Remembering SMART Facilitator Paul Horvath

Paul Horvath 9/19/1957 – 6/3/2018

As a facilitator, you have the opportunity to empower everyone that walks into your meeting; you may be the person who changes their life. As it often happens, we don’t always hear about the impact someone has had on our lives, until they are no longer present. I’m not sure if this is necessarily the case with Paul Horvath, I imagine many people praised this man while he was with us, but I still wanted to write about Paul in order to illustrate the impact facilitators have on those who attend their meetings.

Paul facilitated SMART Recovery meetings in Arvada, Colorado. I had the pleasure of working with Paul in Choice in Recovery, an organization that advocates for the many pathways to recovery. Paul was our go-to SMART Recovery representative for all events. Paul brought humor to our panel, he brought direct feedback, and he brought his full self. He also brought his SMART Recovery shirt, despite all of my requests for business attire… At the end of our events, I always received amazing feedback on, “That SMART Recovery guy, he was my favorite!”

Paul was more than a panel participant for me though; he was my go-to for all new ideas, he was the one that I called when I needed feedback. Paul always tore my ideas apart in the most loving way possible; he wanted Choice to succeed so he asked all of the questions I didn’t know the answers to. Most importantly, Paul was always there. Every time I called Paul with a future event I’d get something like, “You know I’m there baby! Just tell me when and where!”

Paul unexpectedly passed in 2018; he died of a heart attack while riding his dirt bike with his son. Paul went doing the thing he loved. Below, are words of just a few of the people that were impacted by Paul’s leadership within SMART Recovery. He impacted many lives and his impact will continue to ripple through communities.

Thank you Paul for all of your generosity. You gave yourself to so many of us.

“Paul facilitated the first SMART meeting I attended, when I was feeling so broken and lost. He was there to help put me together, challenge me, and push me to be better. He was there the first meeting I facilitated and is a huge influence on how I run meetings now. He went from an influence to mentor to friend. Paul was very insightful, and sometimes confrontational, about semantics and irrational thoughts as people would talk. The only absolute statement I ever heard from him was that everyone had the choice to change their lives. He was there for hundreds of us as we discovered the “power of choice.” -Spencer

“Paul was instantly likable, lovingly coined ‘a dork’ by his kids. The thing about Paul was that he didn’t change your life.  He made you believe that you could change it yourself.” -Brett 🙂

“My brother introduced me to SMART three years ago. Walking into yet another recovery support meeting, I wanted to have hope but couldn’t help but feel dread. As we walked into the I-HOP, that dread began to fade. I felt no judgment, most certainly not from the person at the head of the table. Over the next few years, this person, Paul, would be one of the most encouraging voices in my recovery. I attended SMART meetings throughout the completion of my methadone taper. This was a painful and grueling process, to say the least. Paul continuously motivated me towards a goal others believed I would never achieve. He stated on numerous occasions, “I have never seen anyone get off of methadone.” With his eyes smiling, Paul would say, “You’re doing awesome!” It is rare to meet someone that is committed on such a deep level to their own recovery and to helping others with theirs. He has been a friend and an inspiration!” -Mary

“The first thing I think of is Paul’s regular saying that “It’s about building a life where it just doesn’t fit.” That saying is so important to me, because that is exactly what I have done. Drinking simply doesn’t fit in my life. It is not necessary and I am thankful that I was able to make one of Paul’s regular sayings reality in my life. Another lasting memory of Paul is his challenge for everyone in our SMART group to find our “dirt bike.” The point of this is to find joy in life and do the things in life that we love. I had lost touch with this over the years. Right before some of the consequences of my past drinking were about to come, I took this advice. I found my, “dirt bike.” In the last three years I have done things that I love and enjoy more than I had in the previous ten years combined. I will always remember the SMART shirt Paul always wore that said, “The power of choice,” and I am thankful that I have a choice in my life. Thank you Paul for all that you mean in my life.” -Andrew

“Paul was a mentor and a badass. His easy demeanor defied his many tribulations in life. Paul’s work with SMART was a gift to the lucky that stumbled across his wisdom and his warmth.”

“I was consistently 10 minutes late to every meeting, which allowed me to pull up a chair alongside Paul, always hanging out at the head of the table. Every week he had a megawatt smile for me, despite my annoying tardiness. He was the first person I confided in when I lost my only brother suddenly last August. His compassion remained focused on my recovery, my well being, and my ability to remain strong throughout my trial. I know he’s missed by so many.” -Amberly

“I knew Paul for a few months of Sundays at the Arvada SMART meetings. Like many people going to recovery support meetings, I was a mixture of scared, wary, and embarrassed. I appreciated his sense of humor (I still think calling prison, “my own gated community,” takes the cake). Being able to laugh and poke fun at ourselves was relieving. Then, he started to share his story, and I could see how he had learned what he needed to, especially the SMART tools, in order to recover from his addiction. His most important lesson to me was to, “watch my language.” The words we use actually frame how we see and how we react to, or interact with, life, the world, our being in recovery. Using negative words isn’t forward-moving. “He” is part of “me” now, part of my going forward. That’s a great gift.” –Bill

-Irina Bogomolova


Irina BogomolovaIrina Bogomolova is a University of Colorado at Boulder graduate; holding a BA in Russian and Sociology. Irina founded Choice in Recovery in May of 2014. Her own journey in which she chose moderation inspired her to step into the field and express the need for various pathways to recovery. After networking and speaking to representatives of the many pathways, she built a team and together they began educating the public and professionals in the field about the various options available. Learn more at choiceinrecovery.net.

SMART Recovery

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