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Interest in and Experience with SMART Recovery?

Old 06-15-2021, 03:21 PM
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Interest in and Experience with SMART Recovery?

Hi everyone,

I'm never sure why SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is not discussed more on SR. I've returned to intensely participating in it after making a rather uncomfortable and circular mess of myself in the last few weeks here on SR, with way too much drama that I dislike and tend to run from. Of course, it does not mean I do not appreciate the great value of this forum, especially when I'm sober, and especially the information and shared experiences. Not 100% sure now, but I think it was also some hints on SR that led me to checking out SMART fin the first place many years ago. My problem (as usually) was getting stuck at studying it and not applying it to myself. But I had good, very satisfying, and sort of instant success with finally creating some meaningful recovery while engaging in SMART deeply and daily last year. I now started doing the same six days ago (after my last awful drinking binge, part of it documented in my SR posts) and already feel a big difference on many levels, quite like last year when I started. Even my alcohol cravings have not been awful at all during these days so far - big difference vs. the months this spring/until recently, when I struggled so much with constant, massive urges even when I sometimes abstained for a week or two, didn't use SMART, but engaged in quite a few of my worst triggers instead... bad ideas, never again, hopefully! Of course I do not have naive ideas that my urges will somehow vanish or very significantly lessen for a while, but even more incentive to engage in SMART, which has a very comprehensive urge management section.

I am already very familiar with the SMART tools but have been doing a lot of refreshing, redoing some of the exercises (I really need updates as my life has changed quite a bit since last year), attend Zoom meetings daily. The online meetings are so helpful once again, much more than just posting on the web in an unstructured way and communicating via text. The "text alone", non real-time tends to be a trigger for me also because the this type of interaction was an intimate, long-term part of my alcoholism for many many years (almost just as addictive as alcohol itself!); finally accepted that I won't be able to make SR and similar forums alone safe/helpful for me in early recovery because of that history. However, reading and occasionally posting here in a focused way was helpful last year, while also using SMART simultaneously, so I don't want to abandon SR completely. The problems (and the relapse, a few weeks before I actually picked up alcohol, I would say) started when I stopped SMART and tried to only use SR again, or AVRT because I wanted something simpler... but those approaches alone just didn't suit me personally, at least not this early on.

The SMART program seems like an absolute goldmine for me when I use it, and just the way it is, no need to tweak, no skepticism, no resistance, no confusion, no desire to debate or doubt it. It's very comprehensive, covering a large area of recovery and just any attempt to change or upgrade a life. The specific SMART meetings differ quite a bit depending on the actual facilitator's approach and style, but they all share the same philosophy. I like the variety and have no need/intention to select and stick with one main group, but of course have preference for some over others. They are a lot like group therapy as well, which I've wanted to try as I still have an interest in psychotherapy but individual wasn't helpful for me (and often triggering in some similar ways to posting on forums that I'm better to avoid in early recovery or during any lapse, I strongly believe). These Zoom SMART groups seem like a very good fit for me and I never even have the temptation to lie or mislead intentionally in those real-time meetings, to use them primarily as a social experience, which had been a long-term, annoying struggle with communication that is not the instant kind (message boards, private messages). After all, it seems like I benefit from healthy, normal spontaneity in recovery more than methods that allow me to plan and calculate communication all the time. Even easier to be vulnerable when we directly speak, video is optional/unimportant for me right now. SMART also has an online forum with lots of great posts mostly about the tools that I sometimes read and would recommend to interested SRers, but I personally don't plan to use for obvious challenges regarding forums .

Anyhow, I am starting this thread for any shares and discussion on SMART Recovery, as there isn't much on SR and I absolutely believe many could benefit from knowing and exchanging more info on this approach. Please make an effort to keep discussion on topic (I will as well), don't want this to turn into a debate of various methods and/or efforts to tell anyone they are thinking or doing something wrong. Thanks and I look forward to posts from those who share my interest, whether you've tried it or just curious!
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Old 06-15-2021, 09:37 PM
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Perhaps there is such little SMART posting on SR is because SMART has their own forum.

I participated in SMART for over 4 years & joined their forums in 2013. Ultimately, it didn’t quite do it for me, but it’s a great program with lots of tools.

Good luck.
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Old 06-18-2021, 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by msl999 View Post
Perhaps there is such little SMART posting on SR is because SMART has their own forum.

I participated in SMART for over 4 years & joined their forums in 2013. Ultimately, it didnít quite do it for me, but itís a great program with lots of tools.

Good luck.
Thanks, msl. Do you know why SMART didn't do it for you, what was missing or not a good fit, was it about SMART itself or your efforts in using it? Asking because I've had my good share of trying things that didn't work out for me, and often spent too much time and energy with those, like the infamous insanity cycle... doing the same and expecting a different result. Not necessarily wasted interest and effort in terms of learning and figuring out what sorts of approaches are not the most suitable for me, but the drinking and damage just continued, so I can't deem those efforts successful. Sounds like you had spent quite a bit of time with SMART and eventually found a better way, but what was missing from the old one?
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Old 07-26-2021, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Aellyce View Post
Thanks, msl. Do you know why SMART didn't do it for you, what was missing or not a good fit, was it about SMART itself or your efforts in using it? Asking because I've had my good share of trying things that didn't work out for me, and often spent too much time and energy with those, like the infamous insanity cycle... doing the same and expecting a different result. Not necessarily wasted interest and effort in terms of learning and figuring out what sorts of approaches are not the most suitable for me, but the drinking and damage just continued, so I can't deem those efforts successful. Sounds like you had spent quite a bit of time with SMART and eventually found a better way, but what was missing from the old one?
SMART has many tools, but I found (for myself) that they werenít available when a strong urge would come out of nowhere. Terminally Unique said it best in the first of the 6-pert AVRT thread:
Experience also showed me that to even contemplate the reasons for drinking versus not drinking while having an urge was doomed to failure. Before I was even half-way through my Cost-Benefit Analysis, I would be three-quarters of the way to the liquor store. I was at one point able to do this, but by the end, any "thinking" about why I shouldn't drink would inevitably lead to some ridiculous rationalization for drinking, or at the very least not produce a sufficient reason not to drink which would deter me.
This was my experience as well. I was able to get to 5 months one time, but inevitably those tools did not keep me from drinking. I was continually deciding whether or not to drink. Eventually, I was going to ďdecideĒ to have some more of that sweet poison.

AVRT took away the decision. I made my Big Plan over 4 years ago, the decision has already been made. Now, I am able to live my life without worrying about that next relapse hiding around the corner. I am free & it feels great!!!

BTW, did you know that SMART was born out of Rational Recovery?




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Old 07-26-2021, 09:29 PM
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BTW, I donít know why there is a sad face on my reply.

Darn touch-screen!
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Old 07-27-2021, 05:20 PM
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I tried SMART recovery. Maybe it was just the group I went to, but it was focused on harm reduction and moderation, not abstinence. I need abstinence. It was a 12 week course, I think. Most people kept enrolling in the next one each time one ended and they found it really useful. I don't even remember what I learned. I couldn't keep going because it was at a time of day that I couldn't take off work when I started working again.
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Old 07-28-2021, 04:46 AM
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I'm planning to attend my first SMART meeting online, later today. I just slogged through the sign-up process, about half an hour of web-gerbil-wheeling.
Something new! Thanks Aellyce.
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Old 07-28-2021, 01:35 PM
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Let us know how you go bil! I believe some SMART groups are harm reduction focused, and some are abstinence focused.
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Old 07-28-2021, 09:18 PM
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Iíve been to many SMART Recovery meetings and none of them focused on moderation or harm reduction. As I recall, most of them actually made one of the tools from the SMART handbook the focus of the meeting. It was usually a round of introductions first, then discuss a topic (usually a tool), and then close with questions, concerns, and announcements.

Often though, the introduction portion would go waaaaay long (good thing), because of the stories people would tell. I found these meetings to be helpful, interesting, and full of really cool people. I really liked the SMART meetings. Unlike other meetings, I usually came out of SMART meetings feeling better.

Iíve never been to an online SMART meeting, so I have no opinion about those.
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Old 07-28-2021, 11:38 PM
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The one I found was, to put it politely, a mess. A Zoom mess, with 41 attendees, mostly just screen names, with 8 or 10 or 12 puzzled faces, including mine. It evolved from a free-style train wreck into some weird improv thing. I bailed after 15 minutes. The frantically busy chat window included one person's plea for the newcomers to not judge SMART by that meeting, so maybe I'll try another some time.
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Old 07-29-2021, 04:36 AM
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Good to see some more posts on this thread . I've never been to a SMART meeting that focused on moderation or harm reduction primarily either, and I think I've probably attended >100 overall. But the program and the staff has a pretty broad view and accept those approaches as well if that's someone's goal, willing to discuss and advise any approach that is meant to improve someone's life. I like the open-mindedness not only because I've still struggled quite recently with my drinking and my attempts at quitting for good hasn't worked, but also because I'm also very open-minded myself and strongly believe in the need for individualized treatment if one wants to succeed, whatever that means for them. Also because everyone can feel accepted and I never encountered much arrogance and "ganging up" by people pushing just one type of goal or method and rejecting anyone's personal condition or philosophy. There was a 12-week course I attended (some of it) as well for beginners on Sundays, it went through most of the SMART philosophy and toolkit with brief lectures and lots of discussion. Most often there are participants still in active addiction or very recently quit, and they are usually asked if they want to abstain completely or cut down, then advised accordingly. The SMART tools are such that can actually support both abstinence and reduction. I've encountered many people in the meetings like myself, who actually have made some form of harm reduction work (I would say I've made that work for >10 years, just not satisfied with it), what they really want eventually is permanent abstinence, but not yet there... and I've seen quite a few that eventually made it long-term (whatever that means) with great satisfaction. So it's really broad, which IMO can both help and hinder progress, depending on one's personal circumstances.

I experimented a bit with the smaller online meetings, but didn't like most of those much (yes many are quite a mess and/or "evolve" into silly social chats rather than a recovery meeting) and now mostly attend the bigger (often >100 participants) meetings that the website lists as 'Discussion'. The meetings really vary depending on the facilitator who's leading them. Now I mostly stick with three: (1) Mondays/Fridays meetings that are a lot like group therapy and the facilitator clearly has that sort of training, (2) Thursdays one focusing on managing Urges (that's what I need the most), (3) Sundays a regular discussion meeting (several people bring up topics, describe their issues, feedback), which turns into a "music meeting" once a month (participants request a song, facilitator plays a couple minutes, then discussion on its significance to the person, really cool and relaxing). I don't come to SR much now for reasons stated in the OP and it's better for me in every way, but read every now and then a bit, so if anyone would like more specifics about the meetings, PM me and hopefully I'll see it and respond.

Yes msl, I am aware that SMART has evolved from the old Rational Recovery. I am surprised how rarely people mention it though and give credit to the origin, but probably in part due to conflicts of interest as they diverged a lot over time. I met someone in a SMART meeting who started out in RR back in the 1980s, that's how he quit his addictions, but eventually got into SMART and became a facilitator. He leads smaller, local online meetings that I planned to attend because what I briefly saw of the guy really clicked with me, but have not gotten around yet.

For me, a benefit of the SMART meetings is that I encounter way more people there that I easily relate to, with similar backgrounds, world views, cognitive and emotional styled etc, than in any other program, including here on SR. SMART is not heavy on providing social contact and support, more a comprehensive toolkit and guidance, encouraging people to then use it on their own. It's very clear to me though if I wanted to make those contacts, I would likely find a lot of compatible, like-minded people in the right (compatible with me) meetings - would just need to reach out to them using the chat function. Haven't done that way yet as my current focus is different in terms of expanding my personal social life that I don't want overly addiction- and recovery-focused now (that seriously hindered my progress in the last few years I think), but it's good to know it's available, and which meetings I should go to if I wanted to run into some of those folks. It's also not an authoritative approach, so I would not recommend it to people who want/need to be told what to do and how (I think things like RR or AA are much better for that), more provides a complex pool of models, tools and suggestions that we need to choose from and apply on our own. I personally don't think I would ever be able to follow anything that's more authoritarian (tried a few and failed all), even to the extent that likely I would rather choose to die from my addiction. But that's not my goal at all . I don't even follow SMART, just use some of it.
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Old 07-29-2021, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by msl999 View Post
SMART has many tools, but I found (for myself) that they werenít available when a strong urge would come out of nowhere. Terminally Unique said it best in the first of the 6-pert AVRT thread:

This was my experience as well. I was able to get to 5 months one time, but inevitably those tools did not keep me from drinking. I was continually deciding whether or not to drink. Eventually, I was going to ďdecideĒ to have some more of that sweet poison.
Yes, same for me. When I have a very strong urge and decide to just go ahead and drink, I ignore whatever I've learned in SMART or anywhere else. I've had multiple occasions where I would attend a meeting or do some work with SMART materials, then in an hour decide to go straight to the liquor store and get drunk, and don't even ponder the conflict much in the moment. As many people keep emphasizing on SR, nothing and no one else can make those decisions for us. There are many great methods and ample support available these days, but whether and how we use it is down to each of us. I personally do not believe even the most directive approach can break through that if someone does not cooperate. Maybe prison is the most directive but hell, there are some of the craziest drug stories inside prisons, and not just as the reason that landed the inmates there. I think the same applies for gentle, compassionate help, or even medical treatments - we still need to want to accept, use and apply it.
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Old 07-29-2021, 03:32 PM
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I don't have anything to add (although I'm interested in hearing about people's continuing experiences with SMART recovery!) but I just wanted to say that Aellyce you are such a compelling writer!
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Old 08-02-2021, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Patcha View Post
I don't have anything to add (although I'm interested in hearing about people's continuing experiences with SMART recovery!) but I just wanted to say that Aellyce you are such a compelling writer!
Thanks a lot, Patcha. Many people say the same, but I still struggle with seeing it similarly myself (after a childhood of being praised/awarded for my writing abilities and then two decades of practicing it in foreign languages as an adult) - I'm so perfectionistic. Including that English is not my first language... I've been living in English-speaking regions of the world now >15 years (unfortunately starting in my late 20s, so I'll never lose my accent). Now I'm stuck with being reasonably proficient in two languages to the extent that I think and even dream in both, I capitalize on my language and writing skills so I take jobs improving others' products in both languages. I now even have quite a strong preference for my second language, but still feel I'll never be able to reach the literary qualities and standards I love in many others' writing, because of this developmentally delayed bilingual experience. I actually often don't proofread my online posts and causal messages because I feel so liberated by not caring about smaller errors and sloppiness in style. But I've made peace with it by now, more or less.

Sorry for the distraction, but it reminds me of many SMART tools, especially in the self- and other-acceptance domains. SMART is big on this thing called "unconditional self, other, and life acceptance", which has always been a bear for me... even to truly comprehend what "unconditional" can mean and imply practically. In some ways, "unconditional" tends to clash with most things I know about human nature... but I see it's being discussed in SMART all the time and would like to be able to get closer to it, if really possible.
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Old 08-02-2021, 01:50 PM
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I would never have guessed English wasn't your first language, Aellyce. Typical of most native English speakers, I only speak one language. It's such a skill to be multilingual.
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