Ah the SMART Conference this year! This one was quite personal to me, as Cincinnati is my town, so I was just plain excited period. The hotel, super-convenient to the airport, was just lovely. It may have been my favorite of all our hotels (except the one where you can actually sit out on a balcony and overlook the marina. The staff were warm, friendly and SUPER-helpful, and it was just lovely. Extremely conducive to the type of conference we have — people sitting and talking in little groups, comfy chairs and lots of tables and chairs in an open, inviting space. I am seriously going to offer Marriott our compliments and maybe they’ll even give us a bigger discount next time! It was lovely.
At the conference, I helped out a little bit so I wasn’t quite as free to talk as I might have liked, but I really enjoyed being able to help out. I DID, however, manage to visit with a huge number of people here and there — People I already knew and many who I met there for the first time. This is in many ways my favorite part of these conferences, seeing people whose names I might have seen once or twice or someone I’ve chatted with at SMART Online on the message boards or in chat, and getting to meet them in person! I remember my very first conference, I was just bowled over by the kindness, interest, wonderful conversation with such a broad range of people, including some I admired in a pretty awe-struck way (like Tom Horvath, President; Elaine Appel, formerly the SROL Liaison to the Board, Hank Robb, current member, people from teams I participate on — the court team and others … The thing that always strikes me is the overall “feel” of this group. It feels like friends. It feels like family. It’s sort of like going to a family reunion where, instead of the idea that people have changed over a few years, you get to match up the images in your mind about people with their reality! Some people are exactly how I picture them and others are a total surprise. Fun.
On Friday afternoon, as people arrived and began to gather, loads of people got organized for a trip to Newport’s stunning aquarium, situated right on the Ohio River, overlooking Cincinnati’s beautiful skyline. These are always fun, just to be able to laugh and chat in a fun setting like that, and it seemed highly successful. We had a casual dinner, and then we watched a very striking movie, called “The Bu$iness of Recovery”. That movie is definitely worth making it a point to see, and if people are interested in getting a showing going in their area, please contact me, and I’ll put you in touch with the right people. Very moving, and it certainly got conversation going! The filmmaker, Greg Horvath, is a lovely man (no kin to our own Dr. Horvath), and it was a pleasure to have him as a guest, as well. I think everyone was impressed by his passion and knowledge and the quality of what he put together.
Saturday was a whirlwind! We had a full set of speakers and some fascinating presentations, both local and from around the world. Really interesting, and the slides from the presentations are captured HERE: Slideshows. At lunch there was a beautiful cake decorated like the SMART Family & Friends Handbook in exquisite detail (and delicious!)
That evening was the part that held the most meaning for me. We had dinner at the hotel (oh, the food here was fabulous too), and then we had the presentation of the Joseph P. Gerstein Award for Excellence in Service to SMART Recovery. This year’s awardee was Dr. Richard Bozian, who is one of our long-time members of SMART Recovery. He is in his ’90s, and he still has more energy than most people I know (way more than I do!). He has been growing the Cincinnati organization for over 20 years, and the fruits of that labor were well-apparent during the day with the numbers of people from local treatment centers and the numbers and variety of SMART in Cincinnati. The award was a surprise, and the recipient announced by Dr. Bill Abbot and Dr. Joe Gerstein, the Founding President of SMART Recovery. Joe shared some reminiscences (they’ve worked together or over 20 years now), and when Dick joined Joe at the podium and they briefly embraced, well I don’t think I was the only one who got a little weepy. It was a very, very special moment. Being a Cincinnati volunteer and originally a participant, I know first-hand the kindness and depth of caring that Dr. Bozian expresses to everyone he comes into contact with. He is a phenomenal model, as a SMART Volunteer, as a leader, and on how to grow an organization — and he’s one of my favorite people in the whole world.
Sunday started off bright and early with more presentations and a quick auction with lovely gifts, and then people were off! It was a very special conference and I only wish that about 5 times the numbers of people could come to these! I always leave them feeling uplifted, inspired, grateful, and surrounded by support and friendship. It’s quite incredible, and this may have been the best one yet in many ways!
Dee is a SMART volunteer, online and in 3D