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Dr. David Fawcett

When first crafted, substance/sex circle plans typically look airtight to the addict. But usually they are not. And even when they are, many addicts can find ways to manipulate and work around their circles. The following tips can help you solidify your circle plan.

  • Be clear. Circle plans define addiction and sobriety, thereby providing a plan for healthier, happier living. These plans are written and signed as contracts as a way to hold you accountable to your commitments, particularly in the face of challenging circumstances. When you lack clearly written boundaries, you are vulnerable to deciding in the moment that certain activities are OK for now even though they’ve been wildly problematic in the past. Remember, impulsive decisions made without clear guidelines are what dragged you down in the first place, so it’s best to not leave any wiggle room.
  • Be flexible (over time). Circle plans are not set in stone. In fact, recovering substance/sex addicts often spend a month or two (or a year or two) with a set of boundaries and then realize their plan needs adjustment. That said, changing your circle plan is not something you should do on your own. Changes to your circle plan should only be made after consultation with your therapist, 12-step sponsor, and accountability network.
  • Be honest. Creating effective circle plans requires complete and brutal honesty from both you and your advisors. If you are looking to justify the continuation of a particular behavior, even though you know that it’s highly problematic for you, you’ll probably convince yourself and your support network to sign off on it (or at least to agree that it’s not a big deal). So for an effective circle plan, honesty is paramount.
  • Consider others. Substance/sex addicts who develop their circle plan while single may need to revise their plan if they enter into a serious relationship. Similarly, substance/sex addicts who are already in long-term relationships need to consider how their new boundaries will affect their partner. Explaining the reasons for any sudden changes in intimate relating will nearly always soften the impact.

Finally, as I stated in my previous post on circle plans, I must emphasize that these plans are, in the long run, less about avoiding inner circle behaviors and more about living your outer circle behaviors. No addict recovers and heals from addiction simply by not doing certain things. The flip side is equally important. The more positive things you can do to feel good about yourself, the better off you will be.


If you or someone you care about is struggling with compulsive or addictive use of pornography, plenty of help is available. Residential treatment and online workgroups can be found at Seeking Integrity: Los Angeles. Free online podcasts, articles, webinars, drop-in discussion groups, and daily inspirations are available through