I can still remember the day I first learned about SMART Recovery. It was two years ago in a major city in Southeast Asia. The room was dark and dirty from the fallout of my addictive behavior – filled with just a smelly old couch and a dingy blanket.
I was obsessively flicking through my phone, searching for a way to get clean. In that search, I stumbled across a page for a treatment center in Thailand – Hope Rehab. For reasons I did not know at the time, it captured my attention. It felt different. That was the day that my life changed.
The difference about Hope was their approach. Instead of a stringent 12-step program, a more modern, scientific approach seemed to be at play. What I learned over the next few months was a lot of tools which could be used to combat the ridiculous thoughts going on in my head.
I learned about REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy), ABCs (a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used to dispute my irrational beliefs) and other tools from SMART Recovery’s toolbox.
As I began to use these tools more and more in my daily life, they became more natural. After a period of practice and writing down the ABCs I began to automatically dispute my irrational beliefs. It got to the point that it became abnormal to have irrational thoughts.
Alongside other support programs, I was living a life free from addictive behavior. All the negative self-talk and irrational beliefs had eased, and my thoughts took on a more realistic view of the world around me.
I began to pass on this information. After a few years, I returned as a Recovery Coach to Hope Rehab in order to bring these tools back to the clients there.
One of the first things I ended up doing was starting a SMART Recovery meeting, and although it’s early days, this has proved to be extremely helpful to the clients.
One of the most beneficial aspects of a SMART Recovery meeting is definitely the discussion that takes place within the group. When a participant shares what is currently happening in their life to the meeting, everyone has the opportunity to identify with them.
Oftentimes, another participant will talk about how they got through a similar or the same issue just a few weeks ago. The clients feel more comfortable and closer to their peers. This cross-talk at meetings helps them to realize they are not alone and helps build a sense of belonging and camaraderie around recovery.
Looking towards the tools it’s amazing to see participants change their unhelpful thinking during their stay at the rehab while attending SMART meetings. One of my favorites is definitely the ABC. Most of the time, when it is first explained during a one to one session, it produces an “a-ha!” moment.
Once they are able to see how their negative self-talk and irrational beliefs are affecting their actions they can begin to reflect on their own thoughts and behaviors, rather than focusing on others.
As the tools are slowly incorporated into their daily lives, the participants become naturally much more receptive to change and begin to think with healthy, rational beliefs.
I’m very grateful to be able to pass on the SMART Tools here at Hope. I have massively benefited from them in my recovery, and we see them working in other meeting participants’ lives every single day.
We’ve now had our official SMART Meeting running since February, and it has been a great success with nothing but positive feedback. I’m looking forward with enthusiasm to reaching out and helping others in Thailand.
Chris began using SMART Recovery tools over 2 years ago seeking freedom from addictive behaviors. Since then, he has started a SMART Recovery meeting at Hope Rehab Thailand, and continues to utilize aspects of the program both in a therapeutic environment as well as his day to day life. He is currently working at Hope as a Recovery Coach.