Being SMART About Things

Being the child of the Internet that I am, I have a tendency to go seek out message boards that are about the subject that I’m interested in / need support for. When I got married, I joined a wedding forum. When I started getting into knitting, I joined a knitting forum. When I was diagnosed with ADHD I joined a forum for people diagnosed with ADHD.

So, naturally when I became good friends with an alcoholic I eventually tried to go find myself a forum where I could talk to other people who had loved ones who struggled with alcohol.

I didn’t join anything right away, I just lurked on a lot of message boards, and followed links to articles and resources.

A lot of the stuff I read early on was AA related, and while I hesitate to say anything bad about either organization because I know they’ve helped a good many people find support… But I can’t really ignore the fact that AA’s 12 Step program is heavily reliant on the existence of a God / higher power, and if God is a concept that’s intellectually difficult for you, my gut says the 12 steps aren’t going to be terribly effective.

One day in complete frustration with what I was reading, I typed in “Alternatives to AA” to Google just to see if there was anything out there.

The first search result for that is SMART Recovery. This site has been an invaluable resource of comfort and encouragement for me. I highly recommend it.

SMART stands for Self Management and Recovery Training. I think the Wikipedia entry sums up what the program is about well:

SMART Recovery is based on scientific knowledge, and is intended to evolve as scientific knowledge evolves. The program uses principles of motivational interviewing found in Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and techniques taken from Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), particularly in the version called Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), as well as scientifically validated research on treatment.

The organization’s program emphasizes four areas (called the Four Points) in the process of recovery: Building Motivation, Coping with Urges, Problem Solving, and Lifestyle Balance. The “SMART Toolbox” is a collection of various MET, CBT and REBT methods (or “tools”) which address the Four Points.

Basically, it has it’s roots in psychology. In fact, a lot of the exercises that SMART Recovery includes as part of their program are actually many of the same things I’ve done in therapy to help learn to manage my anxiety… Funny, huh?

What I found especially helpful, however, was the literature they recommend for loved ones. In particular I was recommended a book, Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading, and Threatening. by Robert J. Meyers Ph. D. and Brenda L. Wolfe Ph.D. which brought up some points that were extremely helpful.

Ultimately, their approach with loved ones is to recommend a non-confrontational approach toward getting the drinker into recovery. It’s a lot about communicating, and being conscious of how and when you communicate. How to set boundaries. The importance of taking care of yourself first.

Especially that part of taking care of yourself first.

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