By: Marilyn L. 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
Wishing Your Life Was Different?
Many people have a vague idea of what they would like to do but do not know how to get results. They spend a lot of time wishing things were different.
While long-term recovery is your goal, there may be reasons you believe you can’t make it. It may seem too far out of reach; you may not think you deserve recovery, or you just aren’t sure what to do to carry out the goal — you just know you want it.
You may think that recovery is too hard. Or, if you’ve tried before and not been successful in long-term recovery, you may be apprehensive about trying it again. Or you may still feel guilty about your actions, shame from childhood messages, or negative beliefs about yourself.
One of the things that I’ve found helpful is to make goals for something other than my recovery, while still making recovery a priority.
Map Out Your Recovery with Goals
Goal and subgoal setting help you prioritize what you want to change and what you want to do in the future. By setting subgoals, which are incremental or smaller steps toward achieving your larger goals, you define a realistic approach to getting what you want.
The process of establishing goals and subgoals helps you choose what you want to carry out, where you need to apply your abilities, and where help or guidance would be beneficial.
For any life goal to be achievable, there are things that you have to factor so you do not set yourself up to fail or not realize your stated goal. Ask yourself the following questions?
- What is the Personal Value of the Goal
- Did you set Realistic Expectations
- Can you name the Skill Sets needed to carry out your goal/sub-goal?
- Are there Resources and Support Networks available to help you?
- What are your Limitations
Do Something Every Day; Don’t Spend Time Wishing
For your recovery goal, use a three-month time frame. For all others, project them from a year to five years.
Living in the moment, not predicting outcomes, and “one day at a time” are not appropriate mindsets for this exercise.
You can set long-term goals, realizing that you carry out everything by doing something towards the goal, one day at a time. When you set clear goals and subgoals, you can measure and track your progress and take pride in these achievements.
By not always focusing on the long-term goal of continuous recovery, you can gain self-confidence and encouragement. When you are successful at a subgoal such as participation in meetings, getting a sponsor or accountability partner, or changing certain aspects of yourself, you can feel proud, and this will motivate you further.
Goals and Sub-goals Replace Wishing
The chart shows ten common goal categories, and the way it often works is that if you start seeing progress and making inroads with sub-goals and goals for one, it can encourage you to in other aspects of your life — like your recovery.
Your priorities are specific to you and are a reason for deciding your goals and sub-goals.
Goal Categories cover many aspects of life. Most, if not all, of your goals and sub-goals, will fit into one of the ten categories. Creating too many categories is time-consuming and overwhelming.
Step 1 Define Goals for the Ten Goal Categories
- Volunteering/service to others
Step 2 Identifying Sub-goals for Each Goal
While setting a goal is good, seeing what you want to do and what is realistic in a particular category will help make sure that you will follow through on your plan. Questions to ask about a recovery goal:
- Do you want to stay chemically free?
- Is there a group that you enjoy?
- Can you do service work?
- Do you want to make friends in meetings?
- How many meetings should you attend per week?
- Will attending meetings satisfy a governing agency?
Specific Goals and Sub-goals
Making your goals and sub-goals specific to your interests, your strengths, and your limitations will make these more attainable. When you accomplish one sub-goal, move on to the next.
Some predictable goals and sub-goals for early recovery:
- Reunite with healthy loved ones
- Stop the criminal activities to lessen incarceration
- Get other skills to enhance job opportunities
- Education for advancement in career path
- Keep your current job if treatment is mandatory
- Provide housing for yourself or family
- Obtain needed health or dental care
- Get a job
Set Realistic Expectations, Not Wishes
Now that you’ve established your Recovery Goal to “Stay Chemically Free” or decided that another goal is equally important, determine what subgoals will move you closer to that goal. Just remember to make them small enough to carry out, and give yourself enough time to carry them out. Have them written down.
Some good sub-goals for early recovery are:
- Go to four recovery support meetings per week
- Read recovery literature
- Volunteer for Community Service at recovery support meetings
- Participate in treatment
- Get a sponsor/accountability partner
- Follow action plan for court or other reporting agency
How Do You Feel?
Each time you realize either a sub-goal or goal, you are moving towards becoming the person you want to be. You might also feel:
- Motivated to try more goals
- Encouragement upon completion of sub-goals
- Improvement in your overall life
- An authentic sense of accomplishment and pride
Updating Your Goals and Sub-goals and Moving On
When you have accomplished a goal, review it to see if there are other aspects of that category that you would like to improve. Using the recovery goal, you might get a sponsor or accountability partner, attend four recovery supportive meetings per week, and read the recovery literature within your first three months.
Three months later, your situation in your treatment program has changed, and having your paperwork signed is no longer a requirement, so what else could you do to improve your recovery? Examining your sub-goals and finding new ways to move you closer to your goal is part of the process of achieving your goals.
You might add:
- Chairing a meeting
- Volunteering to be a discussion leader on a particular topic
- Become a temporary sponsor or accountability partner for others
- Share your story or testimony at a recovery supportive meeting
Ready for Your Next Goal?
These, in turn, will fortify your recovery while moving you closer to the primary goal of long-term recovery. And an added benefit is that while you’ve been working on your goals and sub-goals, you might have changed your opinion of recovery being too hard, or that you don’t deserve recovery.
And, you’ve accomplished all of this without wishing; you’ve realized these goals and sub-goals through your hard work. So, are you ready to tackle another goal? You know you can.
Writing, and recovery heals the heart.