Addiction Recovery Analogy

Posted on January 20, 2015

The Horse and Buggy of SMART Recovery
by Rev Dr Kim Miller, SMART Recovery Facilitator, Australia

First, a story:

Back in the days of the 1930s depression, which saw many people traveling the countryside looking for work, there was a man walking along a back road from one town to the next. He was carrying his stuff in an old bag over one shoulder and was obviously weighed down by it all. A local farmer in a horse and buggy pulled up beside him.

“Like a lift, buddy? Hop up here.”

So the man got up and sat on the seat next to the farmer, his bag of belongings still over one shoulder. After a while the farmer looked over and said to him, “Why don’t you put your stuff down behind the seat? It looks heavy.”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t do that,” said the man. “You’ve been good enough already, giving me a lift and all. I can’t expect you to carry my stuff as well.”

It’s the story of SMART Recovery.

Getting help comes in all shapes and sizes, and happens at different levels. Walking into a SMART Recovery meeting is where we get up on the seat next to the driver. Getting the load off our shoulder is a different level altogether.

It’s possible to sit in a SMART Recovery meeting and say nothing. We have that right and nobody is forced to speak. Most people start slowly because building trust can take time, but long term silence is a different matter.

It’s also possible to speak without saying anything of our own situation. We might find it easier to give advice to another attendee, or speak in generalities or quote other people or use catch-phrases and proverbs that seem to hold a bit of wisdom. There are many ways to talk without saying anything that will promote our recovery.

The important part of SMART Recovery to catch is that at one level we are dealing with our thoughts, feelings and behaviours as an individual – and this is where personal change always happens. At another level, we know that the way into those thoughts, feelings and behaviours is through the guided group conversation of an active SMART Recovery meeting.

When we get up in that farmer’s buggy we can still be carrying our stuff over our shoulder and be reluctant to put it down. Be assured that a SMART Recovery meeting can take the extra weight when we let go our hold of all that stuff.

The irony is that when somebody sits in a SMART Recovery meeting and says little or nothing of their own situation, the other attendees pick up on it. They might not say anything but they notice. And in noticing, they are carrying some part of the weight anyway. Just as when the man sat in the buggy with his stuff over his shoulder, the driver noticed it and the horse up front still felt the weight.

When you walk into a SMART Recovery meeting, give a little thought to the man carrying the bundle of stuff over his shoulder. The story might be enough to encourage you to be a little more open, a little more trusting, and perhaps get you a little further along your road of addiction recovery.


Kim Miller is a departmental prison chaplain in NSW, Australia. He is the department’s only community chaplain, working in a post-release project called Home For Good. The team includes drug and alcohol counselors and Kim joins them in facilitating SMART Recovery meetings. His PhD work involves the psychology of personal growth and transformation and how we become more fully ourselves. Kim enjoys writing and has published several books.

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