Something we hear a lot at SMART Recovery Australia meetings is the nagging doubt that a person’s chosen path to recovery isn’t the “right” way to do it. Some people who choose abstinence from the get go envy those who try moderation. Some people who aim to moderate their intake of alcohol or drugs struggle with stigma from people adhering to the all-or-nothing approach of abstinence-based recovery.

One of the reasons the SMART Recovery model succeeds for so many people is that we adopt a “no wrong way” philosophy. The only wrong way to do something is the way that doesn’t work for you and your goals. And the right way might not be what you originally envisioned when you embarked upon your recovery journey. That’s OK! Change happens, and coping with these changes that is a huge part of SMART Recovery.

The fact of the matter is that addictive behaviour looks different for everyone. In any SMART Recovery Australia meeting, particularly open groups, we see a very diverse mix of people, which a limitless array of issues with which they need help. Around fifty per cent of attendees come to SMART for issues related to alcohol, but rarely for alcohol alone. Of the remainder, half of those need help with methamphetamines (or “ice”), a slightly smaller proportion need help with opiates or opioids (such as heroin or prescription painkillers) and we see behavioural addictions like gambling, online games, shopping and sex fairly evenly distributed across the rest of the cohort.

By taking the two largest groups – alcohol and meth – we can see how vastly different recovery will be for each individual in our program. On one hand, you have a legal drug that is a depressant. On the other, a highly controlled, incredibly powerful stimulant. The short term effects of these drugs are polar opposites – one settles your nervous system, while the other overstimulates it. Over time, the long term effects show a remarkable difference in terms of how they affect the human body.

Accordingly, someone looking to overcome alcohol dependence will need a vastly different schedule than someone looking to take control of their behaviour around crystal meth. The medication used – if any – will be different. Even someone who is completely sober will be bombarded with alcohol advertising everywhere from their TV to the side of buses and even on the shirts of their favourite sporting team – illegal substances may not have advertising campaigns, but in small communities they come with their own pitfalls.

SMART Recovery Australia welcomes all people, and we believe that there is no wrong way to recover from your addictive behaviour. As long as you set goals that work for you and improve your life and that of those around you, you’re on the right path.