Recovery from addiction requires the ability to rank crisis situations, recovery actions, and daily activities so that you give adequate attention to each day’s priorities. Remember “first things first.”

For many people, crisis is fun, and balance is boring. This means that you might be getting an excitement high from screwing up the priorities. Addicted people should follow priorities that take addiction into account.

Real Crisis

A real crisis is a condition that clearly interrupts the ordinary schedule of life, like a fire, a hurricane, a death in the family, or other critical situation that everyone would agree is a crisis. If you have a heart attack on the way to a Twelve-Step meeting, go to the emergency room, not the meeting.

This does not mean that addiction recovery (even meeting attendance) should be abandoned during a crisis, but the situation may dictate that some things be suspended for a brief period.

If the crisis is genuine, and you are doing what you honestly can for your recovery during the crisis, your Higher Power will or the Program will carry you through the crisis itself (but not necessarily through the aftermath).

Medical Primary

If there is a real medical problem, like surgery or diabetes or other serious physical necessity, that may take precedence over certain (not all) aspects of your recovery. For example, if you have to fast until noon to take a medical test, that is not a break of your abstinence or moderation from addictive eating. If you normally avoid things high in sugar, it is not a break of your abstinence or moderation to drink the liquid they use for a glucose tolerance test. If you are chemically dependent, you may still need some kind of analgesic (painkiller) following surgery.

As with crises, however, you may need to focus on your recovery as soon as possible, given the medical emergency.

Addiction Primary

If there is no real crisis or primary medical condition, your recovery should have priority over all other problems in your life. This does not mean your recovery IS necessarily more important than your family, for example, but if you don’t put recovery first, you probably won’t have much to offer a family member who needs your time and emotional support.

Other Primary Problem

From time to time, other problems may make demands for your undivided attention. Your job may require you to work overtime for two weeks steady. You might have a child’s wedding to put on. You might be on a two-week vacation to a foreign country. These kinds of problems can be faced with the help of a Higher Power only your recovery has a higher priority.

Combination Problem

Most problems you face are combination problems; there is a near-crisis, and your recovery is involved to some degree, and the normal things of life are going on as usual. So you have to get help from your Higher Power or Program to order the priorities at hand, and not ignore either your recovery, the near-crisis, or daily living. Use the Serenity Prayer.

Situation Normal

For many addicts, the most dangerous time is situation normal. You may get bored with the routine, and be tempted to “stir something up.”

More addicts relapse following a crisis than during it. So a return to situation normal should be a signal to give adequate focus to recovery.

You should regularly evaluate your priority system. An excellent tool for that is the daily inventory of Step Ten.


Finally, this kind of priority system helps to develop the Honesty, Openmindedness, and Willingness for recovery. Rather than a chore, prioritizing in recovery becomes another aspect of freedom. You can enjoy the knowledge that you are giving a healthy priority to things, with adequate time and effort being spent on recovery, work, and play.

Priorities, see also: Abstinence, Abuse, Aftercare, Behavior, Celebrations, Codependency, Contacts, Crisis, Delusion, Dichotomous thinking, Disease concept, Eating addiction, Family, Habit & structure, Halfway house, Moderation, Nicotine, Premenstrual syndrome, Pregnancy, Prevention of addiction, Relapse & prevention, Sabotage of recovery, Sex, Sleep, Sponsorship, Stinking thinking, Stress & strain, Therapy & treatment.

Updated 12 Sep 2015

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Addictionary 2 by Jan & Judy Wilson

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