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Developing a Personal Action Plan for Addiction Recovery: Part II

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.

7) Remember the three fundamental facts about craving. Cravings are time-limited. Cravings will not harm you. Cravings cannot force you to use. Although cravings may increase in the first days or weeks, cravings eventually go away. Reminding yourself of these three facts will help to reduce the anxiety that accompanies cravings. Furthermore, find an activity that requires your focused attention. Your mind cannot dwell upon two things at once. If you keep your mind occupied, cravings have less power.

8) Get private (anonymous) input if you need it. Check out the websites, books and other resources in our Resources section. Go anonymously into web-based discussions, comments sections, or message boards.

9) Devote your time and attention to the two great pleasures of life: love and meaningful work (in that order). Build up your relationships. Focus on your work. If your job is less than fulfilling, consider what would make it more meaningful. Perhaps you might like to find some volunteer activity that gives you a sense of purpose. Love and work are your rewards. It is a good idea to give yourself lots of little rewards along the way. For some people, their addiction served as a reward. Spend time discovering a healthier way to reward yourself.

If these first nine actions have not been enough, consider some additional ones:

10) Involve some other trustworthy people in your project. Ask them to listen to you. When other people listen to you, they may feel compelled to offer advice and suggestions. Be sure to tell them you are NOT looking for advice, but would like them to listen to you. Recognize that relationships are a two-way street. Be prepared to listen to their stories too- perhaps you'll learn something new!

11) Check out a few therapists, and/or check out a few support groups. The choice you make may depend on your financial resources. If you have insurance, you may need to find out what your policy covers with respect to addiction treatment. Even if you have insurance coverage, you might need to consider the wisdom of using insurance for treatment. Billing insurance companies creates a permanent record of your addiction. This may be unwise for certain types of addiction. When evaluating how much of your financial resources should be devoted to your recovery, consider how much money you spent on your addiction. Hopefully you will prioritize your recovery as much as your prioritized your addiction!

You might decide to use both a therapist and a support group in your recovery efforts. If you want to try the 12-step approach, the resources available to you are considerable. If you want to try the self-empowering approach, you'll need to dig deeper. Better yet, why not try both? For a local self-empowering therapist, try the listings of providers on the self-empowering support group websites listed in our Resources section. It's OK to have one session with several therapists, and then pick the one you like. You might even be able to see two or more if you really like them all. However, many therapists and insurance companies will not permit this arrangement. The reasons for this are usually valid. Check with the therapists and your insurance about their views on this subject.

12) Keep at it. Re-cycle through these actions. You may have overlooked how thoroughly you could have done some of them. Remember, sustained effort is one of the four key ingredients of success.

13) Be creative. Perhaps you need to approach your addiction problems from a fresh perspective. Try some new activities. Try journaling. Plan some outdoor activities. Incorporate more exercise. Experiment with holistic services (acupuncture, massage, yoga, energy healing, Reiki, etc.). Consider volunteer work (care for the elderly, work with children). Express yourself through music lessons, art lessons, etc.

14) More treatment is the backup plan. If outpatient therapy is not enough, try intensive outpatient, day treatment, or partial hospitalization. In these levels of care, you continue to live at home. Residential treatment is the final backup plan. Most people don't need it. However, it can break a difficult cycle of addiction if necessary. Better to go to residential treatment than end up dead, disabled, broke, isolated, etc. Sure, it can be embarrassing or shameful, but put that into perspective. What part of your addiction isn't/wasn't embarrassing and shameful?! You are moving on to a life free from shame and humiliation. The steps that take you there are of no consequence. Embrace it!