Making Recovery a Goal Increases its Value to You

By: Marilyn Davis


“Goals are the road maps that guide you to your destination. Cultivate the habit of setting clearly defined written goals; they are the road maps that guide you to your destination.”― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart


goals from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis recovery goal


Other People Had a Goal in 1988

In 1988, my employer sent me to drug and alcohol treatment and was adamant that I receive help. They were also encouraging me to make every effort to be successful. I think it was this combination of boundaries on my behaviors while still demonstrating faith that I had the resolve, discipline, and desire to receive the help that allowed this intervention to work.

Finding my First Goal in Recovery

If my boss at Brenau University was the only one setting a goal, it probably would not have worked. My primary counselor told us on the first day, “Recovery from addiction must be a clearly defined goal to be successful. Building upon the motivation to change; what in yourself, you need to change; and how best to approach the goal of change, help create solid foundations for recovery.”

She then cautioned us that this should not be simply a one-sided goal established by a provider, sponsor, employer, or other supportive people, but must be goals that you want, to succeed. I could state that I wanted recovery, but didn’t think to make it a goal. But by making it a goal, I was able to stay in treatment.

Setting Goals the Old-fashioned Wayfrom addict 2 advocate marilyn l davis

Goals and sub-goals help us get what we want in life.  Certainly, I had other goals, before my addiction took them away. Many of these improved my life; education, financial security, career, and better relationships with family and friends; those I could see as a goal.

With some of them, I mapped out specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-targeted goals and sub-goals, or S.M.A.R.T goals, first mentioned in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.

However, it was not until I made recovery a goal in 1988, did I start to attach the principles of goal and sub-goal setting to it.

Applying S.M.A.R.T. To my Recovery Goals

from addict 2 advocate marilyn l davisWe carry out recovery as a goal, much like e any other goal.  Want a new car or house and cannot simply write a check?  Then you know that you will have to save money to carry out the goal.

Want a better opportunity for a lucrative job?  Then you know that you need either a college degree or specialized training to help this goal.

All of these goals take incremental actions to define and bring about your stated goal.

My first goal for recovery was, “Don’t Use” I then set up the sub-goals for accomplishing that goal each day:

  1. Specific: Remain abstinent
  2. Measurable: Employer mandated drug screen results
  3. Achievable: Yes, do not use
  4. Realistic: Yes, if I do not use
  5. Time-targeted: Will be screened weekly

Benefits of Maintaining my Goals

I had very clear expectations of myself: Do not use. I would also enjoy continued employment with this goal satisfied, so remaining abstinent facilitated other goals, such as financial independence and better buying power as I called it.

I knew that viewing this goal in a semi-frivolous way much like the resolutions people create on New Year’s Day would not work.  Habits and addictions take years to form and the early stages of change are the times that most people relapse.

By making my goal of abstinence time-specific and then beginning to extend the time, I was able to next realize a month in recovery, then another, and finally a year.

It was at this point that I started measuring and adjusting my recovery goal to include internal motivation and not just the external motivation of keeping my job. 

The Emotional Side of Goal Setting

from addict to advocate marilyn l davis The emotional side of accomplishing goals is personal.  Some people, process on the positive side and view a four-year commitment to getting a degree as a way to ensure a better job at the end of their four-year education.

Other people belabor the time they have to spend just getting ready to get a job. Motivation, incentive, and reason are driven by positive and negative emotions, attitudes and actions.For some people, the bottom and the associated feelings of low self-worth, guilt and shame prompt a wish to change for the better and to receive better outcomes.

For others, the bottom gives them a sense of relief; they have been caught and change is going to produce different and better outcomes.

It does not matter which side of the coin you are on if changing for the better is your goal.

How Best to Accomplish Your Goals of Recovery?

Each person will find their own complimentary method for reaching their goal of recovery.  However, having knowledgeable, supportive people help direct us to our goal of recovery is usually more productive and less time-consuming than going it alone.

There are more approaches to helping people than when I got into recovery almost 29 years ago.

There are 12 Step based, faith-based, and secular approaches to help people recover from substance abuse. These approaches work for those people who adhere to the fundamental philosophy for each type of Recovery Supportive meeting.

When you find a Recovery Supportive meeting that genuinely and authentically mimics your beliefs about recovery, you will get encouragement, guidance, support, and friendships. These, in turn, will help you stay focused on your goal of recovery.

What are Your Recovery Goals for 2018? 

“Goals are the road maps that guide you to your destination. Cultivate the habit of setting clearly-defined written goals; they are the road maps that guide you to your destination.” ― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting a goal. Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down – as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose.”― Melody Beattie – The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency


from addict 2 advcocate marilyn l davis


Writing, and recovery heals the heart.



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  1. Marilyn, I love your work! There are so many people who don’t realize just how intentional recovery is and should be! While I have been sober for a number of years, I cannot truly say that I was in recovery until I started working at my own well-being and that of those around me. It wasn’t until I realized that merely turning my back on alcohol was not enough. When we are in danger, we may temporarily hide ourselves or shield ourselves, but to truly be out of danger we must get out of the dangerous environment, we must move in a new direction, away from what imperils us.

    • Hi, Larry. Thank you for the kind words, and for reinforcing that recovery is so much more than just giving up the substances. I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor to the site.

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