Staying free from drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behavior can be extremely difficult. The stigma of being labeled an alcoholic or an addict adds to the complications of living a sober life. SMART Recovery is an alternative solution for many who are struggling with these issues.

 

SMART stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. This nonprofit organization is based on the premise that individuals can (and at some point, should) be empowered to be in control of their own impulses. SMART offers free face-to-face peer support as well as online discussion groups. Online services always have someone available to assist you. Publications with informative information to help abstain are also available at low cost.

 

SMART’s approach is based on scientific methods that have been proven to motivate addicted individuals and reshape their attitudes about the behavior that can trigger a relapse. Some of the principles of SMART are taken from Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). The idea is to help with the area of rational thinking and help individuals take responsibility for the decisions they make. The focus is on the here and now. Although our past may have influenced some of our decisions, the future can still be written. We can’t change the past, but we CAN make changes to have the best today and tomorrow. In this way, permanent recovery is possible from overindulgence in:

 

  • Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • Illegal drugs, over the counter drugs, and prescription medication
  • Gambling, sexual behavior, overeating, and excessive spending

 

SMART Family & Friends is an online or face-to-face support group for Concerned Significant Others (CSOs) of those who are struggling with abstinence. The Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT) program is a scientifically-based intervention designed to help significant others (CSOs) positively influence their loved one to accept treatment and/or support. The CRAFT program has been shown to be effective with better success rates than many other programs.

 

An adaptation of the handbook has been designed for use in a group setting for teens and youth who are experiencing addictive behavior.

 

The basis of your recovery in the SMART program starts with abstinence, completely avoiding the substance or behavior that triggered the addiction. Individuals learn four key points while in the program:

 

  • How to stay motivated to abstain
  • How to cope with cravings
  • How to address thoughts and behaviors that may lead to temptation
  • How to lead a balanced life without harmful substances or behaviors

 

SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery combines a strong support community with evidence-based methods of counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and motivational techniques.

 

Participants are encouraged to share personal experiences regarding what helps them the most to steer clear of tricky situations. The meetings are non-confrontations – they are simply to raise cognitive awareness and to motivate everyone who attends.

 

Volunteers who believe in the concepts of SMART become facilitators by donating their time to organize and lead the discussions. There are also volunteers who are advisors and are available to assist the facilitators, especially in the event of a crisis.

 

All persons seeking support should be made aware of all the treatment and support options available. Being involved and having choices is an important part of long

When I first got clean, after I got home from rehab, I started painting. I had always loved art when I was a kid. I was always good at drawing. But I hadn’t done anything with it in twenty years. I got into an art class, I made a little studio area for myself in my office, I bought a bunch of art supplies, and I started painting.

I can’t tell you how many times painting prevented me from being tempted to go out and use drugs. One of the hardest things about recovery is feeling like you are bored. People find it difficult to stay clean and sober because they don’t know how to have fun without drugs or alcohol. This is why it’s absolutely essential for you to find something that you enjoy doing that you can do anytime you would have the urge to go hang out at the bar or the parties.

Maybe for you it’s not art or painting. But I guarantee you that you will find something. Try different sports. Volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, soccer, swimming, ice skating. Look around and find out what is available in your community. Maybe you will become an avid reader. Maybe you will finally write that novel you’ve been wanting to write forever. Maybe you will start learning a different language or take a free online class about history. Maybe  you will go back to school.

There are also a lot of different hobbies that you can get involved in. You could try adult coloring books, puzzles, module planes, crafts, cooking. Get on Pinterest and you will find lots of different ideas. Get creative! Think about all of the things you enjoyed before you drank or used drugs. The point is, it’s incredibly important to have an activity that you love to do that is not drugs or alcohol. And it won’t be hard. There is a whole world out there!

Considering the fact that I work as a counselor in a methadone clinic, I am always hearing a ton of different opinions about opioid replacement therapy. For those of you who don’t know, opioid replacement therapy is when people who are addicted to opiates like heroid and painkillers start a medication like methadone or suboxone. These medications are also opiates, but they don’t block all other opiates from working, and they don’t make you feel “high”.  These medications can be an effective way to manage addiction, and they can actually save lives.

Critics say that you aren’t really helping the addict–that you are merely substituting one drug for another. While technically this is true, it is really not the same. When you are addicted to heroin, it’s impossible to function in regular life. It’s also dangerous. You could always do too much or get a “bad” bag that is laced with something fatal. Heroin also makes you feel high so it is the high that you are always chasing. Medications like methadone and suboxone do not make the patients high, and they can easily function in regular life.

There is also the matter of pain. Many people who develop bad drug habits start with the issue of chronic pain that they are trying to treat. If these patients are not taking any opiates, they may be in really bad pain all of the time. This pain may then cause them to take whatever drugs are available, and it may lead to illicit drug use.

Drugs like methadone and suboxone are effective in terms of pain management. There are some patients who take these medications specifically for pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have to come to terms with the fact that you will always have to take some kind of medication in order to minimize your pain to a level that you can live with.

I work as a counselor at a methadone clinic, and I have seen personally methadone save many people’s lives. If they are at the point where they cannot stop doing heroin, they need something like methadone. I started taking suboxone three years ago to get myself off of heroin. Eventually, I was able to come off of it. Now I am completely clean and sober. But we need to get rid of this idea that patients who take methadone or suboxone to deal with their addiction are somehow not “totally clean”.

A lot of people don’t like 12-step programs because of all of the talk about your “Higher Power”. Many people interpret this to mean God. There are a lot of atheists who are unable to be involved in helpful recovery programs because they feel like there is too much talk about God. I constantly hear people questioning whether or not it’s important to be religious to be in recovery. I would say, no, it’s not important to be religious. However, it is important to have a spiritual practice.

Having a spiritual practice does not mean that you are religious, you go to church, you read the Bible or some other religious text, and you follow a bunch of dogmatic rules. Having a spiritual practice means that you are able to focus on God as you understand God. Even if you wouldn’t call it God, I’m sure there is something that you believe in. It could just be the concept of love. It could be the beauty of nature. You can focus on these things without calling them God.

I would argue that it is essential to find some type of Higher Power when you are in recovery. If you are simply trying to recover on your own, you are not going to be successful. You need to lean on something bigger than just yourself. It doesn’t have to be God or Jesus or anything like that. It could just be your community. It could be your family. It could be your artistic practice. It could be meditation or yoga.

Whatever it is, it’s important for you to find something bigger than yourself that you believe in. With this, you will have a much easier time with recovery because there will always be something you can turn to when you are having a rough day. Having a spiritual daily practice like prayer, meditation, yoga, swimming, etc. is also important. This can help you to keep your mind and spirit focused on recovery.