One of the most recurring regrets John and I deal with is wishing that we had known about some type of long-lasting recovery option for our son, JL. He was becoming recovery resistant after so many cycles of detox and recovery programs and relapse. As the opioid epidemic sped up with mounting deaths by overdose, we now have statistics that make it clear that it usually takes many recovery/relapse cycles before a person can maintain long-term sobriety – especially for the main victims of this epidemic – those who started using opioids at a young age. Like our son. It’s not that he didn’t want to be clean and sober. He did, with all his heart. But opioids don’t let go easily or quickly.
The flaw in our thinking and in applying a rigid 12-step philosophy to opioids is that – as opposed to alcohol which will usually kill a person over many, many years so hitting ‘rock bottom’ is what it usually takes to make a decision to change – if you hit ‘rock bottom’ with opioids, you are usually dead.
In the past year, we have been introduced to the SMART Recovery program by our friend in Australia, Jenny Valentish (author of Woman of Substances) and wish we had known about it 10 years ago. SMART– Self-Management And Recovery Training – is having its 25-yr anniversary and International conference this weekend in Chicago and is streaming the speakers live on their YouTube Channel although you can access the speakers anytime afterwards also.
There are some main differences in the approach to recovery between AA/12-Steps and SMART, but they are not mutually exclusive. The main difference is that the SMART approach is secular and science-based, using cognitive behavioral therapy and non-confrontational motivational methods which offers help for those who struggle with the AA/12-Step approach of being powerless and relying on God or a Higher Power to change. I understand and believe that whatever we as a society can do to offer long-lasting sobriety to those seeking it, we must do.
SMART participants find and develop the power within themselves to change and lead fulfilling and balanced lives guided by their science-based and sensible 4-Point Program®:(1) Building and maintaining the motivation to change. (2) Coping with urges to use. (3) Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors. (4) Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life.
I personally do not find the two concepts of “powerlessness” and “the power within” conflicting in theory – or in my own life. Even as a believer in God and accepting that He is BIG and I am not (my powerlessness), I also understand from all I read in the Bible that because of our God-given will-power and intelligence, He requires us to use those gifts (the power within) and continually strive to improve ourselves and learn to live with others in a balanced and positive life and thereby be a blessing to our world.
SMART has on-line and in-person groups around the world – for those struggling with addiction of any sort and for their families and friends – and I would encourage anyone involved with addiction personally or professionally to look into their program. It may make the difference between a new opportunity and direction in life or continuing down a dead-end street.
(Disclaimer: I am not an authorized spokesperson for AA or SMART and the above is my opinion gleaned from their information.)