Although it might not seem like it at times, Australia’s drug and alcohol policy is much kinder and fairer than those in many countries, including some of our closest neighbours. The deadly “drug war” in the Phillippines has claimed thousands of lives already. The issues that we know exacerbate harms related to addiction in Australia, such as poverty, isolation, and lack of education, are amplified tenfold in developing nations. When you factor in many countries’ proximity to the world’s opiate manufacturing centres of Southeast and Central Asia, the mind boggles as to why there aren’t more programmes like SMART Recovery running throughout the region.

 However, some brave souls have started their own SMART meetings without the support of a national organisation. In Hong Kong and Malaysia, these meetings run weekly, helping those who need it most. SMART Recovery Australia Senior National Program Manager Josette Freeman worked with SMART Recovery International to put together the first meeting of facilitators from across the Asia Pacific region.

This is what she had to say.

Please explain the Asian Facilitators meeting you were recently involved with, and what your role was.

Kim McCreanor, the Executive Officer for International SMART Recovery, asked me if I would be interested in ‘mentoring’ the facilitators in the Asian region. I was happy to take on the role and be a part of this group. The reason that this has come about is because the facilitators in Asia are feeling a bit isolated and not sure if they are doing the right thing.

Who was at this first meeting?

It was a small group to start with due to people’s work commitments but it was a productive meeting. There were facilitators from Hong Kong, Malaysia and a facilitator from Romania!

What issues did you discuss?

I think the  universal issues for SMART Recovery are how to get people to the meetings and  how to grow the number of groups available. That was discussed as well as the issues around facilitators managing both abstinence and non-abstinence participants in a group. 

What did you notice from everyone?

It was heartening to hear that even though there were some differences between countries, mostly we are all on the same page!

Will this Forum continue?

Definitely. I think we all got a lot out of it and learnt things from each other.