Some examples of what reasonable self-help plans look like will help to make the planning process easier to understand. Feel free to look over these examples and borrow ideas from them for your own planning purposes.
You’ll see in these examples that there are many ways to write a plan. It’s fine to write your plan however you see fit, but do include at least one concrete goal to work towards, a method or methods for reaching that goal, a method for measuring progress towards your goal and a timeline or deadline for meeting the goal.
From that minimal base, you can build our your plan as you see fit. Your plan can include more than one goal, if you wish. Each goal can be addressed by more than one method, too. You can and should change out the short-term goals you're working on as you master them. You can revise timelines and deadlines as needed to give yourself more time or to make up for instances of backsliding when you didn’t work your plan. If a change method doesn't work for you even after you’ve used it consistently for a reasonable period of time, you can change your plan so that you use a different change method that might work better.
Always keep in mind that your plan is not sacred and unchanging, but rather something that can and should evolve as your needs evolve. You are in charge, and you are responsible. Let the following examples stir your creativity for writing a plan that will fit you.
Example 1: Managing Suicidal Urges
Jim’s father committed suicide on May 2nd, several years ago. Jim has mild, recurrent depression, but he usually copes well, except in late April through mid-May. He knows, through a therapist he saw at one time when he was suicidal, that it’s fairly common to have suicidal thoughts on or near the anniversary of the suicide of someone with whom you were close. Jim decides in advance this year that he should make a plan for handling this year's risk weeks. Here is Jim’s plan:
Goal 1 - Reduce risk of acting on a suicide impulse
· Method 1 - Empty my medicine cabinet of pills, blades, and other tools I might become tempted to use if I become suicidal. Do this in March.
· Measurement: I will not act on suicidal impulses this Spring.
· Deadline - May 15.
Goal 2 - Keep suicidal thoughts to a minimum
· Method 1 - Divert and distract myself by planing in advance to be with other people as much as possible during April and May.
· Method 2 - self-monitor for thoughts of suicide.
· Method 3 - Use a cognitive restructuring method to argue with with my suicidal thoughts when they appear.
· Method 4 - Remind myself that "I want to be here for my son" when I start thinking of suicide.
· Method 5 - Plan and make arrangements for a fun vacation in April, so that I have something positive to look forward to.
· Measurement - I will develop no plan for suicide this Spring.
· Deadline - May 15.
Example 2: Stay Sober From Alcohol
George is a geology professor at the university and has been in recovery from alcoholism for eight years. He hasn’t had a relapse in four years and, then, it was a brief episode. He hasn’t been to an AA meeting in several months. Recently, he has become friends again with another professor he used to drink with. They’ve convinced each other that they deserve to have a few drinks this coming Friday night and have chosen to meet at a bar they used to frequent together. On Wednesday, George recognizes he is experiencing some of the warning signs of relapse he has learned: exhaustion, depression and self-pity. (Others, according to AA, are; dishonesty, impatience, argumentativeness, frustration, cockiness, complacency, expectations of others, letting up on disciplines, use of mood altering chemicals, unrealistic goals, feelings of omnipotence, forgetting gratitude and attitude of, "it cannot happen to me" that results in carelessness.) George tells his AA sponsor he’s in trouble and the sponsor says he’ll be over later that evening. Together, they will go over the plan George has put together to avoid relapse. Note that George has two goals in this plan. He uses timelines where those work better than deadlines. Here is George’s plan:
Goal 1 - Don't drink on Friday
· Method 1 - Tell my old "drinking friend" why I will not meet him on Friday evening or otherwise socialize with him again, being totally honest.
· Measurement - Feeling of less tension, guilt, temptation and then absence of thoughts about taking a drink for longer and longer period of time.
· Deadline to Method 1 - Tomorrow at work.
Goal 2 - Reduce temptation to drink in general.
· Method 1- Go to three AA meetings per week, beginning this evening, and confess my drinking and tell how I let myself and others down during this relapse into almost drinking again. Reduce meetings to two per week when I’m not feeling depressed, and when all of my relapse signs have disappeared, go once per week.
· Method 2 - Pray or meditate daily on my powerlessness to control drinking.
· Measurement - I will mark off each day I go to AA in my schedule book, in red, and each day I don’t drink, in blue.
· Timeline -
· For Method 1: As listed in the method; down to once per week, and thereafter, continue once per week.
· For Method 2: Continue daily