SMART Recovery – An AA Alternative

An AA alternative that is growing in popularity is SMART Recovery. SMART takes a different approach to addiction and doesn’t follow the 12-step program. It’s a self-empowerment kind of support group with hundreds of meetings globally that takes a different approach. The program doesn’t include chemical abstinence or the 12-Step program’s powerlessness concept.

Differs in Approach

The AA program follows an acceptance, powerlessness and serenity framework while SMART recovery takes the self-empowering approach working towards empowerment, activity and courage. It means that when cravings strike – rather than leave for meetings – you simply take the initiative to deal with the rising urge. If problems arise you simply make the decision to solve each of them to the best of your ability. Practical Recovery is all about identifying the issues people have, including cravings, in the process invoking motivation in whatever the personal problem is and working towards changing the situation, enhancing relationships and accomplishing a lifestyle balance.

Essentially SMART (self-management and recovery training) does a couple of steps as well and just like the AA seeks to help addicts to successfully recover from an addiction. With SMART the religious prayer angle is not there and makes it the most flexible recovery method to use as an AA alternative or as an addition to other therapies or programs to make addiction recovery effective.

Sticks to Four Points

SMART recovery follows four main points starting from building motivation on the addict, coping with cravings and urges, solving any of the problems and accomplishing a balanced lifestyle. It’s made up of six stages and an addict sticks to them, progressing admirably until the program has been completed.

SMART Stages in Perspective

The first stage in SMART recovery includes Pre-contemplation where the addict denies he/she has an addiction problem. The next stage is Contemplation– the person realizes and recognizes that a problem exists as much as he might not be willing to solve it. The third stage is Preparation or Determination, where the individual is obviously ready to start making changes while creating a solid plan to change. The fourth stage is Action and the individual makes a conscious decision to start dealing with the problem or the addiction, with professional therapy sometimes included at this stage. In the fifth stage, Maintenance is the running theme, where the person seeks to have all the positive changes accomplished maintained. The sixth stage is Graduation or Exit where the individual is said to have gone through the SMART recovery program successfully with clear changes in his/her life.

In SMART there are no labels such as ‘an alcoholic’ or ‘an addict’; participation is encouraged only if it’s clearly useful as the individuals learn tools they need for recovery hedged on addiction treatment tested to be effective.

SMART recovery is about identifying the deeper sense of meaning and purpose in a person and getting back to live their life to the best of their ability. Of course there are cases where it happens slowly and the program is best for some individuals who don’t work or have tried the powerlessness approach of AA unsuccessfully.