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Chat with Steve Bergier— Facilitator, SMART Recovery


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/02/02

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: How did you find SMART Recovery?

Steve Bergier: Okay, well, I first started in recovery in 1990. I am an old guy. At that time, only 12-step groups were available. I went to them for many years. Eventually, I stopped going. I restarted going again in 2011. I became increasingly dissatisfied with 12-step. I started looking online for alternatives and things. I found SMART there at that time.

There was one meeting. I went every week. I decided that rather than complaining about 12-step that I should become a facilitator and start facilitating my own meeting. That’s what happened.

Jacobsen: What has been one of your more emotionally moving experiences as a facilitator?

Bergier: That is a good question. I started it more for negative reasons because I liked it. I eventually came to have a great respect for the cognitive behavioral principles. I think the most moving thing was to see some people come in and they would connect with the program and come back week after week.

They would stay clean and sober. That was satisfying for me.

Jacobsen: What is one of the more dramatic turnarounds from addiction to recovery that you have seen in your time?

Bergier: There was one person coming in right out of rehab. They would have 30 days clean. This was a person who was literally homeless and living under a bridge and addicted to heroin. He was kicked out of their home by their family as a young person. Somehow, by meeting us, they became clean. It was a dramatic turnaround in a person’s life.

Jacobsen: Regarding the principles, SMART Recovery adheres to and practices, what is the most crucial principle?

Bergier: I think the most crucial is seeing recovery as their own responsibility. That recovery is a process of taking charge of your life.

Jacobsen: Is there any restriction on people who feel the need for the belief in a higher power when going into SMART Recovery

Bergier: No, now, the meetings tend to be pretty secular. I would say half the attendees are agnostic, secular, nones. That sort of thing. The others are religious. But then there are those who are religious do not like the 12-step model. There are many people who go to SMART who also go to 12-step meetings.

Jacobsen: What are some of the bigger reasons people attend SMART recovery and continue to attend in the long term?

Bergier: I would say the number one thing that I hear is that the 12-step model didn’t work for them for whatever reasons, whether they are secular or religious people. It didn’t seem to help them. The bottom line is that at least in our area. For every SMART meeting, there are 300 12-step meetings. We are the small kids on the block.

It is easier to go to 12-step. There are more meetings. Many people will drive farther and search out the SMART meetings. I think the number one reason is they don’t like the 12-step model. Many people go to both. They will go to 12-step for whatever reasons, to connect with other sober people. That is a real important part of recovery.

12-step has so many more meetings around.

Jacobsen: If people want to donate and help, how can people help out, especially with the massive difference in SMART to 12-step services?

Bergier: You can go to If you are willing to donate some time to go the website and take their facilitator training, then you look to starting a meeting yourself. Of course, that takes more of a commitment. The best way to increase the number of meetings is to volunteer your time.

Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Bergier: The subtitle of SMART is: choice. We need to give people more choices in recovery. But, you know, the enemy addiction and not one program versus another. The more choices that we have the better.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Steve.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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