New program offers tools, techniques for Islanders with addictions

Jim Day jday@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on October 24, 2015

SMART Recovery has scientific foundation; differs from AA, other 12-step programs

Bill has taken a beating from booze.

He started drinking at age 16.

Alcohol took hold, and held on hard.

Bill (not his real name) started to get sick and miss work. He had hallucinations. He became delirious.

The battering from booze progressed to seizures and acute pancreatitis.

For a time, he even lost the use of his legs, the result of what he calls alcoholic paralysis.

Bill, who is in his late 50s and lives in Charlottetown, sought help time and again to address his crippling addiction.

Alcoholics Anonymous was “hit and miss’’ for Bill.

He tried other approaches, such as choice therapy and addictive voice therapy.

By his count, some 23 different programs exist for recovery from alcohol addiction.

“It’s a very personal thing and it all comes down to choice,’’ he says.

In February, Rose Barbour joined forces with Nicole Publicover and Ronnie Power to start SMART Recovery in P.E.I. to fill the gap in offerings for recovery programs.

Bill is glad they did.

SMART APPROACH

His counsellor at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility in Mount Herbert told him about the program, and Bill decided to give it a go.

He went to his first meeting in February, and has kept on going.

“I can see it working for a lot of people,’’ he says.

“It empowers you instead of taking the power from you.’’

Tom Adams, addictions systems navigator with addictions services at Health P.E.I., welcomes the program.

He recommends anyone seeking to address an addiction to give SMART Recovery a try.

“I had been hoping for an approach like this that would give people an alternative,’’ he says.

“I believe we are responsible for maintaining our own sobriety and I think this is a real good way of doing that.’’

SMART, which stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training, offers tools and techniques for building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feeling and behaviours, and living a balanced life.

Barbour discovered SMART Recovery when looking for a way to help her son battle his addiction to opiates.

Her son was able to get into a youth recovery centre called REACH.

He is two years into recovery, and graduated from Holland College’s carpentry program in the spring.

“It’s such a gift,’’ says Barbour.

However, she wished her son had access to SMART Recovery years ago. She believes the approach would have served him well.

Now Barbour is trying to help others.

She has become a trained facilitator, one of seven volunteering their time to SMART Recovery in P.E.I.

“Everything I’ve done is because of my son,’’ she says.

“People need help and they need a voice.’’

The first SMART meeting held in February drew 15 to 20 people. There was plenty of curiosity about the program.

Meetings were going very well, but died down over the summer months, she notes.

They are picking up again, averaging eight to 10 people per meeting.

Barbour says people of all ages are attending.

Some are dealing with addiction to drugs or alcohol, others a eating disorder.

The program is designed to help people recover from all types of addiction and addictive behaviours.

As Bill notes: “An addiction is an addiction.’’

Barbour says at each meeting, the group sits in a circle with two facilitators.

Each participant checks in, summing up his or her week.

The whole group gets involved in discussing the best tool to address each person’s prevalent issue.

Feedback, says Barbour, has been strong.

One person says the SMART Recovery is the best thing that has happened to him and that it was made available to him at the right time.

A meeting is held three times a week, but Barbour is aiming to have meetings held every night of the week in order to offer very regular peer support.

Weekly family group meetings have also recently begun.

Barbour notes it takes time to build something new, but she sees SMART Recovery having traction in P.E.I. as it continues to grow in popularity around the world.

“It’s really, really growing as an alternative to a 12-step program,’’ she says.

“We feel good. We’ll just keep plugging away at it.’’

Barbour adds more volunteers need to get trained and start groups in their area in order to make SMART Recovery available to all Islanders.

“You do not have to be in recovery to start a SMART Recovery meeting,’’ she notes.

“You just need to care about people and want to make a difference by offering a choice.’’

jday@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/PEIGuardian

Smart approach

Here are some key features of SMART Recovery:

— Has a scientific foundation, not a spiritual one

— The program teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness

— Teaches techniques for self-directed change

— Supports the scientifically informed use of prescribed psychiatric and addiction medication

— Evolves as scientific knowledge in addiction recovery evolves

— Differs from AA, NA and other 12-step programs

To learn more about the program, visit www.smartrecovery.org.

To inquire about meetings on P.E.I. call Nicole at (902) 620-0000.