SMART Recovery, 12-Step Programs Help Addicts
May 3, 2018 by Ann Wishart

After years of a downward spiral of opioid abuse, of alienating friends and family, of being fired from several jobs and of overdosing three times, Dave concluded he was doomed unless he entered recovery.

After years of a downward spiral of opioid abuse, of alienating friends and family, of being fired from several jobs and of overdosing three times, Dave concluded he was doomed unless he entered recovery.

He contacted a recovery center, went thought withdrawal using prescription Suboxone to quell the urge to use again, found a part-time job and continued group therapy to help him stay straight.

Still estranged from his family, Dave felt overwhelmed on weekends and holidays. His “friends” were still using and he knew they were a bad influence.

Encouraged by his therapist and desperate for social support, Dave finally attended a 12-Step group meeting, scared and sweating.

“Hi. I’m Dave and I’m a heroin addict,” he admitted by way of introduction to the dozen attendees of the Heroin Anonymous meeting.

While Dave is not a real person, his story is based on a real addict’s experience trying to come to terms with the disaster he created and wanted to leave behind for a better life.

12-Step Programs

There is a plethora of informal recovery groups to help addicts of any substance or out-of-control disorder.

Many follow the 12-Step model that originated from the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, in 1935 and is outlined in the Big Book, according to the American Addiction Center website.

The process includes surrendering the addiction, processing the experience and moving forward to new patterns through recognizing the influence of a higher power, often with a religious overtone.

There are dozens of AA meetings held in Geauga County, many in the basement of a church or in a public building and, although addictions are becoming widely accepted as diseases, anonymity is carefully preserved.

Only first names are used and many AA groups welcome other types of addicts, as well.

It is not uncommon for an individual to attend five or more meetings a week at different locations, especially in the early stages of recovery when support is vital to sobriety.

Narcotics Anonymous meetings are held in Chester Township, Chardon and Bainbridge Township, according to the organization’s website, but there are 28 meetings within 20 miles of Chardon, all listed on the online NA map.

During meetings, addicts share their experiences as they work their way through the 12 steps, including any backsliding. Even among those who use Suboxone or VIVITROL to help them stay sober, recidivism is around 50 percent, according to one study, so it is a common topic of discussion.

Heroin Anonymous, for people whose opioid/opiate addiction has led them to injecting heroin, was formed in 2004 in Phoenix and also follows the AA model with dependence on a higher power for abstinence.

SMART Recovery

Anonymity is preserved at meetings of Self-Management And Recovery Training groups. Attendance is not taken and last names are unknown, said Rodd Allwood, SMART Recovery volunteer and a national coordinator at the Mentor office.

There are three SMART group meetings — one in Mentor at 7304 Mentor Avenue Suite F and two in Cleveland — where recovering addicts from Geauga County are welcome.

The meetings are different from AA in that a trained facilitator helps those attending through Rational Emotive Behavior Training, according to the SMART website.

Allwood, 71, was a facilitator for 10 years before recently retiring and said the tone of the meeting is different than at an AA meeting.

“A facilitator gets people to talk. We facilitate — we don’t lecture at the meeting,” he said. “We influence people to start thinking for themselves.

The SMART philosophy doesn’t center on a higher power, but on an addict’s ability to learn to handle their emotions and life.

The key areas of awareness and change addicts are taught to embrace are enhancing motivation, refusing to act on their urges to use drugs, managing their lives’ problems in a sensible and effective way without substances and developing a positive, balanced and healthy lifestyle, according to the website.

“SMART Recovery meetings are serious, but often fun. We’re certainly not into drunkalogues (war stories), sponsors and meetings-for-life.  We don’t dredge up the past about which you can do nothing.

“We can do something about the present and the future,” the website states.

Individuals who have problems with drinking and using drugs are welcome to work through their difficulties in recovery and to help others in the groups do so, as well, according to the website.

For more information, call Christi Farmer at 440-951-5357.

Ravenwood Mental Health Center is trying to start a SMART Recovery group in Geauga County.

Below are links to resources with “find a meeting” tabs: