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SMART Recovery working to reduce barriers

A support group in Airdrie is looking to help afflicted people curb their addictions. SMART Recovery aims to offer pragmatic, open-choice solutions to address addictions of all kinds – from alcohol to sex.
Group support
SMART Recovery is a support group offering help for people with addictions of all kinds. Participants meet at Community Links in Airdrie every Monday and Thursday.

A support group in Airdrie is looking to help afflicted people curb their addictions. SMART Recovery aims to offer pragmatic, open-choice solutions to address addictions of all kinds – from alcohol to sex.

The format of the meeting ditches the familiar 12-step religious-based programs for scientific-based tools – but according to Barry Deighan, lead facilitator in Airdrie, it doesn’t dissuade spirituality, either. Instead, Deighan said the group never offers a single solution to anything.

“SMART Recovery is there for everyone, whether it be alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex – whatever the case may be,” he said. “Everybody is welcome to come in and say their piece.”

As facilitator, Deighan brings personal experience to the group – he has struggled with addiction for the majority of his near-60 years. He most recently came out of treatment five years ago, and became involved with SMART soon after.

“I wanted to get involved because I have my own problems with addiction, so I just kind of moved in from there,” he said. “I went, ‘OK, where do I want to spend most of my time?’ This was a good outlet for me.”

Meetings start with a traditional check-in, Deighan said, where everyone speaks informally around a table before facilitators offer a specific thought that the group can speak to, as well. Everyone shares, then facilitators again offer a tool to encourage helpful discussion – much of which, Deighan said, is based on rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT), the foundation of which is “the idea that we largely cause our own feelings and behaviour.”

The goal is to arm the group with practical tools for combating addiction, said co-facilitator Mike Loughman. For example, a cost-benefit analysis breaks down the expense involved with picking up a 15-pack of beer after work – not just in dollars, but also in the toll it takes on relationships with friends and family.

Another tool is what Loughman refers to as “playing the tape forward.” Upon the initial thought of opening themselves to an addictive act, he said, group members are encouraged to think through the resulting sequence of events.

“OK, so if I drink, I’m going to have one beer,” Loughman said. “But that one beer isn’t going to be enough, so I’m probably going to have 10 beers, or 15 beers.”

From there, Loughman added, things could spiral even further – with impaired judgment, addicts could easily find themselves making poor decisions and participating in other destructive behaviours.

“I take all of the worst things that ever happened to me while I was drunk and high back in the day, and I put it all together in one night,” he added. “So, when I play the tape forward, everything horrible happens. Well, I don’t want that to happen.”

Loughman, who has also struggled with addiction in the past, said he has been sober since he joined SMART three years ago. The benefits of group support have kept him involved.

“It’s good to have someone you can be accountable with,” he said. “It’s good to have that extra support – like-minded people, probably sharing same or similar experiences. It’s good to have an outlet to talk about your problems and get them out there, rather than bottle them up inside and let them poison you.”

According to Deighan, people who attend are often surprised by the openness of the meetings, and he said he notices the group’s methods, like REBT, speak to participants more than philosophical or spirituality-based ideas.

He added it’s encouraging when a court-mandated attendee returns voluntarily. It’s a marker for him that what they do is making a difference, Deighan said.

The Airdrie meeting gets together every Monday and Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Community Links. Anyone looking for help is welcome to attend.

If you or anyone you know has thought about suicide, please contact Crisis Services Canada at 1-833-456-4566, text 45645 or chat online at

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