A Diverse and Welcoming Support Community
Rob Freundlich, SMART Recovery Meeting Facilitator
When I recognized and accepted my sex-related addiction in March 2015 (2 1/2 years ago), I started looking for resources to help in my recovery. I knew that in addition to a good therapist, I would need at least one good group. For various reasons, the 12-step approach didn’t appeal to me, so I looked for alternatives, and ended up finding SMART Recovery.
From the website, I learned that SMART emphasizes personal choice and empowerment, and uses a rational thought-based approach toward recovery It’s backed by scientific research and updated as new research and discoveries are made. On the site I also found a lot of information about the organization, detailed information about the program (including “how-to” pages), and an amazing amount of reading material about addiction and recovery in general.
For a science-minded person like me, who’d always thought I was very logical and rational but was mystified and frustrated at how illogical, irrational, and powerless this addiction had made me, it seemed like a great fit. The only catch was that even though the site talked about addiction in general, the materials seemed to focus an awful lot on substance addiction (primarily drinking). Would I fit in?
More importantly, would I be welcome? At the time, I had a tremendous amount of shame – more than most people with addictions because mine was … you know … SEX!
I walked into that first meeting very tentatively, but resolved to stay. The facilitators recognized that I was new and made me feel very welcome, as did the people I sat next to. At the start of the meeting, there was a “check-in” – people saying their name, why they were there, and a little bit about what was going on with them at the time. My turn came, and I looked down at the table, with a knot in my gut, and said “Hi, I’m Rob. I’m a sex addict. This is my first meeting.” and talked a bit about how I’d come to be there …
From around the table came a chorus of “Welcomes” and “We’re glad you found us”s and so on. The facilitator said “Thank you for sharing – if it’s OK, we’d like to come back to you after check-in and hear more about your story.”
I’ve been going back to that meeting, 1 or 2 times per week, ever since.
I have learned that I am not an addict – I have an addiction.
I have learned to use numerous tools (thought/writing exercises) to help me motivate myself to change, to deal with challenging urges, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and to live a balanced life. I use these tools every day, not only in relation to my addiction, but in other areas of my life.
I have learned to stop using self-defeating and self-limiting language and instead use language that reinforces my power of choice in my life.
I have learned to notice when I am thinking in irrational ways and how to challenge that thinking and turn it into rational thoughts.
I have learned how to safely be vulnerable.
I have learned how to get back up when I fall.
I have found a community of people who are genuine, honest, and caring, and I’ve made some very good friends.
I have stayed sober/clean/unusing/whatever term you want.
I’m not going to say that SMART Recovery did this for me or to me, because that’s not the case. I did this. But I did it in large part because of SMART Recovery, because of what I learned through SMART Recovery.
One final note. SMART Recovery meetings are facilitated by volunteers, not medical professionals. Many facilitators are people people like myself who have gone through recovery. I have such respect for this organization and gratitude for what it has helped me to do that this summer I decided to take the online training class to become a facilitator. I am proud to have done so and to be able to give something back to this incredible organization.
Rob Freundlich is a software developer in the greater Boston metropolitan area. He has been attending SMART Recovery meetings at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA since early 2015 and recently completed the Get SMART FAST training and began facilitating a meeting at Emerson.