Depending on where you currently are in your recovery journey, you may be an old pro at setting goals or you may not be sure how to set goals, what types of goals to set, or how to know if your goals truly promote your sober lifestyle. With the start of a new year, you might be contemplating how to continue your progress and make resolutions that support a sober life.
You may have already realized that substance use is far more complicated than simply using or not using. You may already know that the various aspects of our lives are interwoven, with our physical health, mental health, spiritual selves, social lives, careers, families, and everything else interacting to create complex dynamics.
While it is important to have ambitions related to recovery, it is also important to remember that you are more than just a person who has struggled with substance abuse disorder. You are a whole being, with many facets and huge potential. Setting goals in other areas can also benefit your recovery, by helping you to further explore the person you were, the person you are, and the person you would like to be.
When setting plans related to your recovery, it may be helpful to consult your sponsor or treatment counselor for ideas. They may have suggestions for appropriate goals, based on the progress you have already made and struggles they can see you having. They might advise you to set objectives for:
- the number of recovery meetings you will attend
- which steps you will complete in the coming months
- service activities you could perform
- amends that you have yet to make
Depending on the nature of your situation, you may also have some legal obligations to fulfill, related to choices you made while you were using. These can be incorporated into your objectives for the year. Even though you may not be doing these things by choice, it makes sense to take pride in your success in putting the past behind you and by celebrating accomplishments like:
meeting with a probation officer
- completing community service hours
- paying fines
- attending court hearings
- providing clean specimens for drug tests
Life and Health Goals
There are plenty of goals that indirectly benefit recovery, without being specifically recovery focused. You can set goals related to one or more of the following areas:
- Basic needs (acquiring/maintaining a safe home, arranging for reliable transportation)
- Physical health (exercising, taking medication, eating nutritious meals)
- Mental health (attending therapy, taking medication, meditating)
- Spirituality (attending religious services, reading materials related to your faith tradition, taking time to experience nature)
- Relationships (scheduling regular time with loved ones, being more present in conversations, setting healthy boundaries)
- Personal growth (reading more books, furthering your education, learning new skills, making time for hobbies)
- Employment (career advancement, finding employment, professional networking)
Why These Goals?
Sometimes, understanding why we are doing something and what it will mean for us can help us refine and prioritize our goals. Forbes compiled a list of questions to ask when setting resolutions. Their 13 questions were devised to hone in on the reasons behind goals, such as:
- Purpose – why are you doing this?
- What would success look and feel like?
- How would succeeding in this goal make my life different?
- What are my values, and how does this goal relate to them?
- What is driving me?
- What is the big picture?
Focus on Small Successes
When establishing objectives, many people find it helpful to start with one or more small but valuable successes. This can build confidence and train the brain to expect that good things are not only possible but also likely to happen. For a person trying to eat healthier, this could mean introducing one more serving of vegetables into their diet each day. For a person who is hoping to run a marathon one day, this could mean training for and completing a 5K run.
Being accountable for your progress can increase your chances of success. Accountability can mean different things, depending on the target goal. For a person who is trying to attend weekly services in their faith tradition, this might mean joining a friend for coffee during a fellowship time at the chosen house of worship. For a person who has a fitness goal, it might mean posting their daily activity to a social media site. If the goal is recovery-related, checking in with a sponsor or home group might be beneficial.
If you are struggling to set goals that will get you where you want to be in your recovery journey, Valley Recovery Center in California has a number of trained professionals who can help you to build a customized plan for getting and staying sober.