Beeminder Forum

Setting up my incentives for sobriety from weed-carrots AND sticks

I developed an addiction to weed when I was going through a really rough time getting out of an abusive relationship a few years ago. I don’t blame myself for it at the time, it was how I survived a miserable situation, but ever since then I have had trouble going back to moderation. I have definitely improved since working on it, but I still have more slip ups than I’d like and I’d really like to reach a goal of being sober from weed for 6 months straight. From some reading I’ve done, that would help re-set my brain if I could get there. But when 6 months of sobriety is my goal and I’m starting out, well, that is too hard a goal, I need baby steps. I managed 3 months sober last year, but then life kicked my ass and I fell off the wagon and haven’t even managed a full month sober since.

I posted somewhere about how I was using my YNAB budget to turn Beeminder into a positive reinforcement mechanism by funding my Beeminder Derailment category at the start of the month and then moving whatever is left to something on my wish list at the end of the month, which was a good idea, but the feedback time of a month is too slow, IMO; I need daily feedback, especially on this goal, which is my most important goal right now.

I realized that it’s all about setting up an incentive structure that brings my behavior within my own (long term me) control to some degree, to basically classically condition myself with a combination of carrots and sticks that I can engineer to best match my own weird nature and achieve my goals. And that it is worth spending money on this, even if I end up derailing, if it helps me in the long run, which I know it will if I do it right. So I’m going to look at the spending on derailment as as the price of learning how to tweak my incentives till I’m happy with my progress and not as a loss of money.

I have been using Habitica for a lot of goals, but since one of my main goals is to be sober that day and it’s only one of my many Dailies that I track in Beeminder, it gets lost in the weeds.

I just decided a great incentive structure for sobriety and I want to announce it publicly here so I don’t weasel out of it. See, I’m not a weasel as in liar, I don’t lie on my data. I’m just slightly akratic, but not too akratic in that, about a week ahead of when I think I might derail, I would change my settings and then just try to survive for a week more on my old settings, but I avoid being on edge of derailment because that stresses me out. I’ve never derailed because of that.

But, for this goal of being sober, I want to be on the edge, daily, because it’s important to me that I spend most of my days sober. I need to use incentives to do it, since apparently my willpower sucks on this goal, at least it’s not enough to get me where I want to be. So I made it a “do more” manual entry goal that I have to be sober that day or pay $5, daily, since I set it up to give me no buffer after I derail and started with 0 buffer. I wanted to announce this incentive structure here because I want to be publicly accountable to not change it. So if you come here and you see that I changed it, leave me a nasty message or something. Call me a stoner, a pot-head, whatever. Or something. I dunno, if having a stranger watching me work magically makes me so much more productive even without them putting any pressure on me (with Focusmate), hopefully having strangers watch my progress on this goal will also help me reach it, even without you harassing me when I’m not perfect.

Here’s my goal, it’s public, if anyone wants to cheer me on:
PhysicsGal’s Sobriety Goal

I’m hoping telling you all this will help me to keep up this incentive structure and not weasel out of it. I don’t want to be too crazy and push myself too much, that’s why I smoke weed, because I find it forces to to take a break from the constant activity and goal-seeking that my brain naturally wants me to do. That’s why my reward/carrot each day I’m sober will be that same $5 moving into my YNAB category for a yoga retreat, now that the local retreat in the mountains that I love is open again. And for every week I am sober I’m going to take a bad ass bath with a bath bomb, candles and some beautiful calming music, plus move a little extra money into my yoga retreat category also. I will come up with a nice reward for two weeks and one month too, I just have to think about it.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Here’s hoping this works well for me. If you have any other ideas, please feel free to share them here.


This may seem silly. It worked for me for something I had been struggling with for a while. A few years after I used it, I found it in a book by BJ Fogg, so maybe there’s something to it. :slight_smile:

I set a particular moment aside each day to think about my goal. I thought about who I wanted to be, and how the day went. If I did a good job that day, I “basked in the microvictory”. BJ Fogg calls this “Shine”.

If I hadn’t done a great job, I checked a few ways that I mess up long-term things:

  • did I succumb to the “shit day” effect? If made a very tiny slipup, did I throw the whole day away and overindulge?
  • did I fall victim to moral licensing? Did I have a tough situation, succeed, and then use that success as an excuse to indulge?

If I had done those things, I thought about those things, rather than the lack-of-progress on my goal. My reasoning was that I didn’t want to pile on negative feelings on the goal. I wanted my whole system to be excited and optimistic about the goal.

It worked for me, and it’s been 5+ years, and it’s been an amazing personal victory. It’s been at least a few years since I’ve had to work at it, even.

It sounds like you’ve thought this through and you’re putting in the hard work already. I wish you well.


I look forward to seeing your progress towards success! Dependency is such a tricky thing to tackle, and you seem to have an excellent grasp on the steps you need to be taking.

What are your plans/strategies when the urge arises in-the-moment? Having alternative actions to take when you have the thought makes it relatively easier to control as opposed to white-knuckling your willpower to avoid it. Speaking from personal experience, having a delayed incentive could be less helpful when things are difficult.

If you’re looking for community, r/leaves is very popular for this. :slight_smile:


Congrats on taking a big bold step. I do think that social pressure/accountability can help some people, and you’re announcing of your goal seems to be employing that strategy. I might suggest to you that you also include some positive antihabit goals in addition. Here’s one for example:

“I will make one post per-day/per-week about my daily journey to quit smoking.”

Of course, you could beemind this goal. Note that this kind of goal would not only support recovery, but it would also survive a sobriety derailment event, and could serve as a helpful restarter.

Where would you post? It could be here as an ongoing journaling reply to a main post, or it could be to a private journal, or anywhere.

The social aspect might be important to you, as indicated from the nature of your post. You can enhance the effect of the social accountability by investing regular and consistent time in socializing with a safe and supportive group or trusted individual such as a licenced psychologist.

The important thing is that you find a community that offers you the help and support that works for you, whether that be here, somewhere else, or a combination thereof. I might suggest Discord servers tagged with recovery | DISBOARD seems to have some good support servers as well, though I’m not directly familiar with them. I’m sure there are plenty of other recovery type support groups, online and offline, that you could tap into.

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Thanks for the input, I appreciate it! I’ll work on that…just copied and pasted that into my Notion notes.

That’s definitely a a thing, the “shit day” effect. It’s like a snowball effect. That’s kind of my problem now, ie, when I give in, it’s like a while day of being stoned out of my mind. But that’s why I wanted this goal to be socially mediated.

I’m also thinking about adding some of my friends who I already asked to be my commitment buddies on this to the email list for when I derail. That would definitely be an immediate incentive not to cheat because I don’t want them to get the email. Or maybe it would just turn me into a lying weasel?

I think the main attraction with weed for me is that it helps me to slow down and even stop and just be, since I’m constantly going, doing, achieving. So a replacement like a bath or just sitting in front of the TV instead might be appropriate. Or maybe I can call one of the friends I’ve already asked to be my commitment buddy on this, so they don’t have to get that email after the fact? Any other ideas?

Thanks for the well wishes everyone!


Based on your reply consider adding in “take a bath” as another antihabit commitment to do multiple times per week. That would give you another positive goal to help replace balance the “never will I” goal.

Also, don’t wait for yourself to screw up to call a friend. I’d suggest daily or multiple times per week calls to check in.

And finally, consider yourself to be in this system for the long term, and realize that there is no need to lie or weasel out. What you’re doing is trying to better yourself. That’s commendable.

Nobody is going to judge you harshly for not being perfect. And it’s a matter of character building not only to build up your ability to quit, but also to openly admit when you fall down, brush yourself off, and get up again.

It’s really best if you can think of this and all the other support tools that you’re putting together as something that will survive a falter.


Thanks coolhandlouis! That’s very helpful. I really appreciate your insight and support.

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I notice that you’ve got a day’s safety buffer at the moment, I think because the goal slope has changed subtly. If you email we can iron that out for you so that you’re back on, um, the wrong side of the bright red line.

Thanks! Ah, yes, that’s my fault because when I first entered the goal I made it 6 days a week to sort of ease myself into things, and then I thought, fuck it, I can do this, and changed it to 7. I just ratcheted away the extra day.

But what that means is that I already got through my first week sober from weed!!! In my previous experience it’s the first month or so that was the hardest, so I’m through at least a good chunk of the hardest part. Week 2, 3 and 4 here I come!



Also, there’s a semi-secret feature that means that you can include tags like #week_one in your datapoint comments and they’ll show up on your graph. Semi-secret because you also have to enable that feature in the Settings / Privacy section; they’re hidden by default. (Which I now think is backward, but hey ho)

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I just want to say congrats on your first week. I just watched a presentation by Michael Cohn on “tracking commitment”

At the 5 minute mark, he spoke about what he called “atonement”. Not necessarily as punishment, but what to do when one has a setback. Of course, in the Beeminder system, the strategy is to extract the financial punishment and then automatically recommit you at higher level. But I think it’s also important to have a plan (hopefully written) on what to do personally so that one can learn from their mistakes.

And that reminded me of what you’re trying to achieve here. When it comes to sobriety, I think it’s that much more important to plan one’s path out if and when they hit a dead end. To at least secure THAT DOOR so that one doesn’t walk through it again.

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Ha, I had that setting enabled but I didn’t really know what it did, but now I know and can add stuff to my graphs, thanks!


I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot, and about how to arrange my incentives so I don’t fall for the shit day effect. See, counting sobriety by the day means that, if I end up cheating, there’s no incentive not to keep going with it, since the day is already not a sober day. So maybe I also need a laddering system, so this goal will track my days sober and another would track the times of use?

Ok then, you inspired me to add another Beeminder goal to my list.

I’ll ratchet it down to 1 whenever it gets above 1. I don’t want it to charge me in addition to the other goal if I cheat once, I just want it to charge me if I use the fact that I cheated to turn it into a binge and go all the way down the shit day effect rabbit hole.

Thanks for the inspiration! I better get to bed. Night Beeminders!


I just reread your incentive structure for your goal, and realized that it EXACTLY mirrors my recent suggestion for a Beeminder enhancement! My enhancement request:

Excerpts from your post:

I just decided a great incentive structure for sobriety… But, for this goal of being sober, I want to be on the edge, daily, because it’s important to me that I spend most of my days sober. I need to use incentives to do it… So I made it a “do more” manual entry goal that I have to be sober that day or pay $5, daily, since I set it up to give me no buffer after I derail and started with 0 buffer… That’s why my reward/carrot each day I’m sober will be that same $5 moving into my YNAB category for a yoga retreat, now that the local retreat in the mountains that I love is open again.


I’d like to make another suggestion for you, something I do and might be helpful. Write a script about why it’s important to stick to sobriety today. All the good things you’ll get from it. And why it would be bad to use THC again, the negatives.

Then have yourself or someone else make a recording of that script, and set it to play once or twice a day. Maybe a morning “alarm”. Maybe at some time in the afternoon or evening when you’re most susceptible to temptation. Or both!

This type of daily affirmation, reflected back to you in a super easy manner, can be very powerful. You can make the script say whatever you want, but I like it being in the third person (“this is important for you because you…”) and you might make the ending of the script say something like “you can do it! I have faith in you! Etc.”

I use Android Alarm for this with some things that I think are extremely important for me to remember on a daily basis. Because that’s what happens in the moment when the Akrastic self makes bad decisions, is the Akrastic self forgets how important this thing really is.

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Yep, totally. It’s a strange accounting trick that somehow helps me feel more motivated, plus I’m a pretty hard core YNABer so I had way too much anxiety when I wasn’t sure where my derailment money was going to come from. So far I’m really liking it. It somehow feels like you get 2x the incentive by knowing that if you don’t derail you get to put your money towards something awesome, rather than lose the money if you do derail.

LOL, when it’s weed and my brain is convincing me to give into a craving for it, I call it my addict brain. I did write in my journal the reason I’m doing this, but I haven’t tried listening to myself talking about it. I’ll give it a try. Thanks!

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Congrats on another day of sobriety! (And yes, WE’RE WATCHING YOU… you better not screw up haha.)

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Good to know! That was the point of posting it, so thanks! :sweat_smile:


Congratulations on 11 days!

When I stopped drinking awhile back, the subreddit r/stopdrinking was amazingly helpful as a community and as a structure. They have a daily check-in thread where they ask people to commit: For the next 24 hours, I will not drink. My thought is, perhaps in addition to beeminding days without a thing, beemind a first-thing-in-the-morning conscious choice to not do that thing.


Thanks! I might add a statement to that effect to my Habitica Habits. I have one for sobriety but I was doing it at the end of the day when I fill out my data for Beeminder.

I also sent an email to some friends and I now have two supporters on my Beeminder sobriety goal that I’ve known for 10+ years in real life. So I feel pretty good about this now, that at least I’m committing more to incentivizing sobriety than I have before. I also think having supporters is extra weasel insurance, especially now that I’m doing a goal that doesn’t sync magically so can’t be weaseled. it’s one thing to lie to Beeminder to save $5, already bad, but another to lie to your good friends through lying to Beeminder.

Thanks for all your support Beeminder peeps! You are awesome.


Hi all, just checking in to let you all know how I’m doing. It has really helped to have two of my good friends, both of whom I know despise weed, as my supporters on this goal. I’m on day 24 and it feels like I’m over most of the hump. I’m now in the habit of not using weed and it’s easier to keep not using than start up again. Hopefully I can keep it up. I accidentally forgot to enter my data before midnight recently and my friend emailed me to check in, so I know I have chosen good supporters. Luckily it wasn’t a real derailment.

Thanks for all your help! Hope everyone is doing well.