If you have had a personal or indirect experience with addiction, you may be familiar with the peer-led organization known as SMART Recovery. In SMART Recovery, the “smart” acronym stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. SMART recovery groups represent an alternative to the traditional 12 step programs available for people seeking to overcome a history of substance use disorders or other behavioral addictions.
SMART Recovery groups help people frame their addictive behavior from a scientific perspective. SMART Recovery facilitators encourage members to take an active role in their recovery and do work outside of meetings to dive deeper into their processes of recovery. Meeting participants have access to several SMART Recovery publications that can help them learn more about substance abuse and continue on their recovery journey.
Read on to learn more about SMART Recovery treatment programs, including 8 SMART resources that can help you recover from a drug abuse disorder or other behavioral condition and guide you on your addiction recovery journey.
The Philosophy Behind SMART Recovery
SMART Recovery represents a different approach to addiction recovery compared to more classic 12-step programs because it is not grounded in a belief in God or another higher power. Because it does not integrate spiritual principles into its structure, SMART Recovery helps people who feel disconnected from spiritually-oriented recovery programs by giving them another path to recovery. SMART Recovery roots itself in evidence-backed scientific concepts like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing.
If you’re new to SMART Recovery, or simply looking for more in-depth information about the SMART Recovery process, the following eight resources can be beneficial.
1. SMART Recovery Handbook – 3rd Edition
The SMART Recovery Handbook is one of the most important publications within the SMART Recovery pantheon. The 3rd edition of the book is the latest, and it can help provide you with the resources you need to understand the SMART Recovery program within its full context. For example, the handbook contains information about the 4-point program, which is often compared to the 12-step program that guides other peer-led recovery programs.
The functions of the SMART Recovery program’s 4 points, per its website, are to:
- Teach you how to enhance and maintain your motivation to abstain from substances or addictive behaviors.
- Teach you how to cope with your urges to use a substance or engage in a behavior by showing you how to examine and analyze your triggers.
- Teach you how to manage your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, including how to tolerate uncomfortable emotions.
- Teach you how to balance your momentary and enduring satisfactions so you can stay rooted in reality and clearly define your expectations out of life.
Other components of the SMART Recovery handbook include the SMART recovery toolbox, information about SMART Recovery meetings, and practical strategies that people who are managing addictions can apply to their lives. One of the most helpful aspects of the handbook is that the exercises and strategies that it teaches you can be applied across a wide swath of addictive behaviors, including compulsive gambling, drug addiction, alcoholism, smoking, and eating disorders.
2. Rational Drinking: How to Live Happily With or Without Alcohol, by Michael Edelstein, Ph.D., and Will Ross
In this book, which is part of the SMART Recovery recommended reading list authors Michael Edelstein, Ph.D., and Will Ross delve into the process of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), which is one of the original self-help therapies. The authors view themselves as tutors for people looking to teach themselves REBT so that they can learn to control their drinking—whether that means scaling back on alcohol or quitting entirely. The book dovetails well with treatment programs like SMART Recovery because it provides a straightforward, rational way to stay addiction-free without reliance on religious doctrines or other spiritual philosophies. Like SMART Recovery groups, it classifies addictive behaviors as behavioral problems that can be overcome through behavioral therapy instead of diseases that are a fixed part of a person’s identity.
3. SMART Recovery Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) Worksheet
Housed within the SMART Recovery Toolbox is a worksheet is known as the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) worksheet that can help you take a realistic look at the impact of your behaviors so that you can make more mindful decisions. The worksheet instructs you to use an old-fashioned pencil and divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants, writing the following four questions at the top of each square:
- What do I enjoy about my addiction, and what does it do for me?
- What do I hate about my addiction, and what does it do to me?
- What do I think I will like about giving up my addiction?
- What do I think I won’t like about giving up my addiction?
As much as possible, the worksheet asks you to provide specific examples. It’s also important to keep in mind that this worksheet can be completed on different occasions and may yield different information, depending on where you’re at in your recovery journey. You can find a link to a sample worksheet here and a detailed description of the process of filling out the worksheet here.
4. Successful Life Skills – SMART Recovery
In this manual, which is published by the SMART Recovery program, you can learn to improve your life with a comprehensive approach, rather than defining it by labels or conditions. The manual is intended for facilitator-led or participant-led groups and, according to the SMART Recovery website, it meets standards for evidence-based treatment, having been used successfully in prisons and jails for the past 22 years. The manual is designed to be easy to follow, using plain language to review key life skills.
5. SMART Family and Friends Handbook
Being a loved one of a person suffering from addiction, or undergoing a recovery process, can bring on a mix of emotions. It can be baffling, bewildering, devastating, or infuriating—among many other emotions—and the experience is often extremely personal. However, there are common threads when it comes to the experience of loving someone with an addiction or trying to help a loved one with an addiction. Beyond the reliance on a higher power offered to family and friends in support networks such as Al-Anon, the SMART Family and Friends Handbook provides an evidence-based guide to help people afflicted by the addictive behavior of someone they love.
Topics covered within the handbook include:
• How to communicate positively with a loved one with an addiction
• How to stop enabling a loved one with an addiction
• How to learn how to trust and forgive a loved one with an addiction
• How to set healthy boundaries when trying to help a loved one with an addiction
• How to keep moving forward when a loved one with an addiction goes through a relapse
This handbook for family and friends gives concrete tools to help you manage the complicated scenarios that arise when you’re supporting someone with an addiction. It recognizes the challenge of maintaining these relationships and can be used on its own, or as a resource to refer to during SMART Recovery group meetings. The handbook can be found here.
6. Thoughts and Inspirations Reflections Journal – SMART Recovery
This journal provides a place for SMART Recovery members to record their journey through addiction recovery. It has thoughtfully-placed quotes to help encourage you to reflect on your inner and external environments—both of which can highly influence your recovery journey. This journal can be an equally valuable resource for people who are undergoing a journey to recovery from addictive behaviors such as drinking, smoking, abusing illegal substances, gambling, overeating, or compulsively shopping—and it can also provide a place for loved ones of individuals who are struggling with substance-related conditions to record their journeys of forgiveness and healing. You can find the journal here.
7. 365 Ways to Have Sober Fun, by Lisa Hann
In this book, which is is part of the SMART Recovery recommended reading list, author Lisa Hann guides how to cope with the void that can be left in your days when you stop drinking alcohol or using other substances. The premise of the book is that idle time can be risky when you are a recovering addict, particularly when you are newly sober. To address the agony that can be created by a sudden abundance of free time and a lack of structure, this book provides a suggestion for a different sober activity that you can enjoy every single day of the year.
8. Powerless No Longer: Reprogramming Your Addictive Behavior, by Peter Soderman
Also drawn from the SMART Recovery recommended reading list, this book recognizes the central tenant of the SMART recovery program, which is that addiction is a learned behavior that can be deliberately reprogrammed. Its author, Peter Soderman, emphasizes that people with addiction are not powerless victims—instead, they have a great deal of control, and they can successfully change their ways. The book serves as a guide to changing your habits, whether you are trying to reduce your reliance on alcohol or drugs or simply trying to cut back on added sugar in your diet. It provides concrete evidence about the self-change methods that can be effective, citing scientific studies.
Finding Other SMART Recovery Resources
Beyond these above eight resources, there is a multitude of other resources available to help you navigate your SMART Recovery journey. A full list is available here, and it includes a variety of SMART Recovery is that having an in-depth knowledge of the process of addiction and how you can modify your behavior in response to it can help you get sober and stay sober. Often, the more informed you are, the better.
How Effective Is SMART Recovery?
In your journey to learn more about SMART Recovery by investigating the above resources, you may have formed a more fundamental question about how effective the SMART Recovery program is for people looking to end their addictive habits. Clinical researchers have evaluated this central question and found SMART Recovery highly effective. One clinical trial examined how heavy drinkers were affected by the SMART Recovery program and a web application known as Overcoming Addictions (OA) based on SMART Recovery principles. In the trial, researchers studied people who only attended SMART alcohol meetings, people who only used the OA app, and people who used both resources, and they found that in all circumstances the heavy drinkers had an increase in their days of abstaining from alcohol when compared to a control group. The SMART Recovery program also appeared to have an enduring impact, as the heavy drinkers involved in the study were able to maintain the changes they had made at a six-month follow-up.
How to Find a SMART Recovery Group
SMART Recovery peer-led support groups can be highly beneficial in helping you get sober and stay sober over the long haul. They represent a powerful alternative if you have ever felt alienated by the traditional 12-step programs that rely on spiritual principles or if you have tried 12-step programs in the past without success.
SMART Recovery groups (and their subgroups, such as SMART alcohol meetings) take place across the country and world. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SMART Recovery groups have continued to meet virtually and provide peer-led support. Researchers have shown that they have been particularly beneficial in helping people maintain abstinence from their substance use disorders and other addictive behaviors during the pandemic.
If you’re looking for your local SMART Recovery group, make sure to use this meeting locator tool. The tool will allow you to search by zip code or state and filter by the resources you are seeking. It can also help connect you with various other resources, including nearby hotels or restaurants if traveling to a meeting in a new place.