Recovery is anything but a straight and easy path. The journey from the first days of sobriety to true freedom, which may come months or years later, is laborious and requires your full commitment. Not only that, but recovery requires discipline in setting and achieving goals.

When you’re in treatment for substance use addiction, you’ll find that goals and the objectives that outline them are a large part of the recovery process. Your recovery goals will be listed in your treatment plan and adapted as you achieve benchmarks or experience setbacks.

If you’re in the transformative process of breaking an addiction, recovery goals can mark the difference between sustained abstinence from substances, and relapse. Learn here about how to make your goals concrete and measurable, and peruse some recovery goal examples.

Recovery goal basics

In treatment for any disorder, including substance use disorders, your treatment providers will collaborate with you to establish a treatment plan. This treatment plan is created early on in treatment (generally within the first month) and is a formal document that changes throughout your care.

The treatment plan includes the goals you’re working to achieve and the objectives (think mini-goals or steps) you need to get there. Recovery goals definitely include your hopes for sobriety benchmarks, but they are also designed to address any area of your life that has an impact on substance abuse. For example, you may have goals relating to education, career, family life, anxiety, stress and so forth.

Setting recovery goals

In substance use disorder treatment, it’s never up to you to design and implement a treatment plan. However, it is essential that you’re aware of your treatment plan and agree with its aims. Treatment will never be successful if they’re goals you’re unmotivated to achieve or uninterested in the results.

You need to be familiar with your goals and committed to achieving them. Being on board doesn’t guarantee results, either though. The goals you set out to accomplish need to check a few boxes to ensure they’re actually relevant to your recovery. Addiction specialists and mental health professionals often use the following acronym to build meaningful goals.

S: specific

Brainstorming goals could leave you feeling overwhelmed with what you hope to achieve or blank with no ideas coming. A tip for creating goals is to make them as specific as possible. For this step, it’s often easiest to work backward, first identifying issues in your daily life and retracing a path back to the origin you’d like to address.

M: measurable

The best way to track your progress in treatment and celebrate victories is to establish goals that can be quantified and verified from an outside perspective. Creating measurable goals keeps them objective, trackable and easier to identify results.

A: attainable

Many people who set goals end up losing momentum quickly, seeing how far off the results they want are. Goals in your treatment plan should be reasonably met within a year (broken down into smaller chunks by objectives). The psychological boost of meeting a goal is worth creating many smaller goals.

R: relevant

While it’s important to set goals in all areas of life, the goals in your substance use treatment plan should directly correlate to your efforts to stay sober.

T: timely

Recovery goals work best when they implicate a time frame. A vague or absent deadline doesn’t offer any incentive to start working or a frame of reference for the process once you’ve achieved it.

It’s also important to keep recovery goals simple. A single sentence or two should suffice to clarify the action you’re hoping to achieve. When goals follow the SMART structure, it can be tempting to add caveats or qualifiers, but the simplest goals keep you focused on explicit steps to your freedom.

Keep in mind that the process of setting goals doesn’t happen once and then never again in your treatment journey. You’ll likely reassess and create new goals at least a handful of times. You may stretch your goals to accomplish wider horizons, or you may break down your goals into more manageable chunks.

Recovery goal examples

Check out the following recovery goal examples to see how you could benefit from a personalized treatment plan.

Goal 1: I will work towards a month of sobriety with complete abstinence from all drugs and alcohol.

Objective 1: I will identify a list of my top triggering feelings/events with the support of my therapist in the next two sessions.

Objective 2: I will identify and write down at least two ways to avoid or cope with each trigger in the week following each session.

Objective 3: I will practice and implement the strategies listed in ways to fight off urges over the next month.

Goal 2: I will obtain employment within two months.

Objective 1: I will create a resume by the end of this week with the support of my social worker.

Objective 2: I will search and apply for two jobs each week.

Objective 3: I will aim to attend at least two interviews within the next month.

Objective 4: I will be offered a job and begin regular work within the next two months.

In each of these recovery goals and objectives listed above, you should be able to identify how each uses the acronym SMART to make goals reasonable and clear.

Remember to celebrate

Healing a substance use disorder is a painful and emotional process. Each person in recovery will face setbacks, whether it’s a full relapse to addiction, increased stress, the loss of a job, a broken relationship or the formation of an addictive replacement habit. When you begin to achieve benchmarks of sobriety, whether it’s a week, month or year since your last use, it’s worth a celebration.

Another facet of setting recovery goals is embracing your accomplishments. Even if they feel small, enjoying the victories gives you the motivation you need to launch yourself into the next step in healing. Use these milestones as an opportunity to enjoy something special (like dinner at a restaurant you like or a comfy movie night in). Just remember to avoid events and places that could be triggering.

Get in touch

If you’re eager to set goals and are interested in personalizing the above recovery goal examples, you’ll want to get connected with Real Recovery Clinical Services. At Real Recovery, you can find the individualized treatment plan you’ve been missing, and get closer to sobriety with each day. Call now.