The Four Agreements: Supporting Your Recovery the Toltec Way

Recovery is a process—you’ve probably heard that over and over again. Perhaps you’ve heard the slogan from the 12-Step tradition: “it works if you work it.” But if working your program feels like you’re climbing uphill through knee-deep molasses in January, we’ll guide you toward other systems or programs to structure your recovery.

There are many good, meaningful programs offering a strong philosophical framework for lasting recovery. One such program is based on the book The Four Agreements, by don Miguel Ruiz. At Journey, therapists weave Ruiz’s four principles into a broader program that includes traditional psychotherapy, 12-Step strategies and a range of complementary holistic therapies. We introduce clients to 12-Step recovery but we recognize that there are many effective paths to healing. We can help you find yours. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

The Four Agreements – An Overview

In The Four Agreements, Ruiz distills a native system of beliefs and ethics, adapted from some of the traditional beliefs of the Toltec people, into four simple and clear directives:

1) Be impeccable with your word. First and foremost, be honest with yourself and then from that baseline of honesty, be truthful in all your communications with others. Honesty and truthfulness are keys to creating a firm foundation in addiction recovery because so much of drinking or using drugs is shrouded in secrecy, lies and deception. Being impeccable with your word means that you can be trusted and relied upon and, ultimately, able to gain back the self-respect and respect from others that will help you move forward in your healing journey.

2) Don’t take anything personally. This might seem like a tough one: sometimes in therapy or in the 12-Step rooms, we hear things that sure sound pretty personal. But this advice is key, because what underlies this directive is the simple fact that we all need to have good boundaries. Other people think what they think, say what they say and do what they do based on what’s happening inside them. It isn’t about you. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give feedback serious consideration, it just means that you shouldn’t take it personally. Maybe that sounds like a subtle distinction, but it is meaningful. You can learn to consider and digest what others have to say about you without getting upset or emotionally triggered by their opinions. Take in what you can. Learn and grow from hearing it, and leave the rest behind.

3) Don’t make assumptions. You’ve probably been hearing this one in some form or another since you were a kid: never assume. In recovery, it’s important to have clear boundaries and even clearer communication. In other words, before you attribute some underlying meaning or negative intent to something someone has said, check it out. Ask questions. When you’re dealing with family members, this is of critical importance. Improving relationships with your spouse, parents or children can only come if you both commit to communicating clearly and intentionally.

4) Always do your best. Push yourself to commit to doing things well. Now that you’re clean and in recovery, take your time to do a job you’re proud of, whether we’re talking about how you washed your kitchen floor or how you dealt with asking your boss for a raise. Even if you don’t get that raise, you can walk away from the situation with your head held high, knowing you did your best. This is important for healing and growing, because while you can’t control what other people do (and shouldn’t take anything anyone else says or does personally), you can control of your own thoughts, words and actions. Speak Confidentially with a Journey Advisor at 844-878-1979.

Living by the four agreements can make a huge difference in your life and your recovery. If this way of approaching an ethical, sober lifestyle speaks to you, then dive in and work these agreements in the same way someone who resonates with the 12 Steps works that program. Consider these agreements your program and make them real, living agreements that you make with yourself every day. A vibrant and joyful sober lifestyle is what you stand to gain.