SMART Recovery Program
SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) is a 4-point support program for long-term sobriety. Through the SMART Recovery program, you can learn how to manage addictions by focusing on unhealthy thought patterns and beliefs and gradually learn self-empowerment. It is an AA alternative that does not require faith in a higher power and offers a broad array of SMART Recovery tools and methods to teach addicts to cope with urges, build motivation to keep working and live a balanced life filled with purpose.
1. BUILDING AND MAINTAINING MOTIVATION
Motivation to stay sober can come and go. Life manages to throw us curve balls and post-discharge the best defense you have will be the coping mechanisms and motivational tools you built in rehab. Point one of the SMART Recovery program deals with the creation and sustaining of motivation throughout treatment. Patients are tasked with making lists of priorities in their life and weighing the costs and benefits of sobriety vs. continued substance dependency. Here is where the groundwork for long-term sobriety begins. What kinds of things is your addiction taking from you? For those addicted to drugs and alcohol you could be risking a lot, for example:
- A personal relationship with a spouse or significant other
- Time spent with friends, family, and a significant other
- Our sense of confidence in ourselves
- Time spent on more productive activities
- Your physical and emotional health
In this portion of the SMART Recovery program patients list out the negative ways substance abuse has affected their lives and then create a list of attainable goals that they can work on. Examples include
- Spending more meaningful time with my children
- Finishing writing a book
- Being more honest and open with my spouse or significant other
- Eating right and exercising five times a week
2. COPING WITH URGES
Cravings can be difficult to withstand, but point two helps patients to recognize and dismantle these urges using a variety of tools and techniques. Patients learn coping methods to combat cravings, including the usage of mindfulness practices and distraction techniques. By delving into the underlying causes of these urges, patients will become better at identifying triggers and avoiding them in the future. The SMART Recovery program has developed the coping methods to help you get through this. An easy-to-remember acronym is DEADS:
D = Delay. The thing about urges is that they are momentary, and always disappear over time. Once you have successfully identified and withstood an urge to use, you realize it’s just that: an urge. It can’t make you use. Just like any emotion, if you calmly let it pass through you, it will disappear.
E = Escape. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in an environment that provokes your urge. Sometimes it’s helpful to simply escape and remove yourself from a situation that is provoking you to engage in your addiction. If you’re alone, try removing yourself from the situation to go for a walk, talk on the phone to your sponsor, go to the gym, or practice your breathing exercises.
A = Accept. You can put your urge into perspective by realizing that it’s a natural occurrence and doesn’t make you a bad, immoral, or weak person to experience it. We all face different levels of temptation, but you’re not alone in experiencing cravings to use again. Hundreds of thousands face the same urges, and none responsible for the way it makes them feel.
D = Dispute. You may feel as though you have to use again to ever feel good again or to cope with a difficult situation. Dispute this irrational belief by remembering past times you successfully overcame the urge. Disarm your craving by identifying its irrational nature.
S = Substitute. When you get the urge, sometimes it’s best to simply throw yourself into another activity or thought trail that will fully occupy your mind. This can be anything from going to exercise, reading a book, calling a friend, or watching a TV show. Anything to engage your brain in something other than thinking about substance use.
3. MANAGING THOUGHTS, FEELINGS AND BEHAVIORS
In this portion of the SMART Recovery program, irrational beliefs are explored and patients are taught to recognize the distorted thinking that leads to relapse. We frequently turn to addictive behaviors because we are feeling a specific emotion, thinking about something, or have placed ourselves in a compromising situation. Identify every time you feel an urge and try to trace to specific causation. This way, you can identify triggering scenarios, and either stay away from those scenarios or work out why they make you feel a certain way.
4. LIVING A BALANCED LIFE
Addiction is devastating because it grows to consume everything in our lives, throwing it all off balance. The fourth point in the SMART Recovery program is the continued life structure of sobriety and includes setting realistic short-term as well as long-term goals. Participants take an inventory of what’s important to them and use it to make a plan for the future. Coping skills, community resources, like an alumni program, and relapse prevention skills all play a part in developing a healthy, sustainable plan for the future.
- Developing a healthy nutrition and fitness regimen
- Having daily conversations about your thoughts and feelings
- Engaging in communal activities such as sports and socializing
- Using art such as painting, writing, or playing music to express feelings you have trouble vocalizing