- ‘Anonymous’ Meetings
1. Highly Accessible Meetings
‘Anonymous’ Programs are offered globally today. A Google search for Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholic Anonymous Programs near your location provides hundreds of meeting schedules. Some meetings are open, anyone can attend, and others are closed, only those with a drinking (A.A.) or drug (N.A.) problem who have the desire to quit can attend.
2. 12-Step Based
All Anonymous programs are structured around completing 12 Steps. Newcomers are encouraged to find a ‘sponsor’ within the program to provide guidance while completing the steps. These meetings serve as a great place to familiarize yourself with the Anonymous programs method to recovery and to meet other people with a desire to quit and a will to recover. However, if not taken seriously, these meetings may also become a haven for meeting other drug users to use with.
3. Free, Donations Accepted
Meetings are free so you lose nothing if you decide the program is not for you. A basket is passed around for donations, but do not feel obligated to give immediately. The speaker should explain the basket and what the funds are used for. The Anonymous fellowship is huge and, if you find the right meetings, a good sponsor, and put the work in, chances of recovery are high.
- S.M.A.R.T. Programs
1. Lower Accessibility/ Online Meetings Available
S.M.A.R.T. Recovery meetings are offered in certain cities, but, unfortunately, there is not nearly as many meetings offered as Anonymous. However, S.M.A.R.T. meetings are offered online, which is especially convenient if no meetings are offered in your area. To find online meetings, visit www.smartrecovery.org. Check out a newcomer meeting to gain a better understanding of what this program is all about.
2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Based
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training and the program is cognitive behavioral based. SMART recovery handbooks and workbooks can be purchased online, and you can work through the program at your own pace. I found this program to be very helpful when I was fresh out of the inpatient ‘bubble.’ Lessons are based in scientific study of the psyche, focusing on topics such as instant gratification and long-term fulfillment. Workbook exercises encourage goal setting and identifying triggers, urges and craving. After studying the program, I gained a deeper understanding of why I use drugs and what I can do to prevent future use.
- Conflict between 12-Step and CBT Based Programs
Some S.M.A.R.T. Recovery lessons are in direct conflict with the 12 steps. For example, SMART recovery discourages labeling oneself an addict, whereas Anonymous meetings open with each person in attendance introducing themselves as an addict. S.M.A.R.T. recovery does not bring in religion to recovery, whereas Anonymous encourages members to identify a higher power of their choosing
Occasionally, you will hear someone introduce themselves as a ‘recovering drug user’ at the beginning of an Anonymous meeting. Usually, that person is also affiliated with a group like SMART recovery and Identifying as a recovering user, as opposed to an addict, avoids labeling. Each program has cons, but marrying both programs, allows you to take advantage of double the pros!
Message to those seeking help for a loved one: It takes a strong commitment on behalf of the drug user to seek out a meeting and keep coming back. Drug users seeking recovery usually benefit from direction and structure in the early stages of recovery. They must express, for him or herself, a will to find a sponsor or mentor, complete step working guides or workbook activities, and study materials without the schedule a curriculum provides. I suggest using these programs as maintenance tools after completing either inpatient or outpatient treatment.