The recovery process has no clear end and lasts a lifetime. While there are ways to define what might be the end of an addiction, and there are plenty of recovery programs with a well-defined beginning and ending, recovery itself – the process of recovering from an addiction – doesn’t strictly have a final end goal besides not succumbing to addiction again, which is a lifelong restriction rather than a goal.
And as it turns out, being goal oriented as we are, restrictions are much harder for humans to stick to, without the proper motivation.
Why Goals Matter
Goals are important for every man and woman, and without them, we would be aimless. Our day-to-day lives are made up of schedules and objectives, with weekly goals and monthly aims, and lifetime dreams. Without goals, we lose sight of not only who we want to be, but who we are as well. Many people define themselves by what they pursue, and it makes them happy to pursue it.
But there’s an additional quality to having a goal that makes being goal oriented so important in drug recovery. And that is our need to keep ourselves focused. Without a task at hand, our mind drifts, and strays, and in early sobriety, it tends to drift and stray into places we don’t want it to. One of the best ways to deal with the incessant cravings and negativity surrounding early recovery is to seek out and pursue sources of happiness and accomplishment – feelings we hold dear and greatly need after a harrowing period of addiction.
Many addicts feel guilt and shame for what they did, and struggle with a self-esteem that is most likely at an all-time low when they first decide to seek out help. Goals are not just there to give us something to aim for, but they’re there to give us a sense of pride once we’ve overcome them. We take pause after accomplishing a goal to relish and celebrate, before moving on.
In recovery, you need successes. You need to understand that no matter how you feel about the mistakes you’ve made in the past, you still have the capacity to do things right, and to get where you want to be. The worst thing to imagine as a recovering addict is the idea that the damage you’ve done to yourself and your life is irreversible – by being goal oriented, you have a chance to prove to yourself that this recovery process is the best thing that every happened to you, and that you can not only get to where you once were, but deftly surpass who you once were in terms of wisdom, health, opportunity, and more. But to do so, you must start with at least one well-defined goal.
What is a Goal?
You would think defining your goals is the easy part, but it’s likely not as straightforward as you might think. A goal has to be achievable, concrete, and laid out in a fashion that the path to said goal is visible – not necessarily within your immediate grasp, but visible enough that you know you can reach it. A bad goal is vague, idealistic, totally uncompromising, and out of touch with reality.
Take goals related to weight loss. For an obese man, it would be unrealistic to start with a goal of 5 percent bodyfat, a level at which the body is on the verge of approaching the absolute minimum amount of bodyfat needed to function. On the other hand, a noncommittal goal to simply ‘lose a few pounds’ would be equally ineffective.
Instead, consider a healthy amount of monthly weight loss for an obese man at a 500-calorie deficit, and set a six-month goal. The deficit, alongside a small list of food restrictions and a daily exercise plan – beginning with brisk walks, and eventually graduating to more challenging workouts – will lead to realistic and appreciable weight loss, provided that a disciplined attempt is made alongside emotional and physical help from friends and family.
The differences between the first, second, and third examples lie in the details and planning of each goal. Figure out what it is you care about the most, formulate an achievable end-result you’re happy with within a realistic timeframe, and have a plan for how you can begin making daily changes to reach your goal in time.
Why Do These Goals Matter to You?
Goals should be something you’re passionate about. Weight loss is a common New Year’s Resolution kind of goal, but if that’s not the first thing you care about, it shouldn’t be your primary goal. A few good goals to consider would be:
- Getting a promotion/raise.
- Saving up X amount each month to invest.
- Dropping down to Z pounds.
- Beating a personal record in a sport or activity after being out of shape.
- Matching your old physical feats.
- Saving up/planning for a quick trip abroad within the next year.
- Gaining a certification/passing an important career-relevant examination.
- Read a new book every week.
These goals are not recovery-oriented, but that is because recovery is best seen as a process that happens alongside life. Endeavor to make changes to your lifestyle, make new friends, and make strides in your professional career – and you’ll have your hands full, too full to worry about relapsing before you hit your one-year mark. In other words, to achieve your addiction-related goals, simply pursue what you love and care about, make progress by working on yourself and your aspirations, and let the healing happen.
Small Steps First
Big strides are admirable, but goals are only effective when they’re realistic and achievable. Take whatever goal you deem most important and consider what you need to start doing on a daily basis to make this goal happen. Inquire with a superior at your company to see what is expected of an employee aiming for a better position. Do the math on how much of what you’re earning you’ll have to stow away to start saving money. Figure out where in your schedule you can best fit in a workout session to help you regain your lost fitness.
Once you have the goal in mind, figure out what it takes to get from A to Z, and make yourself a list of B, C, D, etc.
Your Goals Are Your Priorities
It’s important not to forget that living ‘goal oriented’ means not only pursuing goals because they’re something you’d like to imagine you could do, but because the subject of your goal is an absolute priority in your life. If you feel your health is genuinely a concern or if you feel that your mood and mental well-being are affected by poor lifestyle choices, then making changes to the way you treat your body becomes a priority worthy of serious planning. If you feel your life requires more attention put towards your career and financial future, prioritize such goals. Be clear with what you feel your priorities are, and plan accordingly.