Overcome Addiction With SMART Recovery

SMART Recovery is an organization that provides support for people recovering from drug, alcohol, or behavioral addictions by using scientific evidence practices, teaching coping tools, and encouraging people’s motivation to create positive changes that promote sobriety.

While Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and similar 12-step groups are well known, they aren’t the only support groups that help people navigate sobriety. Another group that is gaining popularity is SMART Recovery (Self-Management And Recovery Training).

History of SMART Recovery

When people think about sobriety support groups, they frequently think of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar groups that use a series of twelve steps (12-step groups).

Although many people find those groups helpful, others are wary of their approaches. Some people have disagreed with AA and other 12-step groups’ emphasis on God and a higher power while encouraging participants to admit that they are powerless against drugs and alcohol.

Jack Trimpey founded the organization Rational Recovery (RR) to counter the ideas of 12-step groups. Rational Recovery meetings spread across the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s and some members of that group formed their own nonprofit organization, an entity that became SMART Recovery in 1994.

After that, people established in-person SMART Recovery meetings throughout the United States as well as in Canada and other countries. The organization also has established an active online presence, offering virtual meetings and online forums that provide assistance.

How Does SMART Work?

As different as SMART Recovery and 12-step organizations can be, the groups do share some similarities. All the organizations:

  • Give support to people who are recovering from addictions to substances as well as their loved ones.
  • Offer in-person and virtual meetings as well as online communities that allow people to gather and share their stories.
  • Provide literature and other resources to help people understand addictions as well as the programs themselves.

Both organizations also feature a series of steps or points. Not surprisingly, 12-step programs encourage their members to progress through a series of twelve steps. Meanwhile, SMART Recovery features a four-point program that urges participants to:

  • Create and sustain the motivation needed for positive life changes.
  • Handle urges to use substances or engage in addictive behaviors.
  • Address their feelings, thoughts, and behaviors without using addictive substances or engaging in addictive behaviors.
  • Maintain positive, balanced, and health-centered lives.

Unlike 12-step groups that urge members to ask God or a higher power for assistance, SMART Recovery tells members that they have the power to think, decide, and act for themselves.

Is SMART for You?

People might have different needs and preferences, so they might want to learn about SMART Recovery, 12-step groups, and other options and attend their meetings to discover what works for them. Some people have even found that belonging to multiple organizations helps them maintain their sobriety.

If people aren’t religious or are wary of religion, they might prefer SMART Recovery. People who are looking for scientific, evidence-based treatment options might prefer that organization over groups that emphasize spirituality.

The principles of SMART Recovery don’t differentiate among addictions. The organization applies similar principles to help treat people whether they’re addicted to alcohol, drugs, or specific behaviors. On the other hand, many 12-step groups focus on one addiction: Alcoholics Anonymous helps people with addictions, while Over Eaters Anonymous assists people with problems related to eating and food, and so on.

Neither approach is right or wrong, it’s just that some people might be more comfortable with certain approaches.

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What Are Other Non 12-Step Support Groups?

In addition to SMART Recovery, there are other non 12-step support organizations that encourage their members’ sobriety:

LifeRing Secular Recovery urges people to take control of their sobriety instead of surrendering to God or a higher power. It promotes what it calls its 3-S philosophy: sobriety, secularity, and self-help.

The organization states that people with addictions have both a sober self and an addict self and emphasizes that the sober self can help itself and others avoid alcohol and drugs. They can do this by participating in meetings and online forums that ask how their week was, studying literature, and creating and following individualized recovery plans.

Women for Sobriety (WFS) says that women’s depression, self-esteem problems, and guilt sometimes compel them to use alcohol or drugs to cope. Healing should address all women’s problems, not just their drug or alcohol addictions.

To promote this healing, Women for Sobriety uses a series of thirteen acceptance statements that encourage women to acknowledge that while they might have problems, they also have the ability to solve them. The acceptance statements strive to help women achieve levels of recovery and so do the organization’s in-person and online meetings and literature.

Secular Organizations for Sobriety (also known as SOS or Save Our Selves) encourages members to engage in a cycle of sobriety where they acknowledge their addictions, accept them, and make staying sober a priority.

As its name indicates, Secular Organizations for Sobriety strongly emphasizes a secular approach toward staying abstinent from alcohol or drugs. It offers guidelines for member meetings and acknowledges that members may have had experience with other sobriety groups.

Moderation Management (MM) differs from other groups that address substance use disorder because it doesn’t require members to stop drinking alcohol. Instead, it helps members acknowledge and moderate their use, although some people do stop drinking entirely.

It also encourages people to track the amount of alcohol they drink and engage in its steps of change. The steps include temporarily giving up alcohol, listing problems caused by alcohol, and learning skills to moderate or avoid alcohol. As with other organizations, Moderation Management offers in-person and virtual meetings, online resources, and literature to help members understand its organization and substance use.

SMART Recovery, 12-step groups, and other organizations illustrate there are different ways to approach addiction. As people are different, so are their addictions and the tools that can help them.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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