Saturday, 23 November 2013

SMART Recovery: Another Option on the Road to Recovery

Our son was never one to attend 12-step meetings like NA. He simply did not care for them. While they have helped millions of people to find recovery, the meetings just didn’t motivate my son enough to keep him going back. Motivation is a key component of change so finding something that works is important if one is to stay in recovery. Unfortunately, 12-step meetings seemed to be the only option around, leaving people like my son with no outside support system that they could relate to.

Last winter, while reading about programs being offered in other areas, I found the SMART Recovery program. I thought it sounded great. It is not a 12-step program so would provide a real alternative to AA/NA.  It would also be a good complement to AA/NA for those who have found recovery there. I wanted to partner with someone in recovery to eventually bring it to the Island. My son was still in active addiction so wasn’t ready. While I waited for the right person to come along, I continued to talk to people about the program and direct them to the online meetings.  

I am a firm believer that there is more than one way to recover. We have to offer as many options as possible so that individuals have a greater chance of finding what works best for them. Any treatment plan should have the client, and what motivates them, at the centre of it. We can no longer promote only one option and expect everyone to conform to it. There is too much on the line. We have an epidemic. We have to do better.

Last month, someone (Molly Nielson) finally came along! We are starting up a SMART Recovery program in the New Year. Her timing was perfect because my son was only days into his recovery and I knew he would likely benefit from these meetings. He liked the online meetings so I knew he would like the face to face meetings as well.

Molly is a wonderful young woman who is doing great things in her own recovery. She was ready to start something new and so was I. She had a friend (Natasha Flood) who wanted to be involved. My son wanted to be involved. Another friend also wanted to be involved. Now, all five of us are doing our facilitator’s training in order to bring SMART Recovery to PEI.

SMART stands for “Self-Management and Recovery Training”.  We really like the SMART Recovery program and hope that you will too! Here is a bit of information so that you can make your own decision about it. You can find more on the SMART Recovery website. You can also take part in online meetings for addicts and families.


Their 4-Point Program offers tools and techniques for each point:

1. Building and Maintaining Motivation
2. Coping with Urges
3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours
4. Living a Balanced Life


• Teaches self-empowerment and self-reliance.

• Provides meetings that are educational, supportive and include open discussions.

• Encourages individuals to recover from addiction and alcohol abuse and live satisfying lives.

• Teaches techniques for self-directed change.

• Supports the scientifically informed use of psychological treatments and legally prescribed psychiatric and addiction medication (Methadone, Suboxone, etc.).

• Works on substance abuse, alcohol abuse, addiction and drug abuse as complex maladaptive behaviors with possible physiological factors.

• Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves.

• Differs from Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step programs.


SMART Recovery has a scientific foundation, not a spiritual one. The program teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness. The meetings are discussion meetings in which individuals talk with one another, rather than to one another. They encourage attendance for months to years, but probably not a lifetime. There are no sponsors in SMART Recovery.  They also discourage use of labels such as "alcoholic" or "addict".

I know many people who have found recovery in the rooms of 12-step meetings. The comparison above is just that - a comparison. It is by no means saying that one type of meeting or method is better than the other. It is only meant to show the differences. You may actually enjoy both types of meeting. In the end, we all want recovery for you. You can decide what's right for you.

We do not have our dates, times and location for the meetings established yet. That’ll happen in the New Year when our training is complete. I’ll post the details here when we have them. For now, we are just letting everyone know about the meetings.


PS: Molly and Natasha's names are used with permission.


  1. Hello ..I would like to be part of this program

    1. That is great! When we have everything in place, I will post the details on this blog. We'll likely get started in January. Thanks for your interest.

  2. When will you know dates and times. I know a lot of people back home that are interested in taking part.

    1. That's great! We will be looking for a location the first of January. We are still doing our training right now. If all goes well, we should be ready to begin in the middle of the month or early February. I will definitely be posting it on here when we're ready to go.

      FYI - I also responded to your question about starting a meeting. Not sure if you saw it yet or not.

    2. Yes I did, and many thanks! I think that the SMART meetings will help a lot of people, especially the younger people. I've found through my experience that when you start talking spiritual principles a huge number of people just tune out, and it sounds like it will actually help persons learn life skills like self respect, that they may not have know before. Also I like the ideas of discussing things as a group, as opposed to the "no cross talk" approach. Both work well, but sometimes people are looking for answers and replies that cannot be given in the rooms. I'll keep an eye out for your times and dates so I can pass them along :)

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