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Why I started a SMART Recovery group

Old 02-16-2020, 08:26 AM
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Why I started a SMART Recovery group

I live in a small town. There is a 12 Step meeting of some kind here daily, all at the same location, all mostly the same folks attending, with court-ordered attendees coming and going. I'm not going to criticize 12 Step programs, but I will say I felt a strong need for an alternative in town, and since it wasn't happening, I did the 30 hour certification course and started a weekly meeting. The response has been slow, but we're growing, and I don't believe we are "competing" with AA or NA because most of those who attend SMART were not attending any other meetings, they had rejected the 12 Steps, or they attend both SMART and 12 Step meetings. Folks who come to the SMART meetings have expressed much gratitude, including:

"I like that you are trained and we meet at [the behavioral health center]. I feel safer here."

"The focus on skills is why I come."

"I don't like being told what to do, but I like learning ways to stay sober and improve my life."

"It helps that we don't label ourselves or others. I know I can never use again, but I don't want to think of myself as damaged goods."

"Thank you for not judging me for taking suboxone."

"My probation officer suggested this meeting. I'm glad I came. It's helpful."

"I didn't have good experiences with sponsors. I'm not a follower, and that was only a problem because I was treated like a fool for having my own opinions. I have to find my own way."

"I like that SMART says there's no shame in relapsing. Last time I relapsed I learned a lot and I know not what to do now. I'm not starting over. I'm moving on."
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Old 02-16-2020, 08:52 AM
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way to go on starting a meeting, zero. a sober buddy and i have done it in the past, and i know it takes effort and commitment.
just thinking, though, this thread would be more suitable to the secular section of the forums, since it is definitely not a secular 12-step thread.
i wish you all the best for the growing meeting.
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:51 AM
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Fini, I agree. I spaced and thought I was in the secular forums...
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Old 02-16-2020, 10:54 AM
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I just re-posted this in the secular section. This thread can be trashed.
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Old 02-16-2020, 04:16 PM
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Good on ya, though I sometimes wish there was a programme in between the two somehow. But that's another story.
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Old 02-16-2020, 04:45 PM
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A nice and generous move, Man.

Here in Small Town 'Murica, I had no options. Options matter. SR worked for this Introvert. Others need different options, and just your plethora of quotes above indicate the range of POVs and needs out there.
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Old 02-16-2020, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by zerothehero View Post
I just re-posted this in the secular section. This thread can be trashed.
I merged the two threads - no worries

D
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Old 02-16-2020, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Tetrax View Post
Good on ya, though I sometimes wish there was a programme in between the two somehow. But that's another story.
Lifering is “in between” in the sense that it is self-directed with peer support. there are f2f meetings, online meetings and online email-lists.
with six months sobriety, you can start a meeting. you can check out their guidelines and the convenor handbook at their website, www.lifering.org.
it is not a “program” in the way the 12 steps are, or a technique, but a sekf-empowering support organization.
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Old 02-17-2020, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by zerothehero View Post
I live in a small town. There is a 12 Step meeting of some kind here daily, all at the same location, all mostly the same folks attending, with court-ordered attendees coming and going. I'm not going to criticize 12 Step programs, but I will say I felt a strong need for an alternative in town, and since it wasn't happening, I did the 30 hour certification course and started a weekly meeting. The response has been slow, but we're growing, and I don't believe we are "competing" with AA or NA because most of those who attend SMART were not attending any other meetings, they had rejected the 12 Steps, or they attend both SMART and 12 Step meetings. Folks who come to the SMART meetings have expressed much gratitude, including:

"I like that you are trained and we meet at [the behavioral health center]. I feel safer here."

"The focus on skills is why I come."

"I don't like being told what to do, but I like learning ways to stay sober and improve my life."

"It helps that we don't label ourselves or others. I know I can never use again, but I don't want to think of myself as damaged goods."

"Thank you for not judging me for taking suboxone."

"My probation officer suggested this meeting. I'm glad I came. It's helpful."

"I didn't have good experiences with sponsors. I'm not a follower, and that was only a problem because I was treated like a fool for having my own opinions. I have to find my own way."

"I like that SMART says there's no shame in relapsing. Last time I relapsed I learned a lot and I know not what to do now. I'm not starting over. I'm moving on."
Smart Recovery makes good sense.
SMART Recovery highlights a 4-Point program that helps a participant in the process of recovery. The 4-Point program covers a lot of the same ground that is covered in the 12 steps and helps the participant through the application of scientific principles:
1.Building motivation and maintaining it over time
2.Coping with urges
3.Managing thoughts and feelings through problem-solving
4.Learning how to live a balanced life

SMART Recovery teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance as being the long-term keys to sustainable sobriety. The philosophical and psychological framework of SMART Recovery encourages participants to discover and map out their path to recovery. As a result, the “locus of control” of each participant is shifted to an internal position within the individual. The goal is to help participants shape their destiny. SMART Recovery firmly believes that healing from addictive behaviors works best through the empowerment of the individual; they need to develop the will to heal themselves through techniques such as motivational interviewing.

"No man is free until they have mastered themselves." Epictetus
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Old 02-18-2020, 03:24 AM
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How brilliant of you, Zero! I hope the numbers increase and lots of folks reap the benefit of your qualification and meeting.

I realise you've been sober a long time, but did you learn anything new in your training, that could be applied for when the AV comes visiting, that might be useful to add to this secular forum?
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Old 02-18-2020, 06:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Tatsy View Post
I realise you've been sober a long time, but did you learn anything new in your training, that could be applied for when the AV comes visiting, that might be useful to add to this secular forum?
A few things come to mind:

SMART basically was a split from Rational Recovery. My understanding is folks who more or less agreed with RR felt that a strict "anti-industry" stance negates the fact that people do go to therapists or rehab... so why not offer some of what RR offers. For example, the DISARM method in SMART is essentially the AVRT method in RR. So, the SMART crew searched best practices in counseling methods (reality therapy, CBT, REBT, DBT mostly) and created lessons to create the 4 Point Program mentioned above. It was born in part out of a desire to provide an alternative to 12 Step programs.

The ABC method was kind of new to me, though I'd seen it in other forms, but basically it goes like this -
A - Activating event (something happens, like someone dies and then I relapse)
B - Belief about the event (like, "I'm a loser, I'll never get better.")
C - Consequence (the emotional result of the belief (hopelessness, worthlessness...)
D - Dispute the belief to relieve the emotional consequence ("People relapse, it happens. I can learn from it and move on. Nothing to be ashamed about. No need to beat myself up.")
E - Effective new beliefs reduce emotions that can lead to further relapse, for example...

I also like that SMART distinguishes between a lapse and a relapse -
A lapse means using once or twice and then returning to sobriety.
A relapse means using the lapse as an excuse to continue to use ("Screw it. I blew it. I might as well go all out.")

I like that SMART discourages labels. Words like alcohol, drunk, addict, druggie, etc., are discouraged.

SMART also doesn't envision recovery as a life-long journey. I remember reading that at about 5 years (more or less) folks can expect to no longer need to attend meetings regularly if at all, though, of course, they are welcome to attend as long or as frequently as desired. Still, the goal is to create solid motivation, learn to cope with urges, learn to address unhelpful or challenging thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and then build a healthy lifestyle and move on. I'm over six years sober, and honestly, I wouldn't be attending meetings if I hadn't started one to serve others. My hope is to groom some regular participants, hope some will step up and take the training, and hand the meeting over to them. After that I doubt I'll go to meetings anymore.

I also like that SMART now officially says they are "abstinence oriented" rather than "abstinence based." This change was a response to folks feeling judged for participating in medication assisted treatments like Suboxone or Vivitrol or methadone. The goal is abstinence, but SMART recognizes that folks are at varying stages of readiness. We work on being accepting and nonjudgmental. Some participants, for example, have stopped meth, but aren't ready to quit weed. I would call that harm reduction, though not necessarily recovery. But it's a good start...

Truth be told, I don't think I've completely "recovered" but I no longer tell people I'm "in recovery." I consider myself a non-drinker, and I don't do drugs (well, I still drink coffee - whatcha gonna do, shoot me?).
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Old 02-19-2020, 02:23 AM
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Originally Posted by zerothehero View Post
I also like that SMART now officially says they are "abstinence oriented" rather than "abstinence based." This change was a response to folks feeling judged for participating in medication assisted treatments like Suboxone or Vivitrol or methadone. The goal is abstinence, but SMART recognizes that folks are at varying stages of readiness.
Yeah I like that too; I've been in several SMART meetings where people just aren't ready to accept abstinence yet but clearly have the need to get help from somewhere.
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Old 02-21-2020, 09:17 PM
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I think that is awesome you did that, zero.
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Old 02-27-2020, 03:15 AM
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Thanks Zero, that was very informative. SMART sounds very effective, the ABC: encouraging positive self-talk and development of better beliefs, "I lapsed, not relapsed and I'm not consequently a loser, but a learner", discouraging negative self-talk, building motivation, with an end goal.

The more I deliberate my own path to addiction, I can see so clearly the fork where I took on a defeatist mindset (I'm an alcoholic, a failure, I'm different, weak and full of defects, can't help myself, need another power which eludes me, what's the point, might as well carry on drinking because I don't want to be excluded and attend meetings for life".

I really do like the concepts of SMART, wish I'd discovered it a decade or more ago, instead of following the mainstream meetings of the time. Coffee, oh yes, but thankfully, unlike alcohol. I can moderate my intake.
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Old 03-01-2020, 03:52 PM
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Whatever works, eh?
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Old 03-15-2020, 12:20 AM
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I actually avoided AA because the idea of going into a meeting with strange people and calling myself an alcoholic made me feel weird, though I know it helps some people and I am not passing judgement on their experience, in fact I'm glad it helps them.

But I immediately noticed the difference with SMART from going to just one on-line meeting. I had gone to NA or AA meetings a long time ago with loved ones (not for myself ironically, the last time was easily 7-8 years ago) and never had a problem with anything there, I just knew I'd be joining this group and I could never make myself go in for myself in recent times.

But yeah, SMART seems so much more structured, like a supportive class instead of a church service or activist group. My bachelors is a science degree so I like being given methods and tools. I also like the thing where people aren't demonized for not being ready for abstinence, and the difference being clarified between a lapse and a relapse is helpful.

I am not opposed to spiritual beliefs or religion. I actually like Taoist philosophy, and prayer. On the other hand, it's organized religion that starts to make me nervous. I like to go to Mass on Christmas Eve or when I'm feeling it, but would going to AA be like attending church every day?

I can see benefits of both but intuitively I am feeling right now like SMART would help me more as an individual. I'm not ruling anything out though. I do remember going with a friend to an AA meeting that was a yoga class and that was actually awesome. I think they only have that in the city, though. Lol.
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Old 03-15-2020, 12:30 PM
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I see folks in SMART who also attend 12 Step meetings. They like both. They're different but not really mutually exclusive. Again, whatever works...
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Old 03-15-2020, 03:54 PM
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I done AA and SMART. They are both useful tools if the participant follows through on what they both offer. The end goal can be the same (sobriety) but the approaches are very different. I found SMART to be useful.
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Old 04-03-2020, 01:17 AM
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Hi Zero

Just wanted to say hello from a fellow SMART facilitator from the UK. Keep up the good work.
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Old 04-03-2020, 06:30 AM
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We disbanded due to COVID-19, but I have a new location secured to start again when this blows over. I keep in touch with the regulars, though, over the phone. I recommended the website and online meetings. Strange world we're living in. I'm glad I'm not drunk or high. The more folk out there with their wits about them and making wise decisions the better, no?
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