Recently, APFL founder Michael Weinberger talked about his journey of recovery and described how he created A Plan For Living to help himself and others shift out of self-defeating thoughts and behaviors.
On January 29, 2016, host Mark Stapleton interviewed Michael on Recovered (podcast 671) and they talked about how Michael overcame an eating disorder and learned how to stabilize his bipolar disorder.
Michael was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in his late teens and described himself as troubled during his college years; he had run-ins with the police repeatedly, was expelled from two colleges, and attempted suicide.
Despite these events, Michael graduated from the fourth college he attended and began working long hours in a new job. With the stress of work, he gained 100 lbs in six months. Within the year, he bought a house, impulsively quit his job and started a new business. Not surprisingly, he quickly lost the business and the house.
In response, he fled from his hometown in New Jersey to begin anew in Michigan. He soon married his first wife who he’d met in an elevator soon after arriving in Michigan.
When their marriage became troubled, and his second company began to fail, he gained more weight and topped 370 lbs. He began suffering from a host of gastrointestinal problems as the result of overeating, and his doctor told him that if he didn’t lose 100 lbs. he’d probably be dead within a couple of years.
His mother-in-law at the time, who herself had overcome an eating disorder, told him, that food addiction is real and he might have a problem.
Michael threw himself into the Overeaters Anonymous 12-step program, based on the AA Big Book and began shedding weight, ultimately losing 155 pounds in 6 months, soon realized overeating was only the tip of the iceberg and he needed to deal with a host of underlying behaviors. This led him back to therapy and to developing his own strategies for calming his emotions and quelling his fears.
Creating A Plan For Living
“I needed a tool available to me when I was alone,” Michael says. With his experience in software development, naturally he created an online app.
“At first, it was just for me,” he says. “The purpose of the app was to help me through difficult situations. “
Michael describes how the app gives him an easy way to record four essential things whenever and wherever he wants:
How happy he feels – “This helps me assess my mood and put myself in charge of how I feel each day.”
A gratitude list – “Listing everything I’m thankful for helps me rewire my brain and focus on what’s working, instead of what could go wrong.”
His spirituality – “Whether you call them prayers, intentions or wishes, this helps me get outside myself and realize I’m not in charge of everything. If my wife is sick, I’ll hope she feels better. If my neighbor’s dog is barking, I’ll hope they can find a way to control it.”
An experience (“mindful”) list– “Writing down what I’m thinking and feeling helps me see how these are connected. I used to think I needed to respond to every situation immediately. Now I can wait until my feelings are under control and I can think more clearly.”
Michael soon realized that others could benefit from these tools and features, slowly developing it into what is today known as A Plan for Living.
“The app is available anytime–when you’re in crisis and when you’re not in crisis. It’s designed to start this basic conversation with yourself,” he says.
“Everyone has difficulty at some time—whether it’s finances, divorce, weight loss, addictions, education, mental health or anything else.
“Even if you’re not ready to go to a meeting or therapy, it’s a start to say to yourself, in your own room, ‘I have a problem.’”