Goal Setting in Addiction Recovery

shutterstock_280148651Marathon runners predict their finishing times and set their running pace to meet those times Companies write detailed business plans that include two- and five-year sales projection and then set up operations to achieve those sales goals. These and other long-term endeavors typically start with goals and work toward meeting those goals. Your addiction recovery will have a greater chance of success if you establish your own recovery goals and work toward achieving those goals throughout your rehab and recovery program.


The obvious goal of any addiction treatment program is to fully and finally break a person’s addiction to a dangerous substance or from some destructive behavior. This ultimate goal can be broken into smaller parts that are easier to accomplish as a person moves through his or her treatment program. In all cases, forming the goals is akin to pouring a foundation that a recovery can be built upon.


The most effective goals follow a “SMART” methodology: they are Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Timebound. If you have ever walked out of a business meeting with no understanding of that meeting’s purpose, you implicitly know the value of setting a specific goal. If you are in rehab for alcoholism, for example, a general goal might be to end your cravings for a drink, but you might set a specific goal of recording times and triggers that create those cravings. This specific goal is also easily measured and action-oriented. Your plan is to note and measure the times and events that lead to your cravings, and to take affirmative action by keeping a record of those circumstances.


High-energy personalities are frequently criticized as setting lofty goals that are difficult to achieve. If you have a Type A personality (which may be a big factor in the development of your addiction), you may well be tempted to set a lofty and unrealistic goals for your rehab. You do not have to adopt a goal as simple as recording your feelings and reactions for a week or two. Do not set goals that are beyond your reasonable reach, however. Aiming for something that you cannot reasonably achieve will place you at risk for failure, which can then jeopardize your recovery.


Lastly, place time boundaries on both short- and long-term goals. If you are recording your feelings and stress triggers for drinking, commit to doing that for a certain number of weeks. When you meet that goal, set a further short-term goal for the same or some different activity for another specific number of weeks. At the same time, set a longer-term goal that reflects your past experiences with your addiction. If you have never gone more than three months without a drink, for example, tell yourself that this time, you will go four months. Meeting and satisfying these goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and you will have greater motivation to continue in your rehab and recovery program.

Take care to set goals for your recovery that are unique to you and your particular problems. The marathon runner who copies another runner’s race plan will falter if that plan in not consistent with his own abilities, and a company that copies its competitor’s business plan may not have the knowledge and resources to implement that plan. In the same manner, you should adopt your own goals that are unique to your own abilities, knowledge and resources.
The staff and counselors at LEAD treatment are available to help you develop your own goals for your recovery and rehab. Please call them at 800-380-0012 for more information and assistance.