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Developing a Personal Action Plan for Addiction Recovery: Part I

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

In this final chapter in our topic center on addiction, we presented you with many options for recovery. These include natural recovery, biological, psychological, social, and spiritual options. You may be wondering, "With so many choices, how does someone decide what to do about their addiction problem?" We anticipated this concern and developed a guide to help you put together your own personal action plan for recovery. How quickly you move through these actions will depend on how severe your problems are. If your problems are severe enough, get help immediately, even if you have to drag yourself to an emergency room. The point is, get help. Your life depends upon it.

Remember, natural recovery has taught us there are four key ingredients to achieving recovery. These are humility, motivation, sustained effort, and the restoration of meaning and purpose to life. With these four key ingredients in mind you can build a personal recovery program.

1) Prepare for a personal marathon (not a sprint). You have solved many other problems in your life. With sufficient effort, you can solve this one. The first big milestone is 90 days, followed by one year. You don't need to be perfect, or re-set the clock every time you slip. You do need to stay focused. The only way to lose this fight is to give up.

2) Determine whether you just need to work on an addiction problem, or whether you also need to address other life problems. You don't need to solve these all at one time. However, you may need additional resources and help (see steps 10-14). Do not let this discourage you.

3) Make a beginning plan. It is too soon for a master plan. Identify a few small and easily accomplished steps. Set aside time each day to reflect on your reasons for making this change. Evaluate your progress (or lack thereof). Trouble-shoot problems, and determine what you need to do next. Regardless of whether your plan is to stop completely, cut back a lot, cut back a little, or even just assess the situation, identify your personal target and take daily action in that direction. For guidelines in establishing your personal goals, a good place to start is here. On a daily basis, review how you are doing. What is working? What isn't? Revise your plan as you go. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself with too much to do at once.

4) Keep records. Remember risky drinking includes both how much and how often. If you plan to moderate, record how much and how often, or record big fat zeros if you plan to abstain. You might record the number of days you worked out, the time you spent with your kids, or random acts of kindness. Find something truly meaningful (that supports recovery) and count it or measure it. Then, record it. A calendar devoted to this purpose is one place to keep the record. Keep it up for at least 90 days.

5) Expect that the transition period is usually the most difficult. This will be easier if you remember it will end. For most of us, the transition is 90 days. By that time, craving and irritability will have diminished considerably. Use your calendar as a visual motivator. Cross off each day as you approach the 90-day marker.

6) Remain focused on the reasons you are making this change. Motivation is central to recovery. Remain motivated by recalling why you are making this change. Even better, write down why and review it every day in your daily reflection time (see action 2).


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