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Conquering Addictive Behaviors: The Power of the DEADS Tool in SMART Recovery

In the journey toward recovery from addictive behaviors, individuals often encounter moments of intense urges or cravings that can jeopardize their progress. SMART Recovery, a program that supports individuals in overcoming addictive behaviors through self-empowerment and self-reliance, offers a potent tool known as "DEADs" to effectively manage these urges. This article delves into the DEADs tool, elucidating its components and illustrating its critical role in the path to recovery.


Understanding DEADS

DEADs is an acronym that stands for "Deny," "Escape," "Accept," "Dispute," and "Substitute." This tool is designed to equip individuals with strategies to combat the immediate demands of addictive urges, providing practical steps to diminish their power and influence.

  1. Deny

    The first step involves denying the urge the attention it craves and the power it holds. By refusing to negotiate or engage with the urge, individuals can prevent it from growing stronger. Denying doesn't mean ignoring the urge completely; rather, it's about not giving it the focus that it demands. Techniques can include engaging in a distracting activity or mentally commanding the urge to stop.

  2. Escape

    Sometimes, the most effective way to deal with an urge is to physically remove oneself from the triggering situation or environment. Escape can mean leaving a place, a conversation, or even a particular social setting that exacerbates the urge. By doing so, individuals can significantly reduce the urge's intensity and influence.

  3. Accept

    Acceptance involves acknowledging the presence of the urge without judgment or immediate reaction. Through acceptance, individuals learn that urges are a normal part of the recovery process and that they can be experienced without succumbing to them. Techniques such as mindfulness and meditation can facilitate this acceptance, helping individuals to observe their urges as transient thoughts that do not necessitate action.

  4. Distract

    Do something, anything, that can occupy you for a little while. Many urges don't last more than 5 minutes, with some up to 15 or 30 minutes. If you put your mind to something else, the urge has less oxygen to breathe. Watch a music video, play a game of solitaire, flip through a cookbook, or go for a walk. Call a friend or family member... those 5 minutes will go by faster than you know it.

  5. Substitute

    Swap the voice of the urge with your own rational thoughts. Trade "This urge will kill me" with "I've had urges before, even bad ones, and I'm still here." Substitute feeling isolated and lonely by heading to the coffee shop, gym, or joining a SMART Recovery meeting!

The Role of DEADS in Recovery

The DEADS tool is instrumental in helping individuals navigate the often unpredictable nature of urges experienced during recovery. By offering a structured approach to understanding and responding to these intense feelings, DEADS empowers individuals to take control of their reactions and decisions. It's not about eradicating urges completely; rather, it's about developing a healthy, sustainable way to manage them.


Recovery from addictive behaviors is a journey fraught with challenges, but with tools like DEADS, individuals are better prepared to face these hurdles. DEADS doesn’t just offer a temporary reprieve from urges; it instills a lasting skill set that individuals can rely on throughout their recovery journey. By denying the urge power, escaping triggering situations, accepting the urge without judgment, and disputing irrational beliefs, individuals can reclaim control of their lives and continue steadfastly on their path to recovery. The strength of SMART Recovery lies in these practical, science-based tools, designed to foster self-empowerment and independence in the face of addiction.