Treatment for addiction to alcohol and drugs requires a comprehensive program of physical and emotional assessment, counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, relapse prevention training and strategizing appropriate aftercare. Each of these methods tackles issues that contribute to addiction. Individuals in a treatment program are also encouraged to set recovery goals to ensure they are able to see progress in their efforts toward a sober life.
The Importance of Recovery Goals
Individuals may find setting recovery goals to be a frustrating process because they often come from a baseline of having reached rock bottom in their addiction, and they can only see a long and difficult road ahead. However, this circumstance only makes setting recovery goals more important. With each success comes new motivation to continue the work of recovery and create an increasingly better situation. That is why setting a goal, no matter how small and seemingly unimportant, can have a significant effect on the individual’s overall success in recovery.
The Process of Setting Goals
Goals can be a critical tool, not only for personal growth, but also for instilling useful habits that can lead to success in recovery and for other areas of life. Behavioral experts recommend that a goal fulfills a few criteria in order to be most effective. These criteria fit the S.M.A.R.T mnemonic:1
- Specific – the goal should be more than just a vague hope for future success. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” it should be “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
- Measurable – the goal should be able to be measured easily to ensure that progress can be noted.
- Attainable – the goal should be something that is realistic to achieve and is able to be achieved by the individual.
- Relevant – the goal should be relevant to the person’s progress in recovery. This point is especially important if the recovery goal requires the input of other people.
- Time-limited – the goal should be achievable within a particular timeframe.
Examples of Recovery Goals
Each individual may have different goals for their recovery. Some people may concentrate on remaining sober for a set period of time, knowing they have had difficulty in the past with this timeframe. Others may set an employment goal, an academic goal, a goal of re-establishing an important relationship or the goal of returning to their faith community. Some individuals may set a recovery goal of moving to a better neighborhood, re-establishing contact with family members or taking better care of their health. All of these goals can help promote success in the individuals’ recovery and in their lives.
Setting a goal does not necessarily mean you will easily achieve it. In fact, addiction itself causes changes in the brain that make focusing on these goals more difficult. Dealing with cravings, thoughts of past substance use and the difficulties ahead can create distractions that act as roadblocks to your goals. Learning to manage emotions and behaviors is part of the recovery process. Setting small recovery goals in the beginning will prevent feeling overwhelmed and will facilitate success with larger goals as you become more confident.2
Recovery is a process in which individuals learn to navigate the repercussions of addiction. Goal setting helps to ensure that they see positive effects on a regular basis that can keep them motivated over the long-term.
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