Recovery Workshop

Decision-Making Worksheet

Mastering the skill of decision-making is essential to eliminating the pattern of addiction. Learning to make value-based decisions (versus emotion-based) is at the core of deriving positive stimulation from your actions. This worksheet is provided to help you ingrain the process of making value-based decisions when faced with such a compulsive urge. This form is not intended to guide you through every decision you will face in your life. It is to be used early on to ingrain the process of making value-based decisions when facing a compulsive urge. Once this process has become ingrained, many of these steps will take place quickly and without conscious effort.

Making Value-Based Decisions

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Step 1: Recognize that every urge requires a decision to be made.

While compulsive urges are experienced as intense emotions, they can also be used to warn us that a decision will be necessary to help manage those emotions. In addiction, the decision to engage in the behavior is the one most commonly implemented, but there are other ways to relieve the urge as well. Ways that yield significantly better consequences.

Briefly describe the urge that you experienced:

Example: While at work, I experienced the urge to download a few images of porn...then go to the bathroom and masturbate to those images.


Step 2: Evaluate the options that are realistically available to you in managing this urge.

Quite often, the person experiencing compulsive urges will see no options. They know from experience that when they feel a certain way, they must act on it or suffer significant anxiety/pressure. But there are always options to consider — always.

List the most realistic options that are available to you in managing this urge:


  • Option 1: I download the porn, go to the bathroom and masturbate.
  • Option 2: I don't download the porn. Don't go to the bathroom. Don't masturbate.
  • Option 3: I don't download the porn, but do go to the bathroom and masturbate.
  • Option 4: Instead of downloading the porn and/or masturbating, I make plans for a romantic dinner with my wife.

Step 3: Filter the options through your existing boundaries.

Boundaries are fluid — meaning that they change through experience. The boundaries that you will use in decision-making are the EXISTING boundaries that you have in place.

List the results of each option as they relate to your existing boundaries:


  • Option 1 Potential for being caught violates boundary of "I will not act in a way that will jeopardize my career." NOT AN OPTION*.
  • Option 2 No existing boundaries violated
  • Option 3 No existing boundaries violated
  • Option 4 No existing boundaries violated

*Note: once a single boundary has been violated, there is no need to consider the option further. Violating one boundary is no different from a decision-making standpoint than violating ten.

Step 4: Apply your existing values to the remaining options.

The more important the values used in making decisions, the greater the amount of positive stimulation that can be derived from the consequences of that decision.

For each remaining option, list the values that should be considered in making the decision:


Step 5: Make a decision as to which course of action you will take.

Whether or not this decision is the best one is unimportant. What matters is that, based on your current values/boundaries, you are acting in a manner that is consistent with those values/boundaries.

Example: I am choosing not to download the porn, but to go ahead and relieve myself in the bathroom.


Step 6: Evaluate the immediate emotional consequences of the decision.

Evaluating the immediate consequences requires an emotional assessment of the changes that have taken place as a result of the action decided upon. This step is almost always completed naturally, and it is the key element in the addiction process. When a person relies solely on the emotional consequences of their actions to guide their decisions, the potential for unhealthy behavioral patterns appear.

List the immediate emotional consequences of the decision:

Example: I experienced minor relief at not risking my job by downloading porn. I experienced major relief while masturbating in the bathroom. I experienced some excitement at the thought of masturbating in a place where I wasn't supposed to. I experienced some shame as I walked out of the bathroom, hoping that nobody knew what I was doing in there.


Step 7: Evaluate the long-term consequences of the decision.

Evaluating the long-term consequences of the decision that you have made is how you learn. It is how you grow. It is how you actively change your core identity. Neglecting this step ensures that the next time you are facing a similar situation, you will again base your decision to act on the emotional consequences alone. Eventually, as you learn to evaluate the long-term consequences of your decisions, you associate emotional reactions to those consequences as well...thus providing you with the ability to achieve immediate emotional stimulation through value-based decisions.

List the long-term consequences of the decision:

Example: I didn't have to worry about someone finding traces of downloaded porn on my work computer. I didn't have to worry about the downloaded images being left in my pants pocket to be found by my wife...or the custodian in the trash. I was able to manage an urge to download porn effectively without actually downloading the porn.

For arguments sake, let's say that I was actually caught masturbating in the bathroom.

Long-term consequences: Behavior was reported to boss. Feel ongoing shame and embarrassment when in the presence of my boss. Worry that coworkers will have heard what I did and be talking about me behind my back. Worry that I'll become the butt of office jokes.


Step 8: Adjust your boundaries/values in accordance with what you have learned from the consequences.

With a general knowledge of the consequences of your decision, this knowledge can then be used to effect change.

Example: I was unprepared for the possibility of getting caught masturbating. My existing boundaries were insufficient in protecting my values and so they need to be adjusted. In the future, I will not engage in any sexual behavior at work.

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