What happens during a SMART recovery meeting?

If you are currently trying to overcome an addiction, recovery programmes that focus on a “Higher Power” that encourage you to admit that you are powerless over your addiction – like many 12 step programmes to do – may not be for you.

That’s ok. In today’s day and age, many people are in search of something more science-based to help them overcome their addictions.

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training and it uses scientific methods such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help you manage and overcome your addiction, as well as teaching you coping methods that you can use throughout your life to maintain your abstinence from alcohol or drugs.

SMART recovery also helps people with addictions to gambling, food or the internet.

SMART recovery views addiction as a bad habit rather than an illness and believes that recovery can be achieved by teaching individuals’ ways in which they can change their bad habits instead of making them feel that they are sick.

They believe that certain people just happen to be more susceptible to addictive behaviour.

The SMART recovery 4-point programme

SMART recovery bases its meetings on a 4-point programme, each step teaching the individuals to take one step closer to a healthier and sober lifestyle.

Each step is tailor-made for each individual, and there is no right or wrong order in which they need to be followed. However, you will generally begin at point 1 and move on to the next step that is most relevant to your needs.

The four points are:

1. Build and maintain motivation

This step aims to help you see what your reasons are for seeking rehabilitation. It is highly likely that you will face temptation as you are going through recovery, so reminding yourself of why you are deciding to abstain from a certain addiction is an important step in overcoming your addiction.

2. Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviours

This step is all about helping you replace your negative thoughts and behaviours with positive ones. This can be a particularly challenging step, but it is based on the concept that negative behaviours are learned over time, so there is no reason that they cannot be unlearned.

3. Cope with urges

This step aims to encourage you to establish boundaries and stick to them. For example, if you find that socialising with a particular person makes you more likely to engage in your addiction, you might want to avoid that person while you are in recovery.

4. Live a balanced life

There is more to recovery than just overcoming your addiction. SMART will instil healthy lifestyle practices in individuals and encourage them to make healthier food choices, be more physically active and get more sleep. Those living an overall healthy lifestyle are less likely to relapse.

However, SMART recovery does not view relapse as weakness or failure. Instead, relapse is viewed as a lesson to be learned from and a chance to talk through what led you to relapse and how you feel now that you have relapsed.

SMART recovery meetings

SMART recovery meetings take place all over the world and are open to anyone who feels they might benefit from them. They are free of charge; however, some may have an optional donation box there to help cover the cost of the hall.

The meetings are headed by a facilitator who will get things started and encourage people to talk and to share their stories, however, there is no obligation to share anything and if you prefer to just listen and take in the information, that is fine.

The meetings normally begin with an opening statement from the host or facilitator, followed by a check-in, where anyone who wants to can introduce themselves or say hello. This is followed by a longer group discussion about the issues at hand where information, help and advice is shared among the group.

The focus of the meetings generally centres around setting goals for the future and positive reinforcement rather than focusing on past mistakes. They use scientific methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy to tackle addictions rather than a spiritual approach.

The meetings usually last between 60 – 90 minutes.

How effective is the SMART recovery programme?

SMART recovery works as well as each individual wants it to. It teaches self-management and recovery techniques and so its effectiveness is determined by how well an individual wants to help themselves.

However, a study completed in 2018 that tested the effectiveness of various alcohol addiction recovery programmes concluded that statistically, the SMART recovery programme is as effective as Alcoholics Anonymous, Women for sobriety and LifeRing.

Of course, it is necessary to work hard during any addiction recovery programme, however, this is particularly the case with the SMART recovery programme as it encourages you to help yourself and teaches you the methods you can use to help yourself.

How do I know if a SMART meeting is right for me?

If you are heavily addicted to drugs or alcohol, a SMART recovery meeting may not meet your needs. This is because the physical withdrawal symptoms of alcohol and certain drugs such as heroin are so severe and potentially fatal, and you will need medical intervention to cope with them.

However, if you have an addiction that you feel that you can overcome by yourself with a little encouragement and support, that is more science-based than spiritually based, then a SMART recovery programme might be right for you.

SMART recovery meetings can also help friends and family

Addiction can affect many people, including the family and friends of those suffering from addictions.

If you have a friend or loved one that is currently abusing drugs or alcohol or is spiralling towards an addiction, you could also attend a SMART recovery meeting to get some ideas on how to help them.

There may be other friends or family members of people suffering from addictions and they can offer up help, advice, and support on how you can help your loved one as well as yourself.

It is recommended to attend at least five SMART recovery meetings, however, there is no limit to the number of meetings you can attend and you can continue attending the meetings for as long as you feel they are providing you with the support that you need.

How do I find my nearest SMART recovery meeting?

To find your local SMART recovery meeting, simply go to the SMART recovery website at https://smartrecovery.org.uk/ and type in your postcode. You will get a list of meetings near you.

However, it is not always necessary to physically go to a meeting. There are online meetings and forums that you can visit that also offer up help and encouragement to help you overcome your addiction and get the support you need.