Establishing New Habits in Recovery: The Paper Clip Strategy (Pt. 2)

ReadEstablishing New Habits in Recovery: The Paper Clip Strategy (Pt. 1)

Tips to Implement the Paper Clip Strategy

Get a standard box of paper clips and two containers (they can be anything that will hold and visually display the clips – trays, cups, or these fancy things). Identify the new practices to which you want to stick. When you accomplish a task, move a paper clip. Try not to leave any clips unmoved. Rinse and repeat!! In deciding on the new habits you want to master, consider the following:

  • Keep it simple: 5-7 daily tasks or habits are ideal. Anything more can be overwhelming and, the more things you have on your list, the easier it is not to get them done.
  • Focus on the essentials or “non-negotiables”: These are things that are critical to your sobriety and you don’t want to skimp on no matter what. They might include going to 12 step meetings, calling a sponsor, reading recovery literature, meditating, or exercising.
  • Commit to it daily: the process doesn’t work if you start, and then stop, and pick up again 3 weeks later. Focus on consistency and commitment day in and day out. When you do so, your days will take shape differently. New priorities will emerge.

Sobriety is more than just not drinking or using. For most, it is laying claim to a new and better life which starts with doing the most basic things differently. And that takes practice. The paper clip strategy can help by retraining us to change one thing at a time, all the time. A whole lot can come from that.

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