Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands

Updated on 12/13/2022

SAMHSA explains that the definition of recovery from mental health and substance use disorders is constantly changing; in other words, it is a working definition. It defines recovery as a process of change where individuals strive to live a more self-directed life, working to improve their health and wellness while trying to reach their full potential.

With this definition, we can recognize that recovery is a change process. While completing a treatment program may propel your recovery forward, treatment is only a tiny part of an individual’s lifelong recovery journey. It is important to remember that we will experience different needs and goals unique to our recovery journey as we grow and develop.

One of the most visited topics in recovery is goal-setting. Setting goals is critical not just in recovery but also in our day-to-day lives as it helps to guide our focus and motivate specific behaviors. While goal-setting is important, it can occasionally be a setback. If a patient is not taught the importance of setting realistic and achievable goals and how to do so, they may set themselves up for failure by trying to reach unattainable goals.

Goal-setting is a crucial aspect of one’s addiction recovery journey.

For most people, goal setting motivates individuals to achieve the things they want. In addiction recovery, goal-setting is crucial because it helps individuals create a new and improved mindset for who they want to become. While goal-setting may seem intimidating for many as they first enter treatment, it is valuable because:

  • Many people who struggle with substance use and mental health disorders struggle with low self-esteem. Goal setting can help patients create and achieve goals they set for themselves. With the help of a therapist, achieving goals in recovery offers individuals a great deal of satisfaction and a sense of achievement, directly improving self-esteem.
  • Substance use can cloud an individual’s sense of purpose. Goal-setting encourages patients to focus on achieving something great in their lives. Even goals that seem small, such as attending all treatment sessions for the week, can significantly impact an individual once they achieve them.
  • It helps patients recognize that recovery and change are gradual and continuous processes. Instead of getting fixated on one big picture goal, like sobriety, goal-setting encourages patients to create several short-term and long-term goals. Patients can always start small and work up to achieving larger goals. If they experience setbacks, they can recognize that they have already experienced a significant change in their life from meeting other goals.

Attainable goals are SMART goals.

Nearly all people in addiction recovery have a goal to achieve long-lasting sobriety. However, it is rare for a person to get there by merely wanting to achieve it. Instead, it is more likely that people achieve full sobriety after meeting several smaller milestones along their healing journey. Whether big or small, achieving goals may be easier with the help of a few objectives.

SMART objectives help patients create attainable goals within a specific amount of time. These objectives are tools that can help patients to help focus their efforts on achieving a particular purpose. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific Specific goals state the objective clearly. It will include factors like what exactly will be done and who will do it.
  • Measurable Measurable goals define how the action will be measured. Measuring progress is essential because it helps you see how far you have come. It keeps you on schedule and on track in your recovery.
  • Achievable Achievable goals can be realistically met after considering all factors that may hinder progress. Consider training for a marathon — if you have never trained before, setting a goal of running a marathon tomorrow would not be realistically achievable. Instead, a more attainable goal would be to run as long as you physically can.
  • Relevant Relevant goals are goals that fit the purpose of what an individual is trying to achieve overall. For example, if a person has a long-term goal of becoming sober, increasing time spent at the bar would not be relevant.
  • Time-bound A time-bound goal has a specific timeline or deadline for when it should be completed.

Goal-setting is subjective. It is important to create goals that make sense for you during your recovery journey. If you need assistance in creating realistic and achievable goals, reach out to your mentor, peer, or another mental health professional for guidance and tips.

Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a drug and alcohol treatment center that recognizes the value that goal-setting has on both short-term treatment and long-term recovery. We can help you create individualized goals that motivate your willingness to recover. To learn more about our treatment programs, or to hear more about how to set goals, give us a call today at (877) 557-5372.