Early recovery is one of the hardest challenges a person can face. The lingering effects of withdrawal, the constant cravings, the broken trust, the triggers in the environment around you — sometimes it feels like the barriers are endless.

How can I make progress in recovery?

Making progress early in recovery is essential to sustaining your motivation and feeling like you made the right choice. Yet victories, even little ones, can be hard to come by in those first days, weeks and months.

When you set goals (and set them the right way) you’ll be much more likely to experience and notice early success. In order for your goals to work, you have to be intentional about the process. Identifying concrete steps and using SMART goals is the best way to ensure your plans become reality.

What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Keeping these components in mind will help you focus on making goals clear and attainable. Using the SMART goal strategy prevents you from making vague goals and facing disappointment because your plans are out of reach.

Smart goals for recovery

Setting SMART goals is sometimes easier said than done. Consider using the following SMART goal examples to guide your brainstorming. Keep in mind the best goals are personalized to you, so don’t be afraid to personalize the goals you find.

Recovery goals

Setting SMART goals for recovery will be the core of your success. These goals will center around substances and concrete ways you can steer clear of them. Here are some examples:

  • I will find a mentor within the next month
  • I will begin outpatient treatment within the next two days
  • I will attend at least one recovery-related service each week (a 12-step meeting, a session with my mentor and an education class)

While your main goal will always be to practice abstinence from drugs and alcohol, the above goals are much less vague, and therefore easier to pursue and accomplish.

Lifestyle goals

Sobriety requires a lifestyle that supports it. Your lifestyle goals will address the triggers that are the most difficult to overcome. Lifestyle SMART goals can include:

  • I will abide by a self-imposed curfew of 10 pm every night
  • I will take a different route home to avoid driving past a bar
  • I will find a new apartment in a new neighborhood within the next month

These goals will surely shake up your routine. It may be frustrating to need to change your lifestyle, but these changes can quickly yield positive dividends as you continue to strive for recovery.

Mental health goals

Setting goals that boost your mental health will help you focus on coping strategies and self-care. These have a wide range and might be the most fun goals to accomplish. This is where you’ll engage your personality and build an exciting life outside of drugs and alcohol. Mental health SMART goals might include:

  • I will start weekly therapy sessions by this time next week
  • I will spend half an hour doing a craft I enjoy every day
  • I will find a spiritual practice that helps me to heal within the next four months

Mental health goals can be fun, but they can also bring up past hurts. Be sure to schedule a healthy balance of reflection and recreation.

Relationship goals

We often think of healing from addiction as a purely physical and mental task, and leave out the social aspect. It’s important to mend damaged relationships and build new, positive ones. Recovery must address the whole person, so it’s important to work on your social life, too. You might consider some of the following relationship SMART goals:

  • I will have a conversation about my progress in treatment with my dad before next week
  • I will ask my friend to help me stay accountable before a social event this weekend
  • I will join an app to search for sober events and attend one within the next two weeks

Your relationship goals will be tricky to decide on, especially because some people may benefit your sobriety, and others may endanger it. Use your best judgment when deciding which relationships to leave behind.

Financial goals

It’s much easier to stay sober when you don’t have the looming stress of money problems. Making financial goals is critical for preventing triggers in the first place. Long-term recovery is much more sustainable when you set financial goals, too. Consider the following financial SMART goals:

  • I will save $50 a week for the next year
  • I will find a job with good health insurance within the next three months
  • I will only eat out twice a week for the next two weeks

There’s no shame in getting help for money troubles. Consider taking a class or meeting with a financial counselor to amplify your recovery efforts.

What if I’m still struggling to achieve my goals?

When setting your own SMART goals for recovery doesn’t work out how you planned, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Many of us try to set and achieve goals on our own early on in recovery, and that’s when it’s the hardest.

Sometimes the boost you need has to come from someone on the outside, who has a different perspective and can illuminate your obstacles for you. Silver Ridge Recovery Clinical Services wants to help you break down those barriers and achieve recovery that lasts.

At Silver Ridge Recovery, making SMART goals is part of every treatment plan. You’ll be able to collaborate from day one, so your goals are personalized and attainable.