Rational Alternative to “Tough Love”

Posted on March 25, 2014

SMART Tools Help Families & Friends Cope with a Loved One’s Addiction
~Kathy Lang, SMART Recovery Online Facilitator

    “People used to tell me I was enabling my adult son…..and, not helping my own sanity and/or serenity. With the SMART tools and the support of F&F, I’ve changed that, and am able to let him experience the consequences of the way he chooses to live his life. I have to admit, I was also exhausted, angry and resentful, as well…..and, that actually helped me ‘follow through’ and use the Tools and step back out of the way. I’m happy to say that I can see it working a lot of the time…….and I feel better! ~ LYL

    “I am so thankful for this meeting! For the first time I feel like I am actively supported and have some tools to help me CHOOSE. ~Lira Z

SMART Recovery for Family & Friends
These are comments made during Family & Friends (F&F) online meetings. Feedback from participants–parents, spouses, adult children, significant others of all kinds–confirm how SMART Recovery tools for F&F can help a concerned significant other (CSO) learn to more effectively manage their responses to the addiction of a loved one.

SMART F&F meeting facilitator Roxanne Allen says “SMART tools are the centerpiece of the Family & Friends program. Like all SMART meetings, our discussions are not problem-focused, they are solution-focused.”

‘TwoPutts’, one of the first F&F facilitators, says “Since we started the Family & Friends online meetings three years ago, I have watched them grow into a vital element of SMART Recovery. The information in the Family & Friends Handbook, particularly the tools, has proven to be successful in quickly assisting those who had previously found little help in facing their challenging situations.”

As a more recent online meeting facilitator, I discovered fairly quickly that the practical help that SMART tools provide is an important reason for the meetings’ success. Each meeting covers a topic from the Family & Friends Handbook (e.g., Change & Motivation, Inner Dialogue, ABCs of REBT, Positive Communication, Healthy Boundaries, Disabling the Enabling, Trust and Forgiveness, and the Power of Choice).

With each topic we discuss the use of at least one tool. For example, when we talk about Trust and Forgiveness many family members express that they are anxious about the possibility of a lapse or relapse. What if he/she lapses or relapses? What will that mean? What will I do? How will I cope??? With each new question their anxiety escalates. Many find the Family & Friends’ “What If” exercise to be a helpful tool for dealing with this anxiety or FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). The exercise is done on a three column worksheet. The first column is for naming the fear (“I’m afraid that ___ will happen”). The second column turns the fear into a question (“What if ____ does happen?”) The third column is used to identifying a likely response if the feared event were to actually happen. If the participant’s predicted response is a new fear, it is moved onto the next line of the first column, the question “what if that happens?” is asked and a new response is identified. The process is repeated until the participant understands the power that we give fear to control us….and until an effective response to the feared event is determined. Using this tool, participants gain a better understanding of how fear can inappropriately influence their relationship with their loved ones. Additionally, as they determine that they can plan and choose an effective and healthy response to any feared event, they gain a sense of empowerment.

The number of face-to-face SMART meetings for F&F is growing and there are now meetings available in eight states: California(2), Illinois, Kansas, Maryland(4), Massachusetts, New Jersey(2), Ohio(3) and Pennsylvania. If you are interested in learning more about how SMART tools work for F&F, consider attending one of these meetings or one of our two weekly online meetings, Monday at 9 PM and Thursday at 1:30 PM (edst). It may inspire an interest in advocating for a face-to-face F&F meeting in your community, or even motivate you to join the growing number of F&F facilitators yourself.


SMART tools can be used by family members, to better support themselves and their loved one through the change process of addiction recovery. SMART Recovery for Family & Friends is an exciting growth opportunity for those volunteers who are focused on empowering individuals to make healthy decisions. Additional information can be found on the SMART website or by sending an email to family@smartrecovery.org.



2 thoughts on “Rational Alternative to “Tough Love”

  1. Kathleen Nurt

    I am finally ready for some change. I really hope this is what I am looking for. I tried AA and nooooooooooo nooooooooooo nooooooo thank you. It’s too long a laundry list to say why but all my intuitions proved to be well founded in what I was able to find on the internet.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

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