Recovering From Drug or Alcohol Addiction? 4 Business Steps to Innovate Your Recovery

If you’re recovering from addiction, you might need to overhaul EVERYTHING. Here are four (4) practices usually applied to business innovation that can help!

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This article is written for anyone in addiction recovery looking for REAL CHANGE.

I am an addictions counselor with decades of clinical experience. However, I’m also interested in business. And – believe it not – business and health have something to offer one another.

Here, I present a new idea…how recovery is like a business process. The more you innovate, the closer you get to your true self.

Enjoy. And please leave your questions or comments at the end!

From Addiction to Recovery

So, you might be wondering how business strategy can be applied to your life situation. I get it. But let me ask you a question…

If you’ve figured out that you may be addicted to drugs or alcohol, would a radical upheaval not be called for? In other words, would an innovation of sorts not be called for?

If, for a short time, you agree with the above, then what would this look like? Then, what are the steps to guide someone through the innovation process of addiction to recovery?

Recovery = A Chance to Innovate

That is to say, simply view the recovery process as an opportunity to innovate yourself even more. The bottom line is that you have already done this many times in your life. Think about moving from high school to college. Then, getting your first job and learning to be responsible. Having children and innovating yourself to become a father or husband.

It’s not like you know how to be a father or husband when you started, but through the process of trial and error—making mistakes, trying new things and iterating on new ideas—you figured it out.

Q: What process is taking place behind the scenes?
A: Innovation.


Business Innovation is a 4 Step Process

If we take a glance into the world of business innovation, where it is most evident, we find a typical 3 or 4-step innovation process. David Power in his Harvard University article 4 Steps to an Effective Innovation Process outlined a 4-step business innovation process:

(1) observe your customers
(2) create new solutions
(3) prototype and learn in the market, and
(4) implement the best ideas

Darin Eich PhD, an innovation expert, in his book Innovation Step-by- Step: How to Generate & Develop Ideas for your Challenge, identified specific steps a person can take to move through an innovation process for an important challenge they would like to work on. In his article about mindset for innovative thinking, he shares three basic stages to move through when using the innovation process for yourself:

(1) identify the challenge
(2) brainstorm ideas, and
(3) take action

As you can see there can be overlap, but one thing is for sure, there is a process to innovation.

So why would this innovation process not apply to recovery from an addiction? We might even call this some of the process to develop your own recovery prototype. Your addiction recovery is kind of an individual product you are creating. You have been innovating your whole life, but we just don’t think of ourselves as products. For a few minutes, though, let’s see what we can learn by making connections between innovation and the recovery process.

The 4-step Innovation Process Applied to Addiction Recovery

Step 1. Observe the Problem. Then, Issue a Challenge.

By building an understanding of your problem and the pain points it causes, you can gain a deeper understanding of potential solutions. Businesses look to see what their pain point is in product development. People actively addicted will eventually get sick and tired of being sick and tired—they need to examine their product.

The person who might be becoming addicted can deny the problem, just as a business can deny the fact that its product needs revision. But in the end, there is a movement toward observing that there is something not quite right, and there may be a problem.

If a business never identifies that the product has problems, it will never arrive at the second stage of the innovation process. Similarly, someone struggling with alcohol or drugs may not identify a problem that needs to be addressed.

Step 2. Create New Solutions. Brainstorm.

Once a business has identified a problem, they will look at how to create new solutions. Be open and free on how you draw it up. A business will revamp the structure of the product, or how it interacts with its users. People struggling with addiction will need new ideas on how to change their product. Maybe a part of their product is using drugs and alcohol to have a good time and cope with the stress of life.

How will they get new ideas? Likely from their education up to this point. They may enter rehab, or they might just decide to go it alone. They may limit their use for a period, or abstain completely, for a short period of time to see how much control the addiction really has on them.

These are brainstormed ideas that may or may not work for the individual. Business that can generate more ideas have a better chance of coming up with a solution than business that can only come up with a few. Your personal business of addiction to recovery can be viewed in a similar fashion; the more ideas of ways one has to stay sober, the better off they will be. This process involves researching, educating and trying out new ways of living. It’s trying new ways of not using or drugging to see what does and does not work for the individual.

The key point is to not just brainstorm, but try new behaviors out for size. To be truly innovative, you must first generate ideas and then test them.

Step 3. Prototype and Learn.

Begin to take some risks by trying out some of your new ideas about sobriety. This might mean getting a substance abuse assessment, entering outpatient treatment, going to an AA, NA or Smart Recovery meeting, listening to recovery podcasts, or reading stories of how others overcame their addiction. You have to draw your recovery line in the sand somewhere.

This is prototyping your recovery program to learn more about the business of recovery. Businesses do not get prototypes right the first time around. They are often revamped over multiple iterations. Why would recovery be any different?

In my years of working as an alcohol and drug counselor, I have noticed that in many cases, success comes to those who try many new things, continuing to learn and revamp their recovery plan.

Step 4. Take Action on the Best Ideas. Revise, if Necessary.

“Take those successful prototypes to market—and keep learning.”

Market test your prototype for recovery with your own life. What works for you, and what doesn’t? How do you need to refine your recovery prototype? Remember that prototypes are not created perfectly the first time around—they are just prototypes!

Prototypes require revisions over time. If you expect them to stay the same, you have another thing coming! Think about how can you continue to implement the recovery ideas that do work for you. Is it more AA, NA or Smart Recovery meetings? Maybe it’s introducing more healthy and fun recreation activities into your life. Or does it mean periodic meetings with a life coach or substance abuse counselor? Maybe it even means a career change to increase personal happiness and passion for life.

Might the prototype crash and burn, leading to relapse? Most like, at times, it will. But that is the case for most people who try to shift from using to recovery. Eighty percent will relapse in the process of trying something new, but this is also the case for a business prototype. Most prototypes won’t work out initially.

Finally, Revisit and Revise!

Addiction recovery is a wonderful time for you to create a new “you”. You are free to develop new qualities, focus on new priorities, and attract new consequences. And the process doesn’t complete with one iteration. You can continue to innovate as you go!

As you continue your journey to hone your own great recovery “prototype”, I wish each and every one of you blessings on the way.

Got Any Questions?

We hope these 4 steps of innovating from addiction to recovery have helped you in achieving more in your sober life. If you have any other questions or would like to share your own path of self-innovation with other readers, please post them in the designated section below. We value our readers’ feedback and always try to respond to all legitimate inquiries with a personal and prompt answer.

About the author
Ted Izydor, LPC, CSAC, ICS, MBA, MINT. is a licensed mental health and addiction counselor who specializes in working with people struggling with substance use/addiction and people active in recovery looking to enhance their recovery and life. Ted's positivity and real life approach helps people leverage their unique strengths and motivations into positive life changes. Ted is currently a lecturer at UW-Whitewater, a consultant for health care organizations and host of the Full Potential Now Addiction Podcast. Ted is a member of the National Board of Counselors and the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and is a true believer of unlimited possibilities.
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