Recovery program expands options

  • People stop at a memorial wall dedicated to 288 lives lost to drug and alcohol related incidents during the first annual We Believe in Recovery Rally at the State House Plaza in Concord on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) ELIZABETH FRANTZ—ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/29/2016 10:59:33 PM

For those struggling with addiction, detoxing from drugs and alcohol is just the beginning.

Maintaining sobriety takes a lifetime of work, but for decades, the options for those in long-term recovery were limited to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, two spiritually based programs.

Now, in addition to those 12-step programs, there are other recovery options, including Self Management and Recovery Training, also known as SMART.

SMART recovery has only been available in New Hampshire for about two years, with meetings in Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Exeter.

“I think it adds to the options, now there’s starting to be a lot more talk that there’s many paths to recovery,” said Kathy Beggins, who facilitates SMART meetings in Exeter. “I think it’s absolutely important to have all different types of recovery options for people.”

Beggins and others attend SMART meetings because they want an alternative to 12-step programs.

Beggins said she joined SMART years ago in her home state of Ohio because she was seeking group meetings that were more flexible. Rather than going every day, she wanted to learn ways to manage her recovery at home as she was taking care of her children.

“I tried to go to AA, and I just didn’t feel it was for me,” she said. “I wanted to learn different tools and change my thinking about alcohol.”

A lot of people attend once or twice a week, according to Chuck Novak, the Manchester SMART facilitator.

“It’s based on their time,” he said. There are also online components to the program; for instance, an online chatroom for people who need support when there’s no meeting available.

Though it carries the same goal as 12-step programs, SMART differs in a number of ways.

Novak describes the program as a secular support group that doesn’t emphasize reliance on a “higher power” to get clean and sober.

“We don’t believe spirituality is a necessary component to behavior change,” Novak said. Still, he said there are SMART participants who are very spiritual or religious.

There are also plenty of SMART participants who continue to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

While SMART’s meetings are confidential, they are not centered on the principle of anonymity, Novak said.

SMART participants don’t use the word “addict” in meetings and don’t count the days or months participants have been sober, like 12-step members do.

“You kind of don’t count time,” Beggins said.

There are four points to SMART recovery: building and maintaining motivation; controlling urges; managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors; and living a balanced life.

The methods of the programs are different, too. First of the 12 steps in Alcoholics Anonymous is for people to admit they are powerless over substances and build their recovery from that point. SMART recovery instead shifts the focus to personal choice.

While Novak understands addiction is a complex issue, he believes people make choices to use substances. Therefore, he believes that with the right support, they can make the choice to stop using.

“We believe in self-empowerment,” Novak said, adding that the organization’s tagline is “discover the power of choice.”

SMART Recovery support groups include people who are taking medication-assisted treatments such as methadone and suboxone, and don’t put as much of an emphasis on coming into support groups completely sober.

Manchester facilitator Frank “Footloose” Staples said the goal of the program is to help people manage their addiction and reduce harm, rather than expecting participants to be sober the minute they walk in the door.

Staples said one of the tools he uses to control an urge is to remind himself that the urge is just a thought and it will subside eventually.

He said SMART has helped him in multiple aspects of his life, in addition to substance abuse.

“It’s really about putting in the work for yourself,” he said. “It’s all about change, we all make choices.”

The group currently hosts meetings in the Hope for New Hampshire Recovery building in Manchester and in Concord Hospital; it also plans to host more meetings in Hope for NH Recovery’s new Concord location on South State Street.

For more information, visit smartrecoverynh.org. For information on other recovery resources, visit hopefornhrecovery.org/resources.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)




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