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Shari from SMART Recovery Here...

Started by Shari, June 07, 2011, 11:45:44 AM

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Good Tuesday morning!

I am delighted to be joining you as a guest, and genuinely appreciate the invitation to do so!  (I'm a bit of a message board novice, so if I do anything incorrectly, don't hesitate to advise.)

I very much look forward to sharing information about SMART Recovery with you.  Before doing so, I think I'll focus this first post on the importance of choice in recovery programs.  SMART Recovery believes that individuals should be aware of all of their recovery program choices, then free to select the program that best matches their needs and beliefs.

You're likely aware of the existence of AA/NA.  Both are excellent programs that help many.  In addition, there are several other secular programs, including Women for Sobriety (WFS), Secular Organization for Sobriety (SOS), LifeRing, and SMART Recovery.  Each program has merit and I'd suggest that you do a bit of research as to which program may be best for you.  A rather simple/effective way to learn more about the programs is a fabulous book by Anne Fletcher called Sober for Good:New Solutions for Drinking Problems - Advice from Those Who Have Succeeded.  Each program is featured and has what Anne refers to as a "master" -- someone who has achieved sobriety for 5+ years using the program. It provides an excellent overview of each of the programs.

We are in the midst of a rather severe thunderstorm, so I think I'll get this posted before we have any power issues!  I very much look forward to answering questions, and I'll plan to share more specifically about SMART Recovery in future posts. 

Again, thanks for the invitation to participate, and I very much look forward to our communications.

SMART Recovery


Welcome Shari!

We have a members' photo thread somewhere :)
Ignoring composer and wilson is key to understanding the ontological unity of the material world.


Welcome to the forum!

I have a 'friend' that believes AA is the only way to cure Alcoholism as that is how he succeeded himself, he dismisses other methods and has even accused alcoholics that have given up through willpower alone as not being true alcoholics in the first place. Now this is clearly not constructive advice as like you said, different methods suit different people. Do you have a link to some alternative methods for me to send him to perhaps open his horizons? I think this is the only way he'll become fully educated as I believe his advice is quite poisonous.

Abdullah: You got me wrong, I'm not the Eel, I'm the one trying to prove to you that Eels are not Atheists.


What would you say is different about SMART Recovery as compared to the other programs you mention? Do you think you have a Unique Selling Point, as it were?

Edited to add: Welcome, and thank you for your time.  ||smiley||
I'm not signing anything without consulting my lawyer.


Thanks so much for coming here shari.

On this board, dedicated to religion and philosophy we have
- at least one current member who has succeeeded using AA
- several people who have suffered from dealing with alcoholics in their families
- a lot of users who quit addictions cold turkey
- and a few who used "rational recovery" to quit drugs.
- we have several people dealing with a current additiction with varying degrees of success.

One of my best friends is on the brink. He is currently taking medication to make him sick when he drinks. It calms his nerves and his marriage has gone to hell. (In his case, marriage going to hell and him losing his ability to earn income properly occurred first. The drinking to "calm his nerves" came after. Naturally each of the problems feeds into the others. His earning was the reason his wife had concerns and his problem with her fed in to his ability to spend time with his clients and perform as a sales guy, this failure to perform well caused him to get dumped by his company which made things worse with the wife, etc, etc.)
"Re: Why should any Black man have any respect for any cop?
Your question is racist. If the police behave badly then everyone should lose respect for those policemen.", Happy Evolute


Shari, welcome to the forum!   ||smiley||

I'm interested in the 'definition' of an addict.  I read an interesting article a few years back that suggested an alcoholic was someone who needed to drink, even if it was only one drink a day - if they had to have it, it was an addiction.  How does SMART Recovery define someone who needs their help?
"Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill."


Would you class alcoholism as a disease? as this seems to be a debatable grey area. If Alcoholism is a disease then wouldn't that make all other forms of addiction diseases too?
Abdullah: You got me wrong, I'm not the Eel, I'm the one trying to prove to you that Eels are not Atheists.


Hi Shari. I'm very glad you have agreed to visit us  ||smiley||

I hear people arguing over the different recovery program available, and sometimes people can become very attached to the one that worked for them. But it seems to me that there must be common ground between the different recovery programs as well - principles that it is agreed are important. If that is the case, could you talk about what some of those principles are?


Wow, lots of replies already!  Let me try to answer some of the above-noted questions.

I think when someone is successful with a program, they may be of the mindset that "this works for me so it should work for all".  Not sure if you'll be able to change the thinking of the person who believes AA is the only way, but making the person aware that others have benefited equally via other programs is at least a start.  I've had the pleasure to work for SMART Recovery for 17 years.  I've witnessed many changed lives.  I obviously think it's a terrific program.  But it may not be the best fit for everyone out there.

Here are some links to the other groups I mentioned:
Women for Sobriety:
SMART Recovery:

In encourage you to visit each site, as I'm not expert in each of their programs, but I do interact with the Exec. Directors of those organizations to try to collaborate and help the world to become aware of alternatives.

How does SMART Recovery differ, i.e., what's our selling point?  SMART Recovery offers a 4-Point Program:

1 Motivation to Change
2. Coping with Urges
3. Managing Thoughts, Feelings & Behavior (problem solving)
4. Balancing Momentary and Enduring Satisfactions (lifestyle balance)

For each of the points we have a variety of tools.  (I'll get more into the program in later posts.) 

Thanks for the info regarding the readership here -- that's very helpful.  Some of you have recovered without a program, at least one recovered via AA or other programs, etc.  And, some of you may be seeking help on behalf of a loved one.  SMART Recovery has a message board forum for Concerned Significant Others, and we offer an online Family & Friends meeting every Monday night at 9 PM Eastern.  Our program for loved ones shares the SMART Recovery tools, as well as information about CRAFT, as well as using the book Get Your Loved One Sober, Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening.  Here's a link to our webpage with a bit more info about our Family & Friends outreach:

Regarding a definition of an addict, I'm not a treatment professional, but I'm sure that there's a "standard definition" out there somewhere.  We don't use the term addict or alcoholic, but focus on changing an individual's behavior.  So, we anticipate when someone seeks out the SMART Recovery program, that they are aware of the fact that their addictive behavior is creating an issue for them, and we have tools to help them alter their behaviors to attain lifestyle balance.

Is alcoholism a disease?  Ah, that one could be argued for decades! :)  SMART Recovery takes the following position:  "SMART Recovery tools can help you regardless of whether or not you believe addiction is a disease."  We have found that approximately 1/2 of our participants believe it's a disease, the other 1/2 don't, but all need to alter their behavior regardless of their belief regarding disease.

I'm not sure if it would be better to try to reply to individual questions, or to respond to all as I tried to do here? (And if I missed something, holler!)



It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.
-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "Which Way?" (1884)

Former Believer

Duplicate post.
Don't sacrifice your mind at the altar of belief


Just Myron, good question.  What is the common ground?  While programs vary based on the approach to the help offered, I think the common ground lies in the fact that each organization is truly committed to helping people overcome their addictive behaviors.  And I do think people are inclined to believe that what worked for me would work for everyone.  But, the best outcomes are achieved when the individual can select the program that meets their needs and beliefs.  Fortunately, I believe that every program out there is dedicated to helping people, so I think I'd suggest that as the common ground.  I don't view this as a competition, I view it as saving and improving lives, and I know the individuals I work with at the other organizations I mentioned view it that way as well.



Thanks for the replies, Shari, most interesting.
Abdullah: You got me wrong, I'm not the Eel, I'm the one trying to prove to you that Eels are not Atheists.

Former Believer

Didn't see this thread!  I started another one.  Oh well...carry on!
Don't sacrifice your mind at the altar of belief


Do you think that addicts can successfully  decide to cut down rather than stop completely for the time being (perhaps with a view to stopping completely later on)?

Is it in some cases dangerous to stop abusing a substance suddenly without some form of prescribed drug to assist?
I'm not signing anything without consulting my lawyer.

Former Believer

Duplicate post.
Don't sacrifice your mind at the altar of belief


If I posted in the wrong place, my apologies!  It does seem the thread is being found! 

One other interesting tidbit.  There are a number of people who attend both AA and SMART Recovery meetings.  Some might think "no way -- they're too different".  While AA views individuals as powerless, SMART focuses on self-management, and while AA has a large spiritual component, SMART doesn't have a spiritual component to the program, but allows individuals to practice their faith/beliefs as they choose.  So, moral of the story is that while it may seem to some impossible, people attend both and take what they can use from each program.  And that's a beautiful thing!  (Sort of promotes the idea of many roads to recovery.)


 ||welcome|| Shari and thank you for popping in.

Looking forward to reading more of your comments.
"Dont try to fix me, I'm not broken"


Cutting down vs. stopping completely.  A couple of comments on that.  Many people, when they come to SMART Recovery, are unsure if abstinence is what they are seeking.  A number of tools we use for Point #1, such as a Cost/Benefit Analysis, Hierarchy of Values, and reviewing the Stages of Change can help people determine the best way forward for them.  SMART Recovery is an abstinence based program, so if the person determines that they choose abstinence, it's a great way forward.  However, there's another program that I failed to mention, which is really helpful for those who choose to moderate vs. abstain.  It's called Moderation Management, and can be found here:

There are also times when it's highly appropriate for people to seek medical assistance if they're planning to abstain.  As you note, withdrawal can be dangerous. 


Former Believer, I hope everyone clicks on that link where you provided that wonderful introduction.  Very inspirational!  Thanks so much.

(Glad I admitted up front that I'm a novice message board user.)   ||wink||


I'm sure your primary concern in the harmful behavior itself, but how do you point people toward becoming aware of bases for problem behavior that need to be addressed once the person is recovering from the primary problem?
The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do-  Kerouac

Former Believer

Quote from: Shari on June 07, 2011, 01:00:16 PM
If I posted in the wrong place, my apologies!  It does seem the thread is being found! 

Yes, and I'm glad you're getting such a terrific response.  Following is the introduction that I provided on the other thread.  I think it gives some context for your visit.  I'll ask that forum management shut that thread down and leave the one that you started open.

Shari Allwood, Executive Director of SMART Recovery for the past 17 years, has agreed to join the forum to discuss SMART's methodology for dealing with substance abuse issues.  SMART is not a 12 step program.  It places responsibility on individuals to make self directed changes in their behaviors and lifestyles.

Substance abuse costs the US economy billions of dollars every year; in fact, according to one recent estimate by former Health, Education, and Welfare Secretary, Joseph Califano, the cost to the US economy is a staggering one trillion dollars per year. 

The economic numbers, however, do not tell the story of the sad loss of lives and potential due to people who struggle with addictions.  I imagine that every member of the forum has at least once close friend or relative who has suffered tremendous harm due to drinking, drugging, or smoking. 

I am one such person. From ages 21-42, I abused alcohol, and during the last 5 years of my abuse, a serious drug.  I was arrested 6 times, racked up an $85,000 debt to the IRS (which I am still paying off).  I lost numerous jobs due to my abuse, was physically assaulted and robbed numerous times, squandered tens of thousands of dollars, was homeless (lived in my car and an office),  destroyed relationships, harmed others, and lost the prime years of my life.  One year, when I made over $90,000, my problem was so bad that I actually would end up begging for quarters so I could by Ramen noodles until my next paycheck.  Which, of course, I would blow.

In 2004, I finally kicked my habit.  I did so with no help whatsoever, other than my own motivation and determination.

However, NHP (No Higher Power) self-help organizations have played a role in my recovery.  Circa 1990, an old girlfriend threatened to end our relationship unless I got help.  I went to an outpatient program in Evanston, IL where attending self help meetings were required as part of the program.  And by self help, they meant AA.  Due to the spirituality of AA, I strongly resisted.  One counselor was adamant that I attend AA, seeing it as more or less the proven way to deal with addictions.  However, the other counselor was more sympathetic to my strong resistance.  She did some research and located a group called Rational Recovery.

When I attended my first meeting, it was as if a tremendous weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.  The people there thought like I did....that' I wasn't powerless over my addiction and that I could choose to take control of my life.  The meetings were more informal and interactive than AA--something that appealed to me as well.  I was given a copy of the Small Book written by Jack Trimpey, the founder of Rational Recovery.  As I read, the words completely resonated with me.  These people and this philosophy were really good fits for me.  I felt free and comfortable.

Circa 1995, the founder of Rational Recovery, Jack Trimpey, abandoned group meetings and REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy based on the teachings of Albert Ellis) in favor of making a one-time commitment to sobriety and the use of AVRT (Addiction Voice Recognition Technique).  SMART Recovery essentially picked up where Trimpey left off. 

There has been a fair deal of discussion on this forum as to how "real alcoholics" can change their behaviors.  Many people are familiar with 12 steps, and certainly we have one strong advocate of that philosophy here on this forum.  My hope is that Shari Allwood's appearance here helps shed some light on some alternative ways of handling substance abuse problems.

With that, I'd like to thank Shari for her gracious willingness to share her expertise with us.  I now open the floor to her to make and introductory statment.  After than, please feel free to ask her anything you like about SMART.
Don't sacrifice your mind at the altar of belief


Quote from: nateswift on June 07, 2011, 01:11:58 PM
I'm sure your primary concern in the harmful behavior itself, but how do you point people toward becoming aware of bases for problem behavior that need to be addressed once the person is recovering from the primary problem?

Let me try this "quote" thing, so everyone's aware I'm replying to nateswift.  If I misinterpret your question, don't hesitate to set me straight. I think what you're suggesting is that often there are things in life that led the person to turn to drugs or alcohol, and that simply giving up the drugs/alcohol won't resolve the full issue.  And, you're quite correct.  The SMART Recovery program uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, and Motivational Enhancement Techniques.  As the person uses the program and tools, they will be encouraged to change their thinking in order to alter their behavior.  Point 3 of the program, is managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors (problem solving).  So, the individual would be encouraged to view those things that they believe caused or allowed them to turn to drink/drug, and rationalize them.  Someone mentioned a friend who turned to drinking based on financial and marital issues.  Simply stopping drinking won't automatically fix those two other issues, which also need to be addressed.  And the program tools would help the individual to do so.  Does that help?


Following on from your reply to nateswift, there are also going to be problems that may not have existed before things got out of control. For example someone may now have criminal convictions, money problems, no job, no spouse, estranged family etc etc. As well as encouraging the person to alter their behaviour do you have links with organisations that can provide practical help with things like finding a job? I am supposing that mainstream employers are not necessarily all that keen on taking on a newly recovered addict with criminal convictions but assume that there must be those who are more sympathetic.
I'm not signing anything without consulting my lawyer.


FGOH, while our primary mission is to help people overcome their addictive behavior, we try to provide some special events with speakers to address specific topics.  In Dec/Jan of last year, we ran a 6-week online employment workshop.  It wasn't specific to match people with existing jobs, but to help people overcome procrastination, deal with the emotional upsets being out of work and experiencing financial distress can bring, etc.  It was very well received, and transcripts of the sessions are available on our message boards.  And, we're in the midst of hosting an online series on "The Anatomy of Emotions".  The first workshop was an overview, and the 2nd was on Fear and Anger.  We have just begun recording and providing podcasts of these series, which are available here:

BTW, for those of you who have a friend or loved one struggling with an addiction, check out the podcast with Dr. Robert Meyers where he joined one of the Monday night F&F meetings.


Quote from: Shari on June 07, 2011, 01:04:34 PM
However, there's another program that I failed to mention, which is really helpful for those who choose to moderate vs. abstain.  It's called Moderation Management, and can be found here:

Wow...that is interesting info. Something I never would have guessed. No questions yet, as the ones I was planning on asking have already been asked. :)
I am me, if you dont like it, tough luck!


This evening (Tuesday, 6/7) at 9 PM Eastern time, Dr. Tom Horvath, President of SMART Recovery will be interviewed on blogtalkradio.  I'm not sure precisely what Monica's questions will be, but you're all invited to join in!  Here's a link that includes the call in number, etc.:   (I hope I did that link correctly.)

Mooby the Golden Sock

History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man.--BÖC


I can confirm that the link seems to be working on this side of the pond also!

"Dont try to fix me, I'm not broken"

Maggie the Opinionated

This is probably a stupid question but do you think morbid obesity falls into (or can fall into) the addictive behavior category? I don't mean people with 15 or 30 or so pounds extra. I mean those who are supersized 300 lbs and more who seem to use food the way others might use alcohol. Needless-to-say I ask because I know someone in that category and have often wondered what might help. I also know 3 people who have had gastric by-pass surgery and, after losing tons of weight, gained it all back because of relentless eating.