Life is full of exciting, even thrilling experiences that can leave us with the feeling of wanting more. Often these experiences are positive and fulfilling. But others can be addictive, opening the door to a destructive lifestyle.
Most people who engage in addictive behaviors and go on to develop an actual addiction find that overcoming addiction is far more challenging than they expected.
What is addiction?
Addiction is an inability to stop using a substance or engaging in a behavior even though it is causing psychological and physical harm. For many years, experts believed that only alcohol and powerful drugs could cause addiction and it’s symptoms.
More recent research, however, has shown that certain pleasurable activities, such as gambling, shopping, and sex, can also become addictive.
How addiction affects our brain
Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over its use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences.
What is SMART Recovery
Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery), an international, non-profit support program, is designed to help people struggling with any type of addiction, including drugs, alcohol, gambling, overeating, sex addiction, or compulsive spending.
In addition, it aids in diagnosing and treating the underlying mental health issues that can coincide with addiction, such as anxiety and depression.
As an alternative to 12-step treatment programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, SMART Recovery has been recognized as an effective resource for overcoming addiction by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
How Does SMART Recovery Work?
Based on clinical experience and research, SMART Recovery works through intensive therapy utilizing behavioral-cognitive principles adapted from the following scientifically based therapies:
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy – a counseling approach that helps individuals resolve their ambivalence about engaging in treatment and ending their addictive behavior. This approach aims to evoke rapid and internally motivated change, rather than guide the patient stepwise through the recovery process. Motivational interviewing principles are used to strengthen motivation and build a plan for change.
- Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy – a type of psychotherapy that modifies thought patterns in order to change moods and behaviors. It is based on the idea that negative actions or feelings are the result of current distorted beliefs or thoughts, not unconscious forces from the past. It is a blend of cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy focuses on moods and thoughts, while behavioral therapy specifically targets actions and behaviors.
- Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy – a short-term form of psychotherapy that helps individuals identify self-defeating thoughts and feelings, challenge the rationality of those feelings, and replace them with healthier, more productive beliefs. This therapy focuses mostly on the present time to help individuals understand how unhealthy thoughts and beliefs create emotional distress which, in turn, leads to unhealthy actions and behaviors that interfere with current life goals.
The Goals of a SMART Recovery Program
SMART Recovery supports individuals who have decided to give up addiction, centering on how to change emotions, thinking, and actions that are self-defeating. It strives to help individuals stay positive, effectively cope with negative tendencies, and learn how to improve their quality of life without relying on addictive behaviors.
SMART Recovery 4-point plan
- Building and maintaining motivation: Participants are encouraged to make a list of the pros and cons of addictive behaviors versus those of being in recovery as motivation to stay strong in sobriety.
- Coping with urges or substance cravings: Participants identify their personal triggers and the irrational thoughts and beliefs that lead them to act on those triggers. They learn to deflect these triggers and thoughts to overcome cravings.
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: Group participants are taught to examine their own feelings and thoughts that lead to their addictive behaviors. Techniques for handling negative thoughts are emphasized.
- Living a balanced life: Participants decide what is important to them in life and what achievable goals they would like to set. They learn to live without using harmful substances or addictive behaviors and work toward what is important to them.
Recovery Is Possible
“You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” – Albert Einstein
Recovery is a lifelong journey of self-discovery, growth, and transformation. Managing addiction requires you to make a thousand different changes in yourself, in your outlook, and in your environment.
Staying strong in recovery requires motivation and persistence in the face of challenges. The person you are before beginning treatment for recovery is completely different from the person you will be after addiction—but it is still you who will make the transformation happen.
Choosing an effective recovery and support program like SMART Recovery will help you in the journey forward.