recovery meetings

12-Steps vs. SMART Recovery: Which Recovery Program Should You Choose?

Finding a recovery program be a tremendous support, especially as you transition back to life after addiction treatment. However, recovery isn’t “one size fits all” so no one can really tell you what’s going to end up being the right fit for you, or even if you have to use just one.

Let’s look at the basics of SMART Recovery and the 12-Steps:

Moderation vs. Abstinence in Recovery Programs

Many people avoid the SMART Recovery program after drug rehab because it has been rumored to support moderation vs. abstinence. The program actually promotes abstinence first, but attempts to meet every person where they are. SMART Recovery suggests that a person refrains from alcohol consumption until they have control of their urges. Only then does the program suggest that you may or may not be able to enjoy a moderate amount of alcohol. SMART Recovery does maintain that complete abstinence is the best way to completely recover from addiction.

12-Step programs, like AA and NA, encourage individuals to abstain from alcohol or drugs. The 12-Step program helps each person reach this point through meetings, which ideally lead to getting a sponsor, working the 12 steps, and ultimately having an encounter with God, or a spiritual awakening.
The program doesn’t prevent you from coming to the meetings if you continue to use alcohol or drugs before or after you attend. The only requirement is a “desire to stop.”

Spirituality in Recovery Programs

SMART Recovery has a scientific foundation that does not include spiritual principles. SMART Recovery teaches increasing self-reliance, rather than powerlessness and there are no sponsors or mentors.

The 12-Step program doesn’t require that members are spiritual or religious either. The only requirement individuals must meet to become a member is the want to stop drinking or using drugs. During meetings, members will learn that they must lean on a greater power than themselves to fully recover from addiction. The power is chosen by each member and there are no judgements for the spiritual choices of each member.

Powerless vs Empowerment in Recovery Programs

In SMART Recovery, individuals are taught how to use self-reliance and self-directed change to empower themselves. This is based on the four points of recovery:

  • Coping with urges
  • Creating and maintaining motivation
  • Living a balanced life
  • Managing behaviors, thoughts and feelings

Throughout this program, cognitive behavioral therapy is used to change (or redirect) thoughts in order to create lasting change in your life.

The 12-Steps program is different. It recognizes that individuals don’t have willpower strong enough to beat addiction on their own. “Our best resources got us to where we are now” is a point often made. So, this recovery program focuses on relying on an outside power to free them from the bondage of addiction.

Addiction Recovery Program Length

In SMART Recovery, addiction recovery is a short-term issue. With the right tools in this program, they believe a person should be able to move on with life, consistently saying no to addiction urges.

The 12-Steps program prescribes that an individual should “keep coming back” . You’re encouraged to think daily about your sobriety and attend meetings often.

Program Availability

Because it is not as established as the 12-step program, SMART Recovery meetings aren’t available everywhere. 12-Step meetings, on the other hand, can be found almost anywhere in the world. They are even available at all hours of the day and night, as well as online.

The SMART Recovery and 12-Step Programs can both help you with your addiction recovery after drug rehab. Don’t rely on what works for other, however. Check them out and choose the addiction recovery assistance that works best for you.