By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN
BELMONT — The SMART Recovery Program, as an alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, will be hosting weekly meetings in the basement of the Belmont Mill on Mondays beginning in August.
SMART is different from AA or NA in that it employs known psychological reinforcements for drug and alcohol recovery that do not including accepting a higher power.
"It is recognizing that some people do not believe in a higher power," said Welfare Director Donna Cilley who said she has had a number of requests for NA meetings somewhere in Belmont.
Cilley took the point position for doing the research on SMART after a local man who has volunteered to mentor the meetings brought it to her attention and requested the town try to provide a space.
She said the two spaces that are available included the mill and the Corner Meeting House, but stakeholders collectively felt the Corner Meeting House was not a good place for people who seek anonymity.
Cilley told selectmen the facilitator of the meetings will be there about one-half hour earlier that the designated time and will take responsibility for opening and closing the building and making sure that people who want to talk together after the meeting do so in another location.
She said he would provide the tables and chairs.
SMART Recovery uses a four-point program that calls for building and maintaining motivation, coping with urges, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviors and living a balanced life.
The program also uses a seven-step model to help change drug using behavior.
The steps are pre-contemplation of life without drugs or alcohol; contemplation by weighing the pros and cons of drugs versus a life without them; determining and preparing for recovery; and taking action by seeking a program and/or professional therapy, maintenance, relapse and termination.
Conversely, AA and NA call for accepting a higher power in their step programs, which Cilley said can often cause people without religious beliefs to feel hypocritical about joining them. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, New Hampshire is the least religious state in the U.S., with 55 percent claiming to be nonreligious.
Cilley said that NA and AA are both very valuable programs that have helped hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world and said she still supports them for the people who use them.
Selectmen voiced no opposition and said that if a program works for drug and alcohol addiction the town should help make it possible.