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How to Set Manageable Goals in Addiction Recovery

Mark Twain, the author of the beloved classic Huckleberry Finn, once said, “Without dreams and goals, there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.”

Setting addiction recovery goals can give recovering addicts a sense of accomplishment. Celebrating important milestones that represent how far they have come can inspire them to persevere and continuously move forward every day.

The ultimate goal while in recovery is to stay sober while rebuilding your life out of rehab. Although it sounds simple, it can be overwhelming at first for anyone who has struggled with addiction. In this article, we share practical tips on making addiction recovery goal setting more manageable and something you’d actually look forward to.

Keep on reading to learn more.

Benefits of Having Addiction Recovery Goals 

Goal setting is an essential part of addiction recovery. Beyond the high you get from that sense of achievement, it also:

  • Prompts you to reflect on your life, where you are now and where you want to go.
  • Makes you examine your personal strengths and weaknesses and parts that you need to work on to reach your goals.
  • Encourages you to be more optimistic about your journey. It lets you see yourself as a capable person with a bright future ahead of you, instead of focusing on your past mistakes, like feeling guilty about a previous episode of relapse.
  • Positively takes up space in your mind. Goal setting is an excellent mental exercise for recovering addicts to prevent negative thinking, or worse, having an idle mind that could potentially entertain cravings.

Making S.M.A.R.T. Goals 

S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This process is a tried-and-tested formula that helps when setting goals. Let’s break down this acronym and how it can specifically aid in addiction recovery goal setting.


Keeping your goals specific lets you break them down into smaller steps that are more doable in a shorter time frame. For example, if you want to reconnect and improve your relationship with your loved ones, you can set a more specific goal of visiting or even making a phone call to your parents at least twice a month. For some people with unresolved trauma or emotional issues, the goal may be to start attending family therapy or individual counselling, providing effective coping strategies to assist with your recovery goals for mental health as well.


Your addiction recovery goals should be something that you can record and track for progress. Instead of saying you want to be a healthier and happier person, you can set a goal of eating at least a single serving of fruits and vegetables every day, skipping junk food or processed foods for one whole month, or going out to run every other morning. You can track your progress using mobile apps or by jotting down your success in a notebook. Having measurable goals gives you a clearer picture of whether or not you are on the right track.

Pieces of wood with upward arrows symbolizing progress


Start small. Addiction recovery goals should not be unrealistic or too ambitious. When the goals are too hard, it’s easy to feel frustrated and get overwhelmed by intense emotional stress, particularly if you have a concurrent disorder or an underlying mental illness on top of addiction, which multiplies the power of relapse triggers. Hence, when setting personal addiction recovery goals, it’s better to take baby steps and acknowledge any limitations or potential obstacles you may encounter along the way.

For instance, you may want to have a full-time job after rehab. Focus your efforts first on smaller goals that will eventually lead to that. Depending on your unique circumstances, this may include:

  • Updating your resume and cover letter
  • Taking on an internship
  • Enrolling in a vocational course
  • Getting a part-time job
  • Signing up for outpatient treatment to get social support or resolve issues with anxiety that may affect your transition


As you step out of rehab, everything you do should prioritize recovery. Your addiction recovery goals should be all about staying sober and becoming a better person overall. Your goals should all have valuable benefits that can contribute to maintaining a meaningful life in sobriety. Some examples of recovery goals, such as plans to go back to school, can keep your mind and body positively busy, preventing boredom from creeping in.

On the other hand, taking up a sport or physical activity that you can do regularly offers many health benefits, like easing stress, producing happy hormones, providing mental clarity, regulating blood pressure, and creating new connections. Hence, physical fitness can work wonders in reducing the risk of relapse overall. In fact, research suggests that individuals recovering from alcohol use disorder who have completed withdrawal from medical detox experience fewer cravings when they exercise.


Set a realistic timeline for your addiction recovery goals. Sticking to short-term goals for substance abuse patients may work more effectively during the initial stages of recovery. Be specific about what you want to accomplish within a week, month, or even a year. It could also be a matter of frequency, say, going to therapy or a local addiction support group meeting once a week or at least twice a month. In addition, always have the guidance of your therapist or addiction specialist when setting a time-sensitive goal to manage your expectations.

A cup of coffee on top of a napkin that reads, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.

The Secret to Sticking to Your Goals 

Sometimes, the issue isn’t about setting goals but sticking to them. Without a plan, it’s so easy to get sidetracked or discouraged. Fortunately, there are many strategies that you can use to keep working towards your goals. Here are some examples:

1. Write your list of personal addiction recovery goals in your journal or on a sticky note that you can post somewhere you can see every day. Putting what’s on your mind in writing can have a therapeutic effect because it can help declutter your brain from all the self-talk. It’s also an excellent way to gather data to track progress, remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing, and stay focused on your goals.

2. Share your goals with trusted members of your support system. It could be your partner, family members, close friends, or therapist. Aside from making you accountable to your addiction recovery goals, these people can also provide physical and emotional support to keep you going when you feel like giving up.

3. Show yourself kindness and compassion. Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go your way immediately. Make room for mistakes but don’t ever stop from trying again. Keep in mind that recovery is a long process that requires tremendous patience.

At Freedom From Addiction, we offer a comprehensive Continuing Care Program that aims to support recovering addicts in whatever way we can to help them transition smoothly back into society.

For more information about our drug addiction treatments or how we can assist you or a loved one with addiction recovery goal setting, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. A member of our team will get back to you shortly. Contact us today!


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