SMART’s DISARM Tool–for Family and Friends

April 18, 2023
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[Ed. Note: big thanks to SMART Volunteer Anne Devenport for writing this guest blog]

The DISARM tool is used in SMART Recovery to deal with urges – participants in recovery meetings imagine that an unpleasant salesperson is trying to push them into their addictive behavior, so they use the DISARM tool (Destructive Imagery and Self-Talk Awareness Method) to help them deal with the imaginary salesperson, and so deal with their urges.

A participant once asked during a Family and Friends meeting if it would be possible to make the DISARM tool relevant for Family and Friends.  We might first start by identifying what the salesperson might be tempting us, as Family and Friends, to do.

We might feel strong urges to:

          Nag our Loved One

          Protect our Loved One

          Clean up our Loved One’s messes

          Call our Loved One’s boss to explain why they are late

          Hide our Loved One’s behavior from others

          Give our Loved One money for their addictive behavior

          Fix our Loved One’s problems

         ….. and many other things

The DISARM tool suggests that we might call our salesperson a name (The Creep, The Sleazeball), and that we might tell the salesperson to get lost.  In this way we are personifying our urge to fix/protect/nag, which might help us to recognize that the urge isn’t part of us, and that we have the power to refuse it – to refuse the salesperson.

There are a few questions we might ask ourselves when the salesperson turns up in our lives. Let’s examine the DISARM tool from the point of view of someone who wants to jump in and fix their Loved One’s problems – they want to buy them a new cell phone when their Loved One has broken theirs; they want to repair their Loved One’s fender bender; or they want to vigorously edit their college-aged son’s homework to prevent them from getting a bad grade.  The questions of DISARM for Family and Friends might look like this:

  1. Do I have to fix my Loved One’s problems just because I strongly want to?

          Our answer might be:

          “No, it would be easy to give in, but I don’t have to.  I have resisted

            fixing in the past, despite the demands of the salesperson, so I    

            know that I can do it.”

  1. Will it be awful to stop myself from fixing my Loved One’s problems?

          Here we might tell ourselves:

         “No, it won’t be awful.  It might be unpleasant to watch my Loved  

           One trying to fix their own problems, but it won’t be awful.  If I  

           don’t give in to the salesperson this time, it will be easier to resist

           in the future.  I know that in the long-term my stepping back from

           fixing everything might be helpful for my Loved One – it will send  

           them the message that I have confidence that they are capable of

            fixing their own problems.”

  1. Am I somehow entitled to have an easy life when dealing with my Loved One?

          We might answer this with:

          “No, I am not entitled to an easy life with my Loved One.  The

            salesperson is going to keep on trying to tempt me, that’s just a

            fact of life, and I can deal with it.  Like everyone else, I encounter

            difficulties in life, and I know that I can work through these.”

Additionally, whenever the salesperson rears their unwelcome head, and tempts us to jump in to fix our Loved One’s problems we can turn to section 10 of the Family and Friends Handbook, where we find the following questions:

Will changing my behaviors truly hurt my Loved One?  Yes, they may get angry, but what is that in comparison to the long-term harm of addiction that I am working to avoid?

What will hurt me more: changing my behaviors, or knowing that I didn’t do anything to change my behaviors?

What can I expect to happen if I don’t change?  Will things get better?

So, at the risk of sounding like a salesperson…consider buying into DISARM – another great SMART tool that we can add to the Family and Friends toolbox.

Resource links

The SMART Recovery Toolbox

DISARM the Addiction Salesman (article)

DISARM description

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