Setting Smart Recovery Goals for the New Year

Along the journey of addiction recovery, goals can play a major role in your sense of empowerment and accomplishment. There are certain ways to set recovery goals that will be most effective for the long term.

In Justin’s first year of addiction recovery, he set New Year’s resolutions with the help of his therapist. He aimed to go to three recovery meetings every week and to get together with his family every Sunday for dinner. These goals helped him to stay focused throughout the year. And, when he would lose perspective or confidence, he had these different communities to turn to for support.

When the holidays came around the following year, instead of starting fresh with brand new resolutions, he revisited his previous ones to assess his progress. He decided that these goals were still viable and helpful to his recovery path. Justin’s therapist recommended that he challenge himself to go to a support group meeting four days a week instead of three. And Justin decided that he would also sign up to lead one of his meetings even though he was a bit nervous to get started. The time with his family had become a very natural routine that they all looked forward to, so that would continue too.

For a lot of people, setting resolutions for the new year is an exciting push, but they don’t necessarily have much staying power. For people in recovery from addiction, recovery goals and resolutions are a necessary part of feeling grounded and empowered in the journey. And you can lean on the fresh energy of the season to build goals that will last and evolve with your long-term recovery.

Examples of Recovery Goals

It might be easy to identify the big-picture goals, such as I want to get sober or I want to get my life back. What’s a little more challenging is identifying the action-oriented goals that actually effect progress in recovery. In other words, without setting goals to help you take realistic and measurable steps, the big-picture goals can’t really happen.

It can certainly be good to start with the big picture and then to break it down into smaller goals that you can achieve in pieces. In fact, the more pieces you have, the more times you’ll be able to feel that sense of achievement—to feel encouraged, empowered, and confident in what’s next. The following are some examples of goals that people make in recovery:

  • Complete the recommended stay in a residential treatment center.
  • Develop a list of resources that will be available to you after you’ve completed your residential program.
  • Commit to a specific support group meeting so you can get to know the community.
  • Take on a responsibility at that meeting each week.
  • Show up to all of your therapy or counseling appointments.
  • Exercise at least 3 times a week.
  • Make an appointment with a nutritionist to learn about foods that will support your health, your energy, and your sobriety.
  • Take a yoga class, get a massage, or plan some other stress-relieving activity each week.
  • Pick a day of the week when you’ll regularly spend time with family.
  • Pay off debt within a certain timeframe.
  • Reach a certain savings goal.

You can take examples right from this list as you build your own recovery goals for the new year. But you can also lean on these examples to craft your own ideas into achievable, measurable, actionable goals. For example, if what you want to do is Learn to ask for help, then it would serve you to phrase your intention in an actionable way: Practice asking for help once a week from people in the recovery community to clarify the recommended activities for self-reflection. Or you might aim to Practice asking my spouse for help with the weekly chores around the house.

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How to Set Your Own Smart Recovery Goals and Stick to Them

Before you dive into a list of your goals, take some time to reflect on what’s important to you. Think about what you want for your life and your recovery. Consider that your wider hopes might be months or years in the making. It is always important to keep hoping and reaching for those big goals. But when it comes time to actually set your current goals, pull your focus in again and think about what you can reasonably do—how you can reasonably challenge yourself—in the coming days and weeks.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would I be able to start acting on this goal tomorrow?
  • If not, what are the things I need to do to set myself up? Those steps might be goals in and of themselves.
  • How will I hold myself accountable along the way? Support groups and therapists will be great allies to encourage you and hold you accountable.
  • How will I track and reflect on my progress?
  • What plan will I make to evaluate these goals and set new ones next year? And will I evaluate my progress in phases along the way?

Don’t overwhelm yourself with too many goals at once. It’s easy to get excited at the start and overestimate your expectations. You don’t want to become overwhelmed and then give up on all of your resolutions because you’re burnt out and discouraged. All of this being said, it’s okay to be flexible! Consider this even as you’re setting your goals: in order to achieve the end goal, there may be more than one way of getting there. You can be open to discovering new strategies along the way, and your individual goals may evolve. But make sure that you start with a plan that you can act on now. Today is when it all starts.