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What’s New?

Walk for Sobriety
The McAlister Institute is hosting their 11th Annual Walk for Sobriety on Saturday, September 30th. The event is at Liberty Station and starts at 8:00 am. SMART San Diego will have an outreach table and a group of walkers. If you can help with outreach or would like to be part of Team SMART, please contact Bill. You can find out more about the event and register at www.walkforsobriety.org.

Can You Help SMART reach more people in San Diego?
Please join us for an Outreach Brainstorming Session over Zoom on Thursday, October 19 at 6 pm. We will be exploring new ways to reach out to the broader San Diego community and how to bring SMART to more people who might benefit from it. We will also discuss how to better connect with a more diverse audience. Everyone is welcome to take part in this discussion. We are looking for volunteers who are ready to put some time and energy into our outreach efforts: there are a variety of ways you can help from letter writing to online research to giving presentations. If you have questions, or want to get involved but can’t attend the meeting, contact Kristi.

Regional Coordinators Strengthen Ties to SMART Recovery USA
Kristi and Megan have accepted positions as SMART Recovery’s Regional Coordinators for San Diego County. As Regional Coordinators they will be working more closely with SMART’s national organization and connecting with Regional Coordinators across North America. Kristi and Megan see many potential benefits in being part of conversations happening across SMART, sharing about all the great things going on in San Diego, and learning more about how other communities do SMART.

Getting to Know Our Volunteers

We are kicking off a new series, spotlighting a different volunteer each month. If you would like to tell the community a little about yourself including what you do for SMART, your hobbies and interests or anything else that would help us get to know you, please email Megan. This month, we hear from Tom. 

What I do for SMART
From 1990 to 2021, I served in a variety of roles for SMART in San Diego, including meeting facilitator, local trainer, organizer of the monthly community meeting, financial supporter, the person responsible for the website and the facilitators’ email discussion group, and a promoter of awareness about SMART in the local professional community. When the pandemic started, I ran meetings online multiple times per week, just to keep us going. At the time, many resisted the online meetings. It seemed our survival was at stake. Fortunately, we survived, and I think we are stronger than ever. Over the years since 1990, volunteers came and went in waves. By 2021, however, it seemed that our group of volunteers had become more stable than it had ever been, and that it was time to invite others to share more responsibility for running SMART Recovery San Diego. I’m grateful to Kristi, Megan, Shelly, Karen, Cami, Dirk, Julian, Jayne, Dr. Bill, and everyone who has stepped into leadership roles, and to the facilitators who keep their meetings going as such a vital resource in San Diego. My own role has transitioned to being largely about finances (including paying bills, monitoring the bank account, thanking donors), and tenant concerns at the Kearny Mesa Community Center. I now facilitate one meeting per week, sub when I can, and remain quite active in SMART USA and SMART International.

Outside of SMART
I am a psychologist specializing in addictive problems. I own and operate Practical Recovery Psychology Group. We are four psychologists, two counselors, and two admin staff (four full-time and four part-time). Many of you may have interacted with Susie Lee, our administrative assistant, who, as part of her job, supports SMART San Diego. Although I work a fair amount, I also exercise or walk daily, attend a lot of theater (probably 20 plays a year), read (mostly non-fiction, a lot of it psychology), and visit or interact with family back east. I’m married for the second time, and have a grown son.

Five Fun Facts About Tom
1. I once considered becoming a professional musician, on violin and guitar. My father was a music teacher. I began playing with my father’s string ensembles in high school (mostly weddings). I began giving violin lessons at age 14, and used music teaching to help pay for graduate school. In high school I faced the reality that I was a better teacher than performer, and that I did not enjoy music enough to make it a sensible career choice.

2. In grad school I was a part-time live-in housekeeper for over four years because I did not have any scholarships (until I got a US Navy scholarship the last 2 years).

3. I love table tennis.

4. I can be bossy and critical. I work on these challenges daily (a fact, but maybe not a fun one…).

5. My favorite food is chocolate chip cookies.

Recommended Reading

Each month Richard brings a book or article to our attention that connects with ideas we talk about in SMART meetings. If you’ve got recommendations, let Richard know. This month Richard is recommending a recent article from CNN’s website, “Over-the-counter opioid overdose antidote Narcan is arriving in stores” by Meg Tirrell and Nadia Kounang, originally published Aug. 30, 2023, updated Sept. 6, 2023.

This article reports the opiate overdose-reversing drug naloxone is now being made available without a prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of naloxone — sold under the brand name Narcan — as an over-the-counter product earlier this year. It is expected to be available starting this month at stores such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart, both in-person and online.

Narcan is a nasal spray that can revive a person from an opiate-induced overdose within minutes. Fatal opiate overdoses, often due to powerful synthetic agents such as fentanyl, have reached record-high levels in recent years; in 2021 there were nearly 107,000 deaths nationwide. One recovery advocate quoted in the article described the wider availability of Narcan as “excellent news,” part of an “evidence-based model that is proven to save lives.”

SMART, as a science-based program, also favors such evidence-based solutions and consequently endorses a “harm reduction” approach to recovery, as opposed to an “abstinence- only” philosophy. This is consistent with SMART’s aim to “meet individuals where they are” in their recovery and to inform them about life-saving tools that will enable them to make progress through safer, more rational choices.

As the article notes, there is concern that the retail price of Narcan — around $45 for two doses — is too high for many people to afford. However, various government agencies and charitable organizations also distribute naloxone — for free — directly to people who need it.

For a list of locations providing free naloxone in visit San Diego County Health & Human Services’ naloxone webpage.

Why Do Mutual Aid Groups Work?

Many people wonder about how mutual aid groups like SMART work. A group of researchers has found that mutual aid recovery groups are most effective when participants experience five key elements: perspective talking, being connected to others, developing skills, the value of group activities, and a change in self. The study also identifies fourteen general components that participants found helpful: bonding & support, goal direction, structure to follow, following a sober lifestyle (a “progress-oriented lifestyle” better reflects SMART’s position on harm reduction), available role models, expectations of positive and negative role models, involvement in protective activities, effective rewards, identifying high risk situations, building self confidence, developing coping skills, giving back, presence of like-minded individuals, developing self-awareness and reflection skills.

In SMART San Diego’s 2023 Annual Benchmark Survey, when asked how to describe a successful SMART Recovery meeting, 80% mentioned one or more of these elements. This suggests that SMART Recovery San Diego meetings are keeping up with the research and providing our community with the proven ingredients for success. If you would like to explore this topic further, we have a discussion guide called “Why Do Mutual Aid Groups Work?” available on our website. 

Get Involved

Come to the Community Development Meeting
All are welcome to attend this meeting on the second Saturday of every month from 9:30-11:30 on Zoom. The first half of the meeting covers administration and community planning. The second half is devoted to meeting management. You are free to attend only part of the meeting. If you’ve been thinking of becoming more involved, this is a great way to learn about what we’re working on and where help is most needed. If you have questions about the agenda of the upcoming meeting, contact Megan.

Call for Volunteers!
We need volunteers who want to become more involved in the SMART Recovery San Diego community. If you can give a few hours a month to help with social activities, fundraising, or community outreach, we can use your help! Contact community@smartrecoverysd.org to find out more.

Have You Ever Thought of Facilitating a Meeting?
We are looking for volunteers to start new meetings or serve as substitutes, particularly for in-person meetings. New meetings allow us to reach a broader community who might benefit from SMART. Our training program will pair you with a mentor to offer guidance and support while you prepare to facilitate a meeting of your own. Contact the facilitator training committee.

Find Us on Social Media

Following SMART Recovery San Diego on social media is an easy way to stay in touch and stay informed. We are on Facebook and Instagram.  We also have a Meetup group for our social activities, and a private Facebook group. Contact socialmedia@smartrecoverysd.org for more information.

Your Donation Counts

All donations go toward the costs of our Community Center in Kearny Mesa and our Zoom licenses; we have no paid positions. Please help with a monthly PayPal donation. Email fundraising@smartrecoverysd.org with any questions about supporting SMART Recovery San Diego.

Donate with PayPal or Venmo: @SMARTRecoverySD (business account)

Upcoming Activities

Click here to check out all of our social events. 

For more sober social activities in San Diego, visit The Phoenix website or download their app.

Friends sitting in park

If SMART has helped you or a loved one, consider supporting us with a recurring donation.

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