How to Help Yourself Not Use or Drink: A Kind, Straightforward, Evidence-Informed, Do-It-Yourself, Insider’s Guide to Early Recovery from Addiction

Why I Am Writing This Guide

Substance use disorder, a.k.a. “addiction,” is a medical condition requiring initial and on-going medical treatment. Additional services can be helpful. Self-help is not an evidence-based treatment for substance use disorder. However, medical care and evidence-based treatment for addiction are scarce or denied, so people with substance use disorder need to become their own treatment plan designers, treatment providers, and case managers.

The Briefest of Guides
A 1,500-word summary of what research suggests helps people not use or drink.

How This Guide Is Organized

Explanations: Each of the links below leads to a post that explains the concept. From many of the posts, but not all of them, the post links to a printable worksheet related to the concept. The page you are on now serves as the central organizing page, and table of contents, for the explanations.

Worksheets: I am building a set of worksheets related to each concept. A  current list of worksheets is here.

Some of the posts refer to the “Feeling Wheel” developed by Dr. Gloria Wilcox. Here’s the reference, and here’s a .pdf (opens in a new tab).

The text usually uses “I-statements” rather than addresses the reader as “you.” Readers are welcome to relate to the content rather than experience it as morale-crushing, unsolicited advice.

This guide is a work in progress, last updated 1/7/18. Sections will be linked to as they are completed.

“Love, evidence & respect.”
Maia Szalavitz, in response to the question, “What treats addiction?”

Explanations: Table of Contents

A 1,500-word summary of what research suggests helps people not use or drink. (Also linked to above as “The Briefest of Guides.”

Part I

After receiving medical care, developing fundamental skills with emotion regulation, attention management, thought management, and physical awareness may assist people with not using substances that are problematic for them.

First Things First: Medical Care
Brief guide to requesting medical care for substance use disorder, and for related medical and health concerns.

Emotion Regulation, Attention Management, Thought Management, and Physical Awareness

Part II

After 1) receiving medical care, and 2) developing skill with a) emotion regulation, b) attention management, c) thought management, and d) physical awareness, developing skill with the following subjects may assist people in abstaining from substances problematic for them.

A list of myth-busting quotes related to addiction treatment.

  • Quotes are being compiled at the end of this glossary.

Treatment Plans
Outlines, in simple but clinical terms, of what research suggests should comprise an initial, evidence-based treatment plan for substance use disorder, popularly termed “addiction.”

Possible Replacements for Substances
Assistance with figuring out what purposes substances served and what might help instead.

Needs Assessment
A list of practical matters that might cause stress in a person’s life and consideration of what might help ease one or more of them. (forthcoming)

Assistance with Environmental Cues
Consideration of what can set a person up to return to use and what might help alter what’s going on, avoid it, or muscle through it. (forthcoming)

Self-counseling: Trauma
Two-thirds of of people with addiction having experienced trauma. This is what research suggests people can do to help themselves with trauma.

Self-counseling: Anger
If a person has “anger issues” and has been prescribed “anger management,” this is what the research suggests can be helpful with anger.

Self-counseling: CBT, DBT, CM
Top therapies that can assist with abstinence and/or harm reduction include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and contingency management (CM). An overview of these concepts may offer ideas on ways to provide the essence of these top-tier therapies for oneself. (forthcoming)

Consideration of the research on the interrelationship of love and addiction in the brain’s neurocircuitry, what that might mean to an individual, and how that might help with recovery from addiction. (forthcoming)


A few skills – fostering safety, becoming aware of attunement, reflective listening, noticing and acknowledging others’ thoughts, empathizing with (safe) others’ feelings – can improve relationships with one’s partner,  children, neighbors, co-workers.

Family and Friends
Self-generated list of criteria by which one decides how much to engage in current relationships. (forthcoming)

Employers and Employees
Employees need employers to value their work enough to pay for it and to want to continue employing them. Employers need employees to stay in the position and work in ways that result in profit – and not loss – for the employer. Everyone needs the customer to value the work enough to pay for it. A realistic look at how businesses make money, and the differences in power and dependence that can result, can help people have a satisfying, stable experience at work. (forthcoming)

Becoming aware of one’s own views of sexuality, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections, and learning to talk those over with a potential partner prior to sexual intimacy, can assist with a sense of safety, well-being, and stability for oneself and one’s partner. (forthcoming)

While receiving medical care, or working to get medical care, people can do things on their own to help maintain a sense of stability and well-being.

Using the skill of awareness, anything that might cause problems can be tracked – caffeine intake, sleep patterns, spending, screen time, for example. From looking at that data, people can see what’s working and what’s problematic. Following Steven Covey’s guidance to “Begin with the end in mind,” people can then decide what they want to have happen, and figure out what steps would be needed to make that happen. (forthcoming)

Addiction is defined as a medical illness of the organ of the brain, but is believed to be a moral condition or a criminal offense. People don’t “go bad” when they develop addiction and don’t “get good” when they abstain or practice harm reduction. Wikipedia defines social stigma as “disapproval of (or discontent with) a person or group based on socially characteristic grounds that are perceived, and serve to distinguish them, from other members of a society.” Stigma with regard to addiction is real, costly and dangerous, occurs internally and socially, and has to be addressed directly. (forthcoming)

The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my employers, co-workers, clients, family members or friends. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.