The bottom line: mapping desired and undesired behaviour


If you are at the start of your recovery process, then the ‘bottom line’ plays an important part.

What is the bottom line?

The bottom line is a list of the things you don’t want to do anymore, because it is part of your addictive behaviour or because it drives your addiction. It is a list of undesirable behaviours. For example, avoidance behaviour, procrastination, going to certain places that trigger your addiction or interactions with certain people that can increase your chance of relapse.

You can also summarise which behaviours are going to have a positive contribution to your recovery process. In other words, desired behaviour. For example: adding structure to your day to day, walking when you have a craving or an urge to use, doing registration assignments/exercises in the NiceDay app or seeking support from friends.

Desired behaviour is above the line and undesirable behaviour is below the line. If you engage in undesirable behaviour, you can consider this a step closer to a relapse.

The list (bottom line) can also help you establish whether your addictional behaviour might shift when you stop using. For example: you have stopped drinking alcohol, but you notice that you begin to snack more often during the moments you have a craving (urge to use) for alcohol. In the long run, this is undesirable behaviour, because excessive snacking is not healthy.

You can get started with the bottom line at home and then discuss it in more detail with your professional during a session.


Tips for creating the bottom line: 

  • Describe the desired behaviour in as much detail as possible. Do you want to exercise more? Specifically specify which sport, how often you want to exercise and when you want to exercise.
  • Be honest with yourself. What behaviour is jeopardizing your recovery process? If you want to stop your drug use but continue to drink (a lot of) alcohol regularly instead, then you are still sedating yourself.
  • Be patient with yourself. The recovery process is not a straight line. Stopping undesirable behaviour and adopting desired behaviour takes time.
  • Try to be realistic. If you never exercise and you suddenly want to start exercising 5 times a week, you’re setting the bar very high. Consequently, the chance that you will not reach your goal is quite high. Start by exercising once or twice a week. By doing this, you can be proud of yourself when you have succeeded.
  • Your bottom line can change during your recovery process. At the start of your recovery, going to a birthday party may not be feasible. You may find it too difficult to be in a room with other people who are drinking alcohol. But a few months later in the recovery process, going to a birthday party could be a desirable behaviour because it is a fun social activity.


Examples of desirable and undesirable behaviour for an alcohol addiction

Below, you can find an example of a bottom line from a person with an addiction to alcohol:

Desired behaviour:

  • Maintain a fixed sleep schedule: go to bed at 10.30 pm and get up at 6.30 am every day
  • Cook for yourself three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
  • Walk for half an hour every day
  • Drink 1.5 litres of water every day
  • Go to therapy once a week
  • Meditate for 5 minutes, three times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
  • Go to the gym once a week: Tuesday evening
  • Do not expose yourself to screens (TV, laptop or telephone) after 8.30 pm
  • For cravings: call a friend or take a walk outside around the block

Undesirable behaviour:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Drug use
  • Going to bed late
  • Skipping a meal
  • Staying indoors all day
  • Lying about usage
  • Procrastinating on household chores
  • Reaching out to friends who are also using



Keijsers, G. P. J., Van Minnen, A., Verbraak, M., Hoogduin, C. A. L. & Emmelkamp, P., (2017). Protocollaire behandelingen voor volwassenen met psychische klachten.


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