Jim Braastad Retires

Saying goodbye to a friend and colleague as they leave an organization is almost always a bittersweet moment. We want them to embrace new possibilities and chapters in their lives, but at the same time we’ll miss them terribly.

Jim Braastad, after 13 years of service to SMART Recovery, has retired. His impact was major, as we’ll see from the following testimonials celebrating his work and, almost equally, just who he was as a person.

He became known to SMART as GJBXVI, his online username. Jim’s responses to message board posts, according to those present at the time, were filled with understanding, compassion, and SMART tools. No surprise there, because that is how he was his entire tie while associated with SMART.

Jim was never shy about volunteering, and he served in many volunteer capacities for SMART through the years: Online Leadership Team, Message Board Liaison, volunteer helper to online trainings, and eventually, based on his commitment of time and talent, it became clear it was time to make Jim a member of the staff.

He was responsible for creating the online training platform which has trained thousands of volunteers. Really, SMART Recovery would have experienced far less growth in what would have required far more time if it hadn’t been for Jim and his involvement. 


Personal Testimonials

Now for the good stuff, personal testimonials from Jim’s co-workers about who he was and how SMART benefitted.

From just this small selection of people who have known Jim over the years, it is easy to see how important he was to SMART as an organization and the people who make up SMART. It is not often that an individual has the years of impact upon where they volunteered and worked. Jim Braastad did.

Jim, from the bottom of our SMART hearts we thank you. Words can’t really express how much you’ve meant to SMART, but we tried. May you have a wonderful next chapter of your life.


Mark Ruth, Executive Director

The first statement of appreciation comes from Executive Director Mark Ruth, who felt Jim’s impact immediately after he joined SMART.

Right after I started working with Jim in 2018 I was quickly impressed with his overall knowledge of SMART, especially training programs and tools, and the needs of volunteer and participant. Jim was instrumental in helping make immediate online training improvements, adding new courses, and in our training website marketing and rebranding. 

Equally important to me, Jim provided a valued historical perspective of SMART that helped me make more informed decisions.  Jim’s planned retirement is well deserved but for those who know Jim, we know he will not be too far away in his ongoing support of SMART. 

Our National Office staff and SMART community wish Jim the very best in his next phase of his life journey.


Shari Allwood, Former Executive Director

A longer-term historical perspective is offered by Shari Allwood, former SMART Executive Director.

The most important thing Jim did was help others change their lives. Whether that person worked directly with Jim online or benefitted from well-trained facilitators sharing the SMART program with them, Jim was hugely impactful .

Jim, wishing you all the VERY best as you enter and enjoy retirement.  May you be 1/10th as well cared for as those you cared for during your time with SMART.  That would equate to you having it made in the shade! Thanks for giving your all to SMART!


Christi Alicea, Assistant Executive Director

Christi Alicea, SMART’s Assistant Executive Director, especially notes his going the extra mile, or two, or three.

Jim and I first met in 2015 when I signed up for our Distance Training to prepare for my new job at SMART Recovery.  He was patient with me and my questions as I was still juggling my former position, a part-time job and personal things in life, just like many volunteers he worked with experience.

Once I got settled at SMART, Jim and I worked together quite a bit, and I saw how much he cared about each and every participant who took our training.  Volunteers often continued to reach out to him as a resource even after they graduated because of his knowledge and helpful demeanor.

Importantly, Jim’s sense of humor made things fun “around the office,” even all the way from Minnesota. For example, he would never let me forget about the time I accidentally turned my camera on in a training session FULL of Facilitators in Training while looking “less than camera ready!” Enough said.  

Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and everything you did to help grow SMART!


Hammer, Lead Onsite Trainer

The person we all know as Hammer (aka Mrs. Hellnoerstrom) wonders what she can say about Jim. Then she offers this incredible tribute.

What can I say about Jim Braastad? We had many fun and entertaining moments together.  I noticed Jim when he first came to SMART Recovery and I asked him if he would be interested in being a message board volunteer. He jumped right in and made the most insightful posts.

I was working with others to run what was then called Distance Training. The number of trainees kept growing exponentially and we needed to find someone to help. I approached Jim and he joined our team.

One year we had the idea to try to stay awake for the entire 24 hours that it would take to welcome New Year’s around the world.  We did it several years in a row – never quite making the 24 hours – but having a blast in the meantime.  Those were early days. When I returned to SMART Recovery to work on the Onsite Training Team I got to work with Jim once again.  He had learned a whole lot of stuff and blew me away with how much he was doing for SMART Recovery.

There have been many moments we have shared over the years. But the one thing I will say is Jim’s heart is always in the right place and he truly cares about the people he works with. Recently he asked me to work with a young person that he mentored and to whom he provided a personal scholarship for training.  What a treasure!

I am so happy that Jim has chosen to retire and enjoy time with his precious family. Jim, I wish you all the best in everything you do. It has been a distinct pleasure knowing you as a colleague and a friend. I hope you stay in touch.


SEL, Training Team Member

SEL notes that while Jim may not have fit in the conventional mold as volunteer and staff for SMART, that didn’t matter.

Since November 2014, when Jim asked me to join the Distance Training Team, he has demonstrated his value. He told me again and again that the absolute best part of Distance Training was working closely with the Facilitators in Training; consider the many trainees from all over the world who have stayed in touch with him after completing their training. His kindness and moral center are obvious, with his buckets of patience as well as joy in helping others “discover the power of choice” and “life beyond addiction.” Yes, I teased him about using quotation marks for emphasis. His influence and energy (rationality and wisdom) will continue to be felt throughout the SMART Recovery organization. I wish him great satisfaction in whatever he decides to pursue next. And yes, there will be something, you just wait.


Sam Lester, Training Team Member

Sam Lester, a colleague on the Training Team for many years, was always struck by his level of compassion.

I first met Jim when he joined SMART in 2009 and I connected with him right away.  I felt his enthusiasm for not just his own recovery but for others’ as well.  He contributed endlessly by posting helpful information on the SMART Recovery website.

His leadership in the GSF online Distance Training has been outstanding, not only for the trainees taking the course but for us, the Training Team.  His quick response to all our needs and just the empathy he expressed to anyone who was struggling is who he is, a kind person. 

While he is already deeply missed by all of us, we accept his decision to retire and wish the best for him and his family.


Gigi, Volunteer

Gigi, a volunteer for more than five years, is convinced that without Jim she would have quit.

I reluctantly started training after thinking I had to have it all together first. That was March 2015 when there was a lot of work to reading the responses from the New Facilitators in Training from all over the world. I learned so much from reading the responses. I knew of a Jim Brastaad and the Team of Sam and Sarah because we communicated twice a month with training calls.

I had some bumps in the early days and Jim sent some wonderful support and using Tools, specifically ABC. I felt his earnest support from the beginning. I finally got to MEET Jim at the Conference 2019 in Chicago. What a great time to talk to him in person. I left energized for SMART and facilitating. Thank you Jim!


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