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If you have tried self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) but find you are not aligned with the 12-Step method, you might be feeling frustrated and at a loss for how to achieve lasting recovery. This could be because you do not see yourself within the 12-Step model due to religious or spiritual beliefs. Whatever your reasoning, it is important to know that while culturally popular, the 12-Step method is not the only group option for healing. This is especially helpful if you find yourself losing motivation for recovery because you can’t seem to connect with 12-Step programming.

What Is SMART Recovery?

If you are seeking a group option that focuses on goals you create for yourself, SMART recovery is an alternative that may speak to you. SMART stands for self-management and recovery training. It offers valuable support through a facilitated mutual support group model for substance addiction recovery. It is different from the 12-Step model in that it prioritizes personal goals for healing rather than the external philosophy of why healing is needed. This means addiction recovery is a self-determined process that can have as many or as few steps as needed based on the individual.

How SMART Recovery Works

It is not unusual to struggle with finding purpose or motivation once you begin addiction treatment. The SMART model takes that into account by encouraging you to set your own recovery goals — large or small — and start working toward them. 

These goals start where you are. Perhaps addiction has played a role in slowing your career or education. Maybe you want to see yourself as a functioning member of society. It could be you have loved ones who will benefit from the care you can give them if you are in recovery. You may also have some personal goals for your physical well-being. 

The key to SMART recovery is pinpointing the goal that will keep you motivated. While doing so, you will work toward those goals in facilitated fellowship with others in recovery. Having the proper motivation to remain sober will make your sobriety lasting. 

Knowing if SMART Recovery Is Right for You

If you have stalled in your recovery or are still considering achieving sobriety, SMART recovery is a healthy choice. As mentioned, SMART recovery focuses on your personal wellness motivation, but there is more to recovery than just motivation. 

With that in mind, there are three other key steps to the SMART recovery process. These steps include: 

#1 Encouraging Self-Discovery

Consider the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Addiction can be rooted in emotional response or avoidance. Self-discovery means uncovering your triggers and how to avoid them. You need healthy coping skills to rely on in recovery, and SMART recovery offers those through the mutual aid of a group that listens without judgment because they are on the same path as well.

#2 Coping With Intrusive Thoughts and Urges

What about intrusive thoughts and urges? The persistence of dark, unwanted thoughts or urges to use in relation to addiction can complicate recovery. Visualizing yourself using drugs again can throw you for a loop. Sitting with your thought alone can cause them to persist, making it more difficult to resist the urge to relapse. However, within the SMART group, you have a space to discuss these thoughts and urges and recover.

#3 Developing a Support Network

Finally, SMART recovery can show you a path toward living a healthy, balanced life. It does so by providing a healthy support network. It also offers you the necessary coping techniques to keep your life moving forward. SMART recovery is ongoing and comprehensive, teaching you what you need to know to maintain your sobriety by preventing relapse. 

Relapse is possible at any point in a person’s recovery and can be emotional, mental, or physical. 

  • Emotional relapse: This occurs when you are no longer using the healthy coping techniques that keep you sober. 
  • Mental relapse: This type happens when you are thinking about using substances. Again, these can include intrusive thoughts.
  • Physical relapse: Physical relapse happens when you again turn to substance use. 

All of these types of relapse can be prevented with proper, whole-person treatment approaches. SMART recovery looks at and treats you as a whole person and invites you to look at yourself the same way. Additionally, the accountability of the group modality can greatly reduce your risk of relapse.

If you are looking for a holistic method of treatment, SMART recovery works to address your whole person. Progress is not linear and does not need to be treated as though it is. In the case of SMART recovery, a relapse will not put you back at day one. You can continue working forward at your own pace, knowing that you are a human having a human experience. 

The meetings and philosophy of 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous can be very beneficial. However, if you have tried a 12-Step program and found it is not right for you, it is possible you will benefit from self-management and recovery training, or SMART recovery. SMART recovery is a form of therapeutic support that focuses on identifying your motivations for recovery and establishing accountability as well as encouragement. SMART recovery offers fellowship with individuality, where you work to create and meet your own goals alongside others without judgment. Your goals can be significant or minor, short-term or long-term. In SMART recovery, you will work at a pace that is comfortable to you. If you are ready to start down the path to recovery and looking for support throughout, call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 to learn more about SMART recovery today.

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
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