Never underestimate the power of getting something down in writing. Seeing a commitment on paper and making the conscious choice to sign the dotted line can be a powerful step in recovery. For this reason, one of the first assignments I give to my clients is the creation of a sobriety contract. While I often keep a copy of the document, it is far more about the commitment that the client is making.
The Language of Gains Sobriety Contract
An example sobriety contract may read:
I, ____________, choose clarity for the next ____________ days. When cravings or triggers arise, I will reach out to ___________(list members of your support network)__________. I have identified the following five activities to be healthy distractions when my cravings persist __________(list 5)__________ and will engage in them until my desire to drink or use drugs subsides. The gains I experience when I choose clarity are __________(list 3 or more)___________.
Some clients prefer a one-day-at-a-time approach and elect to renew their sobriety contracts each morning. Others take on time-limited challenges, like 30 days, as they begin the recovery journey. The contract can be written with your personal parameters in mind and is there to serve as a tangible reminder of your goals.
The Sobriety Pledge
Another powerful recovery tool that has grown more accessible in the digital age is the sobriety pledge. You’d be hard-pressed to find a recovery forum that doesn’t incorporate some type of daily commitment. Essentially, it’s a “call to clarity” and the means through which many addicts daily recommit themselves to sobriety. Sites like Women for Sobriety and the No Alcohol forum on Coach.me regularly employ the community pledge approach.
It can be quite powerful to see the list of names grow on a digital sobriety pledge. And for some, that written commitment can make the difference between slipping up or holding strong on particularly challenging days. More than once, I’ve had clients indicate that the pledge alone prevented a near slip-up.
The Benefits of Sobriety Contracts and Pledges
In addition to enhancing accountability, contracts and pledges can prove key in highlighting an addict’s patterns and limits. With the contract, for example, a commitment of 30 days may prove too lofty for someone just beginning the journey. Tweaking the contract to set more achievable objectives can be quite empowering and allows each person to build momentum in a way that is both personalized and comfortable.
While a sobriety contract is written by the client and for the client, sharing it’s contents with appropriate supports can prove quite useful. It wasn’t until my client, Mary*, shared her contract with her husband that he fully grasped the severity of her struggles. For Mary, the contract was a way to say, “Hey! This is a real problem and I’m taking positive steps to address it.” A really productive dialogue resulted and Mary still considers that moment the turning point in her own recovery.
As you navigate the road to recovery, consider incorporating a written commitment into the process. Reflect on the gains of clarity and include them in your sobriety contract. Take control. Pick up the pen. Give yourself the gift of signing the dotted line.
Jen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), sobriety coach, former alcohol enthusiast, and writer living in Florida.