SMART Recovery meetings: What to expect

Looking to attend one of your first SMART Recovery® meetings? SMART Recovery Facilitator Patrick Garnett describes what happens during meetings here.

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What does a SMART Recovery meeting look/feel like?

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 (why do I do drugs?),  with drinking (is my drinking a problem?), or another type of behavior, such as gambling.  While you 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 meeting. First, you will be greeted with a smile, a welcome, and usually given a few pages that explains SMART, from the volunteer facilitator.

The SMART meetings last anywhere from 60-90 minutes, are free (donations accepted) and 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 start with someone reading the Group Welcome which gives you a quick overview and then we being 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 can always just pass and listen.

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 Irrational Self-talk Awareness & Refusal Method), Role-playing and 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 each person own values. That, to me, is what SMART is all about; learning how to create an amazing life, one that you wish to live, and remove 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.


About the author
SMART Recovery® offers free, self-empowering, science-based mutual help groups for abstaining from any substance or activity addiction. SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training. The SMART Recovery 4-Point Program helps people recover from all types of addictive behaviors, including alcohol, drugs, substance abuse, gambling addiction, and addiction to other substances and activities. SMART Recovery currently offers more than 650 face-to-face meetings around the world, and more than 16 online meetings per week, including a weekly online meeting for Family & Friends. Phone: 866-951-5357 OR 440-951-5357
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