5 Tips to Enjoy a Sober Holiday Season

Posted on December 16, 2014

Addiction recovery during the Holidays
by Richard Song

Plan For Holiday Triggers

The holidays can be a particularly difficult time for people new to recovery. The number of challenges to your recovery can be daunting, between family gatherings, parties where alcohol is present, and emotional triggers such as stress and sadness related to past memories. You can build resistance to these triggers by preparing a plan. Here are some general tips that can help those recovering from an addiction through the holidays:

1) Be careful about which events you attend. Avoid those that will be highly tempting and that focus around “using” such as wine tastings and cocktail parties. When you arrive at an event, take note of the potential triggers and come up with a plan that will address each of those triggers – for instance, position yourself away from the bar.

2) Have a backup plan in case the temptation is too strong or you feel uncomfortable at an event. Bring a sober friend who will support you and leave with you if you don’t feel comfortable staying. If you feel comfortable doing so, let the hosts know your situation. That way, you won’t feel like you offended them if you decide to leave early. Continue reading

Holiday Challenges to Addiction Recovery

Posted on December 9, 2014

What’s your plan?

Holiday TemptationDecember is here and opportunities for urges and cravings seem to be everywhere. SMART volunteers have put their heads together to offer some suggestions to help you navigate this month’s challenges.

People who achieve long-term sobriety have three characteristics in common:

They make a firm commitment to abstinence.
They make lifestyle changes to enhance that commitment.
They plan and practice for urges and drinking situations.



Plan, Plan, Plan

The Change Plan Worksheet is an excellent tool to use when preparing for any holiday events that you will be attending over the next few weeks.


Motivation and Commitment

Updating and reviewing your personal Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) and your personal Hierarchy of Values (HOV) prior to an event can serve to remind you of why this plan is important and what you’re trying to accomplish.


Urge Coping

The holidays are prime-time for urges. This is a good time Continue reading

2014 Annual Conference Videos Are Now Online

Posted on December 2, 2014

SMART Recovery Annual ConferenceMissed it? Want to see it again? SMART’s 2014 Annual Conference is now available for viewing online.

Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (Executive Office of the President) kicked off the celebration of SMART’s 20 years with a resounding reminder that the US national drug control policy includes an understanding that “there are multiple pathways to recovery, that there is no silver bullet for overcoming substance use disorders, no single treatment approach or mutual aid pathway that works for all of us”. He went on to thank SMART for helping countless people find and sustain recovery from substance use disorders over the last 20 years and concluded by presenting a letter from President Obama in recognition of SMART’s 20th Anniversary. This is just one of many highlights from this historic event.

SMARTCON 2014 was streamed live over the internet. This was a first for SMART and was made possible by the generous financial support of an anonymous individual who wanted to make the conference available to those who were unable to attend. The presentations were captured on film and are now available online viewing. Topics covered include:

SMART 101: Tom Horvath, President of SMART Recovery

History of the Recovery Movement: William White, Addiction Historian & Recovery Advocate

Tool Training: Jonathan von Breton, Senior SMART Recovery Online Facilitator

Recovery Advocacy: Tom Coderre (SAMHSA), Tom Horvath (SMART), Steve Gumbley (FAVOR), Peter Gaumond (ONDCP)

Review of SMART’s Strategic Plan

Master Facilitator’s Panel

2014 Joe Gerstein Award Presentation

…and more.

These 2014 SMARTCON presentations and others are now available for online viewing.

Said one conference goer: “This was my first in person exposure to SMART Recovery and I’m blown away by how welcoming everyone was and how professional the attendees and speakers are.

We acknowledge and thank the many volunteers in the D.C. area SMART community for their generous contributions of time and assistance and the AV crew at NGH for their hospitality and excellent behind the scenes work that made everything look and work great!


Thank You! We are grateful to our sponsors: Aton Center, Balance Treatment Center, Center for Motivation & Change, Cliffside Malibu, Muscala Chemical Health Clinic, Practical Recovery, St. Gregory Retreat Center and Sunshine Coast Health Center. Continue reading

Celebrate the Holidays Safely, Comfortably, Joyously

Posted on November 25, 2014

Celebrating the Holidays with Recovering Family Members and Friends
Peter Gaumond, Chief, ONDCP Recovery Branch

Holidays in RecoveryThis time each year can be stressful for anyone, but the holidays present a special challenge for people recovering from a substance use disorder. Those in long-term recovery typically are adept at navigating the minefield of temptation at holiday social gatherings. But many of those in their first year of recovery, their friends, and family members wonder how best to celebrate the holidays safely, comfortably, and joyously.

If your festivities will include someone with a year or more in recovery, you may simply want to ask if there is anything you can do to make the holiday better for them. They may want to bring a friend who’s also in recovery. They may have beverage preferences or want the flexibility to step out for a short while, either to attend a mutual aid meeting (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or SMART Recovery), make a call, or Continue reading

Destigmatizing Addiction

Posted on November 18, 2014

What’s In A Name?
~ Brian Sherman, PhD, Center for Motivation and Change


“By continuing to use the term “addict” and “alcoholic,” treatment providers are doing a disservice to their patients and potentially negating progress towards destigmatization and successful long-term treatment.”

The Problem with LabelsWhat’s in a name? Sure, by any other name a rose may smell so sweet, but by any other name would an “addict” feel so stigmatized? Were Shakespeare alive today I would ask that he reconsider his stance. With the gradual pace of change in addiction treatment highlighted by the continued advancement and implementation of evidence-based treatments, why is the field so far behind in not using more clinically appropriate and de-stigmatizing — albeit a bit cumbersome – language such as: “person with a substance use disorder” or “person suffering from addiction”? It has been years now that the field of clinical psychology did away with stigmatizing terms such as “schizophrenic”, “manic-depressive”, or “autistic.” Why then does the field of addiction remain so far behind?

As an addiction psychologist I do not discourage my patients for whom the term “addict” works. If it motivates them to change, fantastic. For many people, the term “addict” is a helpful way of identifying symptoms and issues, and finding a way to connect and bond with others in a healthy way that promotes change. However, when that term creates a prolonged sense of failure or guilt which ultimately may lead to relapse (negative emotions are one of the strongest predictors of relapse) or prevent someone from seeking help in the first place (because they don’t want to accept the label, and the stigma that is associated with it), I question its utility. Continue reading

What to Expect at a SMART Recovery® Meeting

Posted on November 11, 2014

meetingSMART Recovery is a self-empowerment program for people having problems with addictive behavior. We currently sponsor more than 1300 face-to-face addiction recovery meetings around the world, and 30 online meetings per week. When an individual in crisis seeks out a SMART meeting, or a professional refers someone to a meeting, it can be helpful to know what to expect. This post is intended to be a quick primer on the elements of a SMART meeting so that people who are new to attending meetings – either face-to-face or online – know what to expect.

Two things to know: First, meeting facilitators are trained by SMART. Some are people who have participated in the SMART program, some are professionals (eg. counselors or social workers), some are friends or family of those who have used the SMART program, and some are concerned citizens willing to provide a meeting in their community. Continue reading