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Today's Family Magazine

SMART Recovery helps those with addiction problems

If you ask Mark Ruth, running out of office space for employees is a good thing.  And running out of room in the staff fridge is okay too.  After all, the need for expansion is about being able to help more people who are trying to overcome various addictions.

Ruth is the executive director of SMART (Self-Management and Recovery Training) Recovery USA, Inc®.  The organization’s national office, located in Mentor, Ohio, supports a community of mutual support groups.

With the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers, many of whom achieved success using SMART’s programs and support, over 3,000 recovery meetings are offered in person and online.  Participants in the U.S., Canada, and 25 other countries use practical tools, social community, and self-empowering principles to help one another resolve problems with addictions to drugs, alcohol or for other problematic activities such as gaming, gambling, or eating disorders. 

Ruth, along with assistant executive director Christi Alicea, manages operations in modest headquarters, producing ripples of life-changing emotional and practical support for people fighting addictions across the world, and for their family and friends. 

Ruth points out that SMART’s core principles are multifaceted.  "With the opioid crisis compounding the widespread scourge of addiction, we must invest in what works for individuals seeking independence from their addictive and problematic behaviors.  Since our start in 1994, we have believed it important for individuals to choose a pathway to recovery that works best for them.  We offer our science and evidence-based tools to empower individuals to manage their own recovery journey, no matter their stage of recovery, faith, or decision to use physician-prescribed medication assisted treatment (MAT)." 

Ruth says SMART’s unconditional acceptance approach is invaluable for many looking for a way to develop a healthy and balanced lifestyle that works for their values, principles and beliefs.  In short, the most effective method of recovery is one that works best for each person.

While access to a social community is critical to an individual’s recovery success, SMART’s central tenets are grounded in its 4 Point Program®, which offers tools and techniques to address how to:
1) Build and maintain motivations
2) Cope with urges
3) Manage thoughts, feelings and behaviors
4) Live a balanced life

When Ruth became executive director, he realized that SMART Recovery, as well-known as it is on a global level, was still a local secret.   He immediately reached out to U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce (vice chair of the Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives), State Senator John Eklund, State Representative John M. Rogers, and other leaders from local communities. As a result of their collective support, SMART received pioneering financial support from the state of Ohio’s Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and from the Cleveland Foundation.  As a result, SMART now has local outreach and training initiatives that can support individuals and organizations, including veterans, educational institutions, treatment centers, and schools. 

According to Lori Criss, OhioMHAS director, SMART Recovery’s approach is unique and has the potential to positively affect many Ohioans struggling with addictions. Criss says, “The process of recovery is highly personal.  Having support is crucial to each person’s success. Through this investment, we are providing additional options to help Ohioans achieve lasting recovery and wellness.”

To continue helping individuals facing addiction, along with their family and friends, a new anonymous Family & Friends online meeting will start Thursday, April 9.  This free meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m.– 8:00 p.m. and be available to anyone with a computer, tablet or phone in Lake County and surrounding communities via Zoom online teleconferencing.  All SMART meetings use self-management and life-skills tools for those who struggle with challenges of living with or caring about a loved one who is working to manage their addiction.

All this education, training, communication, outreach, and operational support work requires dedicated and skilled professionals.  In addition to Ruth and Alicea, SMART Recovery is supported by a team who have been actively engaged in other local community organizations. 

As Alicea observes, "We’re like the little engine that could—with help from our SMART community, we keep pushing and pushing with one primary goal in mind: helping individuals and families facing the challenges of recovery from all kinds of addictions."

For more information about the new Family & Friends and other SMART meetings, reference the local meeting listing (Mentor, OH) at for details or call (440) 951-5357 for support.