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The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements is a set of principles and guidelines for living a healthy, fulfilling life with integrity and accountability. Some people use it in tandem with the 12 Steps. Others may find it to be a helpful alternative to the 12 Steps.

What Are the Four Agreements?

“The Four Agreements” is a book based on ancient Toltec Wisdom and written by best-selling author Don Miguel Ruiz. Popular and influential, this book asserts that the way people think and act has everything to do with “agreements” they make with themselves. These agreements could also be called belief systems or entrenched attitudes. While people are drinking or drugging, their attitudes are often negative or self-serving. The Four Agreements offers suggestions for alternative ways to live, think and speak that are more in line with a healthy and happy lifestyle.

These are the Four Agreements outlined by Don Miguel Ruiz:

Be Impeccable With Your Word – The first agreement addresses denial, one of the hallmarks of drug and alcohol addiction. Addiction is sometimes accompanied by dishonesty, manipulation, omissions and obfuscations. Being impeccable with one’s speech means that they say what they mean and they mean what they say. This can increase an individual’s self-respect and improve their relationships with others.

Don’t Take Anything Personally – Addiction can be isolating and fuel self-centric thoughts and feelings of guilt, shame or anger. Loved ones’ needs can feel like assaults on one’s well-being, and the person with addiction may interpret their concerns as personal attacks. In recovery, learning to own one’s feelings and take responsibility for their behavior can boost confidence. Accepting feedback, criticism or concerns from others without being triggered to react defensively helps people enjoy better relationships with the people around them.

Don’t Make Assumptions – It can be easy to make negative assumptions when an individual is struggling with addiction. Using drugs or alcohol can start a downward spiral in which they disappoint people, feel badly about themselves and behave poorly out of guilt, shame, depression and anger. If their negative assumptions turn out to be on target, they keep making them. This agreement encourages people to stop making assumptions and open themselves up to other possibilities. Listening to others and understanding their actions and motivations can take the place of guesswork and encourage more honest and productive interactions.

Always Do Your Best – Living with integrity and having a healthy sense of self-respect go hand in hand. Being able to say to oneself and the world, “I did my best” can help clients feel better about themselves and increase self-esteem. It can provide a healthy kind of “high” and help people enjoy recovery and a clean and sober lifestyle.

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