Staying Organized: Approaching Recovery Using Business Best Practices

By cjbrecovery 01/07/19
3D image for road to recovery

I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but during my long addiction, I was able to appear as a dedicated “workaholic” (a socially accepted addiction) while keeping my less accepted addiction hidden.  I have always been fascinated by highly functioning alcoholics and addicts;  during my addiction, I never considered myself anything other than normal, but after my arrest, suicide attempts and months of sobriety, I clearly see how destructive and reprehensible my behavior was.  Yet, during my twenty-two plus years of addiction, I was able to my work life productive and largely separate from my addictive behaviors.  That is not to say there was no overlap, there was (which I will get into later).


I worked as a Project Manager (PM), which is a profession that prides itself on its organization; it is one of the primary functions of a good Project Manager.  There are many aspects of this profession that I had neglected during my addiction that I am currently nurturing.  By focusing on these behaviors in the last year, I have been able to avert relapse.  I have not become obsessed with organization (thus creating another addiction), but I have improved basic functionality in my life by keeping focused.  All that one needs to do this is a piece of paper and writing implement.  Access to a smartphone helps tremendously, which is the tool that I use.


Calendar Events

Everything that I have scheduled I enter into my calendar, even my 12 step meetings, which are entered as repeating events.  Not only does this provide convenient reminders, it also provides a history of past activity.  Most calendar applications allow the user to create categories.  I have categories for home, recovery and legal.  In addition, after the activity is completed, I add notes about it. 


I track even the simplest of events like paying mortgage or taking out the trash.  I have a daily reminder to mediate (a practice that helps me); there are times that I become so focused on a particular task that I forget to meditate, and the reminder takes me out of that moment and into healthier practices.



Similar to calendar events, reminders are a type of TODO list which I maintain.  Although I do not put everything in there, important items are documented.  When the item is completed, I add a comment and mark it completed.  When I am feeling particularly weak or down, I will review the list of completed items as a visual reminder of what I accomplished. It helps me move forward.


Tracking Goals

Goals are similar to reminder, but are more growth based as opposed to maintenance.  It is a bit of a cliché, but I try to keep my goals SMART:

  •  Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Thus, if I were to create a goal “Be a better person,” that does not meet the SMART criteria (it is not specific or measurable etc).  Even if I added the goal “Learn to use Blender,” (which is the program I used to create the graphic for this article), that would not meet the criteria either. Instead, I wrote “Familiarize myself with Blender Interface and create simple image by January 5, 2018.”


I have a similar approach for recovery related goals as well.  I have a daily goal “Stay Sober Today,” which sets off an alarm each day at 8:00 am.  I also add goals for writing, mediation and reaching out to others in my meetings, including my sponsor.  Taking a few minutes reviewing it at the beginning and end of the day helps keep me focused on my sobriety and health.



In business there is a rule that every meeting should have an agenda and minutes.  I prepare for each meeting by thinking about and even writing notes about my share.  I never take notes, since I wish to respect everyone’s anonymity. However, once I get home, I take a few minutes to  reflect on what I heard and how it impacts me.


Staying Committed

Many people make New Year’s resolutions, and then allow them to falter.  Similarly, making a commitment to organize my recovery required changes in behavior and attitudes. I discuss aspects of it at meetings and openly share ideas with with my peers.  This way, it is incorporated as part of my twelfth step.


Going too Far

As with any practice, it is possible to take it too far and it becomes harmful instead of helpful.  I make sure that I limit my activity to only a few minutes.  I have a fused addiction which includes Screen addiction, so I carefully monitor my online and computer activity.  Similarly, it is important to stay organized, but if my major accomplishment each day is the fact that I was organized, then it is not helpful.


Business Best Practices

I struggle on some days and pray that I do not relapse. I lost my family and friends due to my addictive behavior, and as I rebuild my life, I do not want that to happen again. By taking the practices I successfully applied on the job and applying them  to my recovery, I have been able to stay sober for over a year.  Some of it is due to staying busy and planning activities that leave less time for acting out.  However, there does appear to be mental health benefits to being organized, and for me, it weakens the siren call of my addiction.


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