Engineering My Own Recovery *

I’m in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology program at BYU and an important tool in manufacturing is called the PDCA cycle. There are different variations, but they all focus on the same principles, and my favorite version goes Plan, Do, Check, Adjust. It was originally applied to manufacturing, but has since found it’s way into all sorts of fields and I think that it applies abundantly to recovery.


The first step, plan, involves setting goals and strategizing on 
how to improve a process. I feel like recovery is a process, not an event, so this is perfect. Looking back I made most of my plans right after a relapse, which was when I felt the need to change most strongly. I’ve probably made hundreds of plans and resolutions as I struggled with my addiction over the years, some were more successful than others, but all were made with at least some intention of improving.

My plans ranged from simply resolving not to relapse any more, to detailed steps that I would take in the event of temptation. However, I found that my most successful plans were one’s that didn’t depend on temptation, but were things I did consistently that helped my recovery regardless of how “tempted” I felt at the moment. Examples of these kinds of plans were daily check-ins with my sponsor, daily scripture study and prayer, daily workouts, weekly check-ins with my bishop, and so forth. But, it doesn’t matter so much what the plan is, as long as it’s followed by the next steps.


This part is hard because it involves actually doing something. I made lots of plans that I carried out. Some of my better plans that I didn’t act on were to call someone when I was feeling tempted, or to just go on a run if I was struggling with temptation. These plans might have worked if I’d actually done them, which leads to the next step.


Did my plan work out the way that I wanted it to? Did it help me achieve a longer sobriety? Questions like these are critical to this step, and it’s something I rarely did well. It was kind of in the back of my mind when I made the exact same plan over again, but I just shoved it away, hoping that this time would be different while a part of me secretly hoped that it wouldn’t. Follow up questions are also important, like asking the “5 Why’s” to find the root cause of the problem. 

Side note: The “5 Why’s” are another manufacturing tool. They’re a system of asking “why” 5 times in an attempt to get to the root of a problem. There’s nothing magic about the number 5, but it’s usually enough levels to go through to find the root. Here’s an example of 5 questions applied to addiction recovery:

  1. Why did I relapse? I didn’t follow my plan to call someone when I felt tempted.
  2. Why didn’t I call someone? I wanted to be able to handle my temptation on my own.
  3. Why did I want to do it alone? My pride says that I should be able to recover without help.
  4. Why do I let my pride get in the way of my recovery? I secretly don’t want to recover just yet.
  5. Why don’t I want to recover yet?  I’m worried that life won’t be better in recovery and I’m afraid that I might actually give up my addiction which makes me sad.

This process is repeated with however many iterations required to reach the root cause  (it doesn’t have to be exactly 5).


This is the point where either things are going great and you just keep going with the same plan, or maybe just tweak it a bit, or it’s time to seriously change the plan. This is why it’s not critical what your first plan is, because it is usually adjusted anyway. Things that grew from this step that helped my recovery move along were things like reporting how I was doing to my sponsor on a scale of 1-10, and writing something that I learned from my scripture study every day to help myself have more meaningful studies. 

Something that I didn’t do that would have been helpful would have been to record my progress by writing down my plans, how well I did them, how well they worked, and any adjustments that I made. That way over all the years I struggled with addiction I hopefully would not have repeated the same plans over again as often.

* This post was written by my good friend Jameson, who is happily married and currently a facilitator in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program.

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