by Patrick Garnett, Facilitator, SMART Recovery Chicago
Maybe you are reading this article because you feel you may have an issue using illegal or legal drugs, with drinking, or with another type of behavior, such as gambling. While you may have thought about seeking a support group, you are hesitant to go because you don’t really know what happens at meetings.
Well let me describe what happens at a SMART (Self Management And Recovery Training) Recovery face-to-face meeting. First, you will be greeted with a smile, a welcome, and usually given a few pages that explain SMART.
The SMART meetings last anywhere from 60-90 minutes, are free (donations accepted) and are open to anyone. Our meetings focus on self-empowerment and choice and we do not use labels like alcoholic or addict. A typical meeting may have anywhere from 3 to 12 people, sometimes a few more, and all participation is optional.
The meetings are run by a trained, volunteer facilitator and start with someone reading the Group Welcome which gives you a quick overview and then we begin check-ins. This is a time for each person to discuss any success or challenges they had in abstaining from their behavior and discuss their progress on any life goals they have set. Usually anyone new shares why they are attending the meeting but they can always just pass and listen if they prefer.
After the check-ins, the facilitator and the group decide if there were any issues discussed during check-in that they wish to address. This is the time of the meeting we apply the tools of SMART to address issues. This time is also used to review a SMART tool so everyone can better understand, and practice, the tools. Some of the tools you will learn include the Stages of Change, a Change Plan Worksheet, a Cost-Benefit Analysis, the Hierarchy of Values, the ABCs of REBT for Urge Coping and Emotional Upsets, DISARM (Destructive Imagery & Self-talk Awareness And Refusal Method), Role-playing & Rehearsing , Brainstorming, and more.
At SMART we encourage group discussion and I know for myself, I have learned a lot from my fellow participants. Many times it is like each of us brings a different ingredient and during the group discussion, we mix, stir and bake these ingredients and we all leave with something much more than what we brought.
Finally at the end of the meeting we pass the hat for donations, discuss any final thoughts and read our closing.
So how will you feel at a meeting? Many new participants tell me they have felt accepted, understood, supported, connected, relieved, calm and leave with a feeling of hope. We accept you, where you are at, and support you in your decisions. We work individually and together to learn new ways of thinking, along with tools to help us abstain from the behavior that has gotten in our way of living a life that we want to live, based upon our own personal values. That, to me, is what SMART is all about; learning how to create an amazing life, one that you wish to live, and overcoming any roadblocks that get in your way.
So don’t be nervous, just take that step and come to a meeting and I am sure you will be glad you made that decision.
To find a meeting in your area, or for information on starting a meeting, please visit SMART Recovery.
Online meetings are also available.