SMART Recovery relies on a philosophy of self-empowerment, focusing on responsibility and personal choice. The program also avoids viewing addiction as a lifelong condition.  According to the principles of the program, once the withdrawal process is complete and the physical dependence is broken, all that remains is the psychological component of the disease. The mental, emotional, and behavioral aspects of the addiction must be addressed in order to ensure a positive recovery. SMART Recovery programs help patients to manage the psychological side of the substance use disorder through long-term aftercare support and sobriety maintenance.