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Charles Novak, MS, MLADC, learned about rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) while in prison. The approach to overcoming addiction made sense to him, but when his five-year sentence ended, Novak discovered there wasn’t a similar treatment readily available. “There only seemed to be 12-step programs,” he recalls. While studying to be an addictions counselor, he learned more about SMART Recovery. And it really clicked. 

“I didn’t like the idea of powerlessness [with 12-step programs],” Novak says. He learned as much as he could about SMART Recovery, even talking at length with founding president, Dr. Joe Gerstein, about the program. A few years later, Novak brought the program to the detox center where he was working.  

In 2014, Novak started the first SMART Recovery meetings in New Hampshire. In six years, the state has grown to offer 31 meetings. “I didn’t just want to bring meetings to the state,” he says, “I wanted to change the language in recovery. It’s not just AA and NA but also SMART.” 

Novak currently serves as the New Hampshire and Vermont Regional Coordinator for SMART Recovery, facilitating meetings, training facilitators, making presentations, and managing the New Hampshire operations of SMART Recovery, including meetings for Family & Friends. He has been able to successfully use the SMART program in his reentry work and continually engages with county facilities to make SMART a viable option for reentry and addiction recovery.  

“I like talking about the growth of the program,” Novak says. “It has changed the vernacular here, and that’s rewarding.” 

Novak is also intent on enlightening the public about SMART Recovery as a tool for more than just alcohol and drugs. “Gaming and gambling are among other addictions that can be addressed by a program, like SMART Recovery, that focuses on changing your thinking and behaviors” he says. 

Being a meeting facilitator and regional coordinator is a lot of work, especially when you are employed full-time. For Novak, bringing SMART Recovery to the forefront is worth the effort. “We dedicate our time and treasure,” he says of SMART volunteers. “I kind of like that.” 

Thank you Charles for continuing to to share SMART in your community.


About the 25 in 25 Volunteer Recognition Program

SMART Recovery celebrates its extraordinary community of volunteers who have built a worldwide organization devoted to supporting individuals recovering from addiction and their family members and friends. These volunteers include addiction scientists and treatment professionals who designed a self-empowering 4-Point Program® and joined people with the experience of recovery and trained them to lead mutual support group meetings.

Together they have created and refined a peer-professional mutual-support group model that combines the best science for treating addiction with the lived experience of recovering from addiction – the world’s largest and only community of this kind with thousands of group meetings around the world. Each year, participants in these groups help each other recover in-person and online and online meetings led by volunteers trained how to use the SMART program.

Click here to learn more about the program and to see all who have been recognized.

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