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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
Rational Recovery is a commercial vendor of material related to counseling, guidance, and direct instruction for addiction designed as a direct counterpoint to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and twelve-step programs. Rational Recovery was founded in 1986 by Jack Trimpey, a California-licensed clinical social worker. Trimpey is a recovered alcoholic who works in the field of treatment of alcoholism and other drug addictions. Rational Recovery is a commercial trademark, along with the Addictive Voice Recognition Technique (AVRT). The organization published a periodical, the Journal of Rational Recovery, from at latest 1993 until at least June 2001
Drug rehabilitation is the process of medical or psychotherapeutic treatment for dependency on psychoactive substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin or amphetamines. The general intent is to enable the patient to confront substance dependence, if present, and cease substance abuse to avoid the psychological, legal, financial, social, and physical consequences that can be caused, especially by extreme abuse. Treatment includes medication for depression or other disorders, counseling by experts and sharing of experience with other addicts.
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 (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.
Sober companion, sober coach, or recovery coach are titles all representing the same job in the field of addiction, providing one-on-one assistance to newly recovering individuals. The goal is to help the client maintain total abstinence or harm reduction from any addiction, and to establish healthy routines at home or after checking out of a residential treatment facility. Regulations do not exist for sober companions. A sober companion may be a part of a whole medical and/or a clinical team of professional(s), may be formally licensed as a mental health professional, or have well-respected experiential experience in the field and may work independently on their own.
SMART Recovery is an international non-profit organization that provides assistance to individuals seeking abstinence from addictions. SMART is an acronym for Self-Management and Recovery Training. The SMART approach is secular and scientifically-based, using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and non-confrontational motivational methods.
Workaholics Anonymous (WA) is a twelve-step program for people identifying themselves as "powerless over compulsive work, worry, or activity" including, but not limited to, workaholics–including overworkers and those who suffer from unmanageable procrastination or work aversion. Anybody with a desire to stop working compulsively is welcome at a WA meeting. Unmanageability can include compulsive work in housework, hobbies, fitness, or volunteering as well as in paid work. Anyone with a problematic relationship with work is welcomed. Workaholics Anonymous is considered an effective program for those who need its help.
LifeRing Secular Recovery is a secular, non-profit organization providing peer-run addiction recovery groups. The organization provides support and assistance to people seeking to recover from alcohol and drug addiction, and also assists partners, family members and friends of addicts or alcoholics. It is an abstinence-based recovery program with three fundamental principles: sobriety, secularity and self-empowerment. The motto of LifeRing is "empower your sober self."
The Forward Trust is a British charity which helps people with drug and alcohol dependence move towards, achieve and maintain drug and crime-free lives. Previously known as RAPt , in was relaunched in 2017 under the new name after the merger with Blye Sky organization.
Behavioral addiction is a form of addiction that involves a compulsion to engage in a rewarding non-substance-related behavior – sometimes called a natural reward – despite any negative consequences to the person's physical, mental, social or financial well-being. A gene transcription factor known as ΔFosB has been identified as a necessary common factor involved in both behavioral and drug addictions, which are associated with the same set of neural adaptations in the reward system.
Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS), also known as Save Our Selves, is a non-profit network of autonomous addiction recovery groups. The program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual in nature. SOS represents an alternative to the spiritually based addiction recovery programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). SOS members may also attend AA meetings, but SOS does not view spirituality or surrendering to a Higher Power as being necessary to maintain abstinence.
Women For Sobriety (WFS) is a non-profit secular addiction recovery group for women with addiction problems. WFS was created by sociologist Jean Kirkpatrick in 1976 as an alternative to twelve-step addiction recovery groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). As of 1998 there were more than 200 WFS groups worldwide. Only women are allowed to attend the organization's meetings as the groups focus specifically on women's issues. WFS is not a radical feminist, anti-male, or anti-AA organization.
An addictive personality refers to a particular set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to developing addictions. This hypothesis states that there may be common personality traits observable in people suffering from addiction. Alan R. Lang of Florida State University, author of an addiction study prepared for the United States National Academy of Sciences, said, "If we can better identify the personality factors, they can help us devise better treatment and can open up new strategies to intervene and break the patterns of addiction."
Recovery coaching is a form of strengths-based support for people with addictions or in recovery from alcohol, other drugs, codependency, or other addictive behaviors. They work with people who have active addictions, as well as those already in recovery. Recovery coaches are helpful for making decisions about what to do with one's life and the part addiction or recovery plays in it. They help clients find ways to stop addiction (abstinence), or reduce harm associated with addictive behaviors. These coaches can help a client find resources for harm reduction, detox, treatment, family support and education, local or online support groups; or help a client create a change plan to recover on their own.
Community reinforcement approach and family training (CRAFT) is a behavior therapy approach for treating addiction. The original community reinforcement approach (CRA), developed by Nate Azrin in the 1970s, uses operant conditioning to help people learn to reduce the power of their addictions and enjoy healthy living. CRAFT combines CRA with family training, which equips families and friends with supportive techniques to encourage their loved ones to begin and continue treatment, and provides defenses against addiction's damaging effects on loved ones.