Three circles

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The three circles is an exercise / diagram used by recovering addicts to describe and define behaviors that lead either to a relapse into or recovery from addictive behaviors. Some treatment groups and 12-step recovery programs encourage recovering addicts to complete the three circle exercise to help the addict identify behaviors that promote or endanger their sobriety. The first use of the term is found in a pamphlet publication of Sex Addicts Anonymous, entitled "Three circles: Defining sobriety in S.A.A." Minneapolis, MN: SAA Literature (1991). It has since been republished. [1]

Contents

When creating the three circles diagram, the addict draws three concentric circles, one inside the other (like a bull's eye). The addict then lists behaviors in each of the circles that reset, endanger or promote their sobriety.

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Inner Circle
The addict lists behaviors they want to stop engaging in in the inner-most circle. Engaging in any of these "inner circle" or "bottom-line" behaviors would result in a loss of sobriety for the addict. Addicts typically consider their "sobriety date" to be the last day they engaged in these "inner circle" behaviors.

Middle Circle
The addict then lists "middle line" or "boundary behaviors" in the second or "middle circle." These include behaviors that may or may not be appropriate but lead to the bottom line behaviors listed in the inner circle. Examples of middle-circle behaviors include not getting enough sleep, overwork, procrastination, etc.

Outer Circle
Finally, the addict list their "top lines" or healthy behaviors in the "outer circle." These "outer circle" behaviors lead the addict away from the objectionable behavior listed in the inner circle. Examples include going to a recovery meeting, calling one's sponsor or other person in the addict's support group, spiritual reading, recovery writing, etc.

This visual image of three circles can help addicts realize when they are in trouble and what they need to do to move closer to their definition of a healthy behavior.

Three circles - healthy and unhealthy behaviors by addicts.

The concept is used in Twelve-step programs and in treatment of addictive behavior.

A twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the Twelve Steps were first published in the 1939 book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism. The method was adapted and became the foundation of other twelve-step programs.

An addictive behavior is a behavior, or a stimulus related to a behavior, that is both rewarding and reinforcing, and is associated with the development of an addiction. Addictions involving addictive behaviors are normally referred to as behavioral addictions.

Top lines

Addicts speak of top lines to prevent approaching doing something which may trigger a slip, relapse or loss of sobriety.

In medicine, relapse or recidivism is a recurrence of a past condition. For example, multiple sclerosis and malaria often exhibit peaks of activity and sometimes long periods of dormancy, followed by relapse or recrudescence.

Sobriety condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol

Sobriety is the condition of not having any measurable levels or effects from alcohol. Sobriety is also considered to be the natural state of a human being given at a birth. A person in a state of sobriety is considered sober. In a treatment setting, sobriety is the achieved goal of independence from consuming alcohol. As such, sustained abstinence is a prerequisite for sobriety. Early in abstinence, residual effects of alcohol consumption can preclude sobriety. These effects are labeled "PAWS," or "post acute withdrawal syndrome." Someone who abstains, but has a latent desire to resume use, is not considered truly sober. An abstainer may be subconsciously motivated to resume alcohol consumption, but for a variety of reasons, abstains. Sobriety has more specific meanings within specific contexts, such as the culture of many substance use recovery programs, law enforcement, and some schools of psychology. In some cases, sobriety implies achieving "life balance."

As addicts work with sponsors to help them understand their addiction and the behaviors which trigger their addiction or actions which endanger their sobriety, they form a list of things which tip them off that they are in danger. Top lines are flags on the edge of minefield. The mines are bottom line behaviour.

Sponsor (commercial) commercial supporter of an event, activity, or person

Sponsoring something is the act of supporting an event, activity, person, or organization financially or through the provision of products or services. The individual or group that provides the support, similar to a benefactor, is known as sponsor.

Bottom lines

Bottom line behaviour is any sexual or emotional or physical act which, once engaged in, leads to loss of control of the addictive process.

There are warning signs sometimes called mid-lines, or accessory behaviors, which warn the addict that s/he may be engaging in behaviour which may lead to loss of sobriety.

An example of mid-line behaviour for a Sex Addict might be cruising the streets or looking at the covers of pornographic magazines. These behaviours can lead to loss of sobriety.

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A food addiction or eating addiction is a behavioral addiction that is characterized by the compulsive consumption of palatable foods which markedly activate the reward system in humans and other animals despite adverse consequences.

Substance dependence, also known as drug dependence, is an adaptive state that develops from repeated drug administration, and which results in withdrawal upon cessation of drug use. A drug addiction, a distinct concept from substance dependence, is defined as compulsive, out-of-control drug use, despite negative consequences. An addictive drug is a drug which is both rewarding and reinforcing. ΔFosB, a gene transcription factor, is now known to be a critical component and common factor in the development of virtually all forms of behavioral addiction and drug addictions, but not dependence.

Sexual addiction, also known as sex addiction, is a state characterized by compulsive participation or engagement in sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse, despite negative consequences.

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA) is a twelve-step program for people who want to stop having compulsive sex. SCA founding is attributed variously to 1982 in New York City and to 1973 in Los Angeles. Although the fellowship originally sought to address issues of sexual compulsion among gay and bisexual men, and this is still the fellowships predominate demographic, today the program is LGBT friendly, open to all sexual orientations, and there is an increasing number of women and heterosexual men participating. SCA meetings are most likely to be held in urban areas with larger gay and bisexual male populations. The majority of members are white, but vary in age and socioeconomic background. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop having compulsive sex.

Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) is a twelve-step program for people who want to stop their addictive sexual behavior. There also exists a group known as COSA, for those who have been impacted by others' sexual addiction.

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) is a twelve-step program for people recovering from sex addiction and love addiction. SLAA was founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1976, by a member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Though he had been a member of AA for many years, he repeatedly acted out and was serially unfaithful to his wife. He founded SLAA as an attempt to stop his compulsive sexual and romantic behavior. SLAA is also sometimes known as the Augustine Fellowship, because early members saw many of their shared symptoms described by St. Augustine of Hippo in his work Confessions. COSLAA is another twelve-step fellowship created to support the family members and friends of sex and love addicts.

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LifeRing Secular Recovery Addiction and recovery organization

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