anti AA

Differences and Similarities Between SMART Recovery & Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

My previous post about the Huff Post hit piece on AA has made me start reading more about the different alcohol recovery programs. I have all the respect for AA and its fellowship, but it was written in 1937 without the benefit of the last 70 years of major research and groundbreaking work in addiction. As with many recovering persons, I have issues with its over-spiritual and blind-faith-in-God approach.

The one program which has really caught my eye is SMART Recovery which is based in rational emotive behavior therapy. I doubt that SMART has the peer and fellowship power of Alcoholics Anonymous (or maybe it does?), but its principles really appeal to me:

  • Completely accept that you are fallible. Your fallibility includes thinking in a manner that greatly hinders you in your individual pursuits and in relating to people with whom you live, work, and associate.
  • Intensely focus on eliminating your emotional upsets quickly (as soon as they occur) and regularly (several times a week). Follow this practice to give yourself more freedom from self-defeat and toward happiness.
  • Forgive yourself your mistakes. You will make many of them. Practice effective self-help techniques and you will eventually improve your behaviors and your abilities to change. Tolerate others’ shortcomings and forgive their mistakes. Keep your friendships even with their problems, because you won’t find any that do not have them.
  • Accept that you are a creature who thrives on happiness, delight, joy, and love, and work to develop your ability to find and achieve these in as many ways as you can.
  • Accept yourself with your mistakes and shortcomings.
  • Work and practice, and you will eventually improve your abilities to change.
  • Absorb yourself in a long-term interest that brings you happiness.

Here is another very nice summary of the SMART program in comparison to AA. SMART Recovery emphasizes personal choice and responsibility for one’s actions. It is up to each addict to determine what is best for him or her, not have the choice forced upon him or her. This point is in particularly strong contrast with AA’s emphasis on “powerless.” Rather, SMART believes strongly in rational analysis leading to freedom for the individual and his or her empowerment through self-knowledge leading to control over one’s decisions.

This notion really appeals to me because one of the things I would do without is AA’s take-it-or-leave-it approach. While I may be “powerless” over alcohol when I drink it, I am not powerless over my choice to seek sobriety and not drink alcohol for that day. That is my choice over which only I have the power. I decide the choices I make in my recovery. Not AA, not a Higher Power, not my sponsor, not anyone else.

SMART also has a huge library of “homework” assignments and workshops, again, which greatly appeals to my rational and intellectual side. I actually did a lot of this type of work while at the Hazelden Recovery Program. Anyways, I’m considering checking out a local SMART meeting. This would essentially be to “add value” to my recovery, not to replace AA or anything. I may like it or hate it. Who knows? Can’t hurt right?

Anyone have experience with SMART Recovery? I would love to hear your thoughts and experience.

One day at a time…




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