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Woman sitting at a desk for goal setting with a pen and paper

How does goal setting help with the addiction recovery process?

Recovery from addiction is a long process that cannot be done overnight. There are many obstacles and steps that come along with reaching recovery. For some, looking at the long road ahead of them might cause them to feel anxious or overwhelmed. This could prevent a person from even attempting recovery because the changes needed to do so seem too big. However, the journey shouldn’t stop a person from bettering their lives. Recovery can be broken down into manageable steps or goals that help an individual feel less stressed.

Goal setting is something that any person can use in life. It helps keep people motivated and breaks up hard work into more manageable terms. It can help students manage classwork or a person on a new health journey. The same can be done for a person battling addiction. Addiction doesn’t just begin and end with drug use, there are supporting elements that can influence the success of recovery. By breaking recovery down with manageable goals, an individual will find themselves less overwhelmed by the entire journey.

Rehabilitation treatment centers aim to teach clients many useful techniques to manage addiction and recovery. Goal setting is just another important lesson to help recovering addicts ensure their long-lasting success.

Importance of Goal Setting in Recovery

Each person is different. No matter what battles they are facing; they will face them in a way that works best for them if they want to succeed. While some people do not need to set goals to succeed at whatever they set their sights on, it offers a safety net for those who need a little extra support.

Goal setting in recovery allows an individual to focus on the present and the future. There is little focus on how they got into the situation they are in, but rather what steps they can take to get out of it. This focus can prevent a person from dwelling on the past and cause anxiety. Looking ahead can give a person something to live for each day.

More so, setting goals, keeping goals, and working towards those goals can help a person develop patience. No matter how small these goals will not happen overnight. It takes consistent work and motivation to see them come to fulfillment. Seeing the payoff from their hard work also develops a good work ethic. This rewarding feeling could encourage developed growth in other aspects of life as well. Seeing success happen can help an individual to develop a sense of pride.

No matter how a person goes about setting, maintaining, or reaching a goal there is a need for clear and specific goals that not only push a person but challenge them. These goals should be monitored regularly with feedback to show a person how well they are improving.

What are the steps for Goal Setting?

Goal setting is broken down into manageable steps. There is no universal way to set them as each person will have different priorities or circumstances when it comes to setting goals. For some, a person could just say “stop drinking” and be over with it. For others, there could be outside factors, like home life, that make this more difficult. A more manageable goal could deal with the environment they live in first. A person needs to consider their own lives when setting goals and do what works best for them.

There is a method to setting thorough goals called SMART. This anagram aims to help a person be less vague and more realistic in their goals.


Specific goals are far more successful than broad ones. The long-term goal of any person in recovery is to live free of substance use. However, a person needs to ask themselves what steps need to be taken to live free of substance use. This also helps a person have a clear end in sight rather than be overwhelmed by one broad idea.

Measurable goals give a person something more tangible to grasp onto. By asking themselves “how many” or “how much” they can see their work pay off before their eyes. Simply saying “I will drink less” does not allow much space for success. Less is not a definitive measurement and can mean different things for different people. Putting a number to things and seeing themselves meet that number can help develop their pride motivating them to do more.

Goals need to be achievable. Setting large outlandish goals might just set a person up for failure. Simply saying “I will quit drinking” is said in good intentions but doesn’t give helpful guidelines to get there. Achievable goals may be going to a meeting a specific number of times a week or admitting themselves to a treatment center.

Goals should be relevant to what it is a person is working towards as well. While this could be said to keep a person focused on long-term, like recovery, this can also mean an individual may set goals that do not directly pertain to sobriety but can be relevant or helpful to sobriety.  For example, setting a fitness or health goal may not have anything to do with substance abuse, but these practices can act as healthy coping mechanisms to replace substances. In the end, they are relevant and encourage a person to better themselves.

Within realistic reasons, goals need to be time-bound. Open-ended goals are vague in terms of time management. If there is no deadline a person might not be motivated to put effort into the goal. An exact date is not always required, but setting deadlines keeps a person in check with where they should be or whether their goals need to be re-evaluated.

A person needs to take into account what the end goal is. Simply saying “living free from substance abuse” is a good place to start. While this isn’t the best goal in terms of SMART, it does offer a place to start. Having an end goal in mind will prompt a person to ask questions about that goal. Is this goal achievable? How can I achieve this goal? What changes do I need to make in life to meet this goal? These questions can help a person formulate a plan. In the end, goal setting is simply baby steps. One goal leads to another and by the end of it all, a person may find they have accomplished far more than they thought possible.

Goal setting can help to show a person what they are capable of. It can seem like extra work for some, but the small work adds up to bigger success by the end.

Staying Motivated

Motivation can make or break goals for any person. Staying motivated can be difficult as well. If a person does not see progress in their goals they may wonder if they are worth the time. When many should be re-evaluating their goals for success they may instead fall off entirely if not properly motivated. However, motivation is not universal for everyone. To find success a person must discover what motivates them and put those methods into practice.

For many, putting their goals in writing helps to keep them motivated. Seeing them daily as a reminder may help bring them to focus or even show them how far they have come. This can keep them accountable for progress.

Further, finding support around them may also keep them accountable for their success. For some people having a person to check in on them and their progress can be the push they need. This could mean asking a family member for drug tests or checking their home for substances. This form of support can be very motivational.

Failure Does Not Mean the End

Failure is a natural part of life. Very, very few people have a 100 percent success rate in life. In any aspect of life, a person should accept that there is a possibility of failure because success is reliant on being flexible. To overcome failure, re-evaluate plans and goals, and then try again are key parts of finding success. If a goal seems unattainable or difficult that does not mean the person cannot meet the goal, it simply means they need a new plan.

Life is unpredictable and can cause complications that set off goals. Being flexible in recovery is just as important as recovering. Clients should understand this when seeking out a treatment program and attempting to find which one works best for them.

Whatever the attitude for goal setting, treatment programs aim to teach a client how to set efficient and reasonable goals to help their success. This method can help in a treatment facility but also give clients skills for continued success outside of treatment. Goal setting acts as a way to teach clients to think ahead, focus less on failures, and organize their lives for success.

Goal Setting at NuView Treatment Center Drug Rehab Los Angeles

NuView Treatment Center, a rehab in West Los Angeles, provides individuals and other members of the community with a wide variety of outpatient treatment programs. Our treatment programs help individuals escape from the vicious cycle of drug or alcohol dependence. Our modern facility, highly trained physicians and masters-level clinicians, and evidence-based treatment modalities can help anyone, regardless of the severity of their substance use disorder.

Our rehab includes every level of care, including:

  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
  • Outpatient programs (OPs)
  • Aftercare planning

At NuView Treatment Center, we believe in approaching addiction treatment on a whole-person basis. Compassion is emphasized above all. We never utilize a one-size-fits-all approach to addiction treatment. Rather, we understand that all of our clients are individuals with unique stories, underlying issues, and specific needs. Our team and staff members design individualized treatment plans for every client who walks into our facility so that they can develop the coping tools they need to stay sober and live lives that are joyful, meaningful, and drug and alcohol-free.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from a drug or alcohol problem, help is available. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

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