The Outer Circle

One of the funny things about the 3 circles is that most of us don’t have a clue what to put in the outer circle! I’ve done workshops where people fill in the inner circle in about 15 seconds, we move on to the middle circle, which usually anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes.

At this point, the atmosphere is positive and energized. We’re on the path to recovery here! People are being open and honest about what gets them into trouble, whether it’s people, places, things, or states of mind. We’re psyched about understanding how our seemingly innocent behavior can quickly lead us to destruction. You can literally see the lightbulbs going off over our heads as we realize that going online to “just check email” can be the beginning of a slip.

And then we get to the outer circle and the room quickly deflates. People put down that they could read recovery literature. That’s healthy, right? Or go for a walk. Cook dinner. Take a bubble bath. Wait, maybe the bubble bath isn’t such a great idea since I used to . . . how about going fishing? Wait, that’s kind of isolating. After 15 or twenty minutes of wracking our brains, the group sits back and looks at their 3 circles and feels depressed.

The first time I did my 3 circles in rehab, I remember sitting there thinking there was no way people lived like this. First of all, I couldn’t come up with enough stuff to do. And secondly, the stuff I came up with looked like . . . not enough. And I felt depressed.

So I complained to my therapist. She was unimpressed and pointed out that depression is often anger turned inward (yeah, so what?) and that I needed to add more healthy stuff.

I tried for another hour to come up with something . . . more and I honestly couldn’t. My therapist was wrong, I didn’t need a kick in the butt or tough love, I needed help and direction.

When I came back in tears, completely defeated by the task of filling in my outer circle, she gave me a cd with a lecture given by Patrick Carnes recorded on it. I listened to it that evening, and with his help, I was able to complete my outer circle.

I’ll write more about this in a day or two, but if you can’t wait, you can download a blank 3 circles from my files at box.net (links are to the right). I wish I could share the speech with you, but I’m sure that’d violate some copyright or another. However, I will look to see if I can find it for you somewhere.

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Wife. Mother. Atheist. Aspergers. Sex Addict in Recovery.

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