When you are stuck living a life consumed by substance abuse, you are living a life filled with nothing but loneliness and sadness. Addiction has a way of taking over your life, making it nearly impossible to stop regular substance abuse. The only way to beat this seemingly unbeatable urge is by going through an addiction treatment program. These programs offer useful resources and treatments to help ensure a long, successful life in sobriety. One of the main things these programs focus on is goal setting. Yes, the main goal is to rid yourself of the desire to use substances, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. Setting personal goals for yourself throughout your journey into sobriety is essential and is the only way to beat addiction.
What is a Goal?
To better understand what goals are in relation to sobriety, let’s first discuss goals are. Goals are not necessarily things you want in the future, but they are things that require effort. You want to accomplish goals with a tangible, measurable effort. Something you want in the future may be better defined as a dream. Of course, you want to live a sober life in the future, but a sober life does not come easy, it requires a lot of determination and effort. Goals usually have a time frame for completion as well. There is a strong difference between dreams and goals, the main one being the fact that dreams don’t require effort, but goals do. Here are some good examples of goals in recovery:
- Stay committed to the entire recovery program.
- Listen to professionals without judgment during recovery.
- Get absolutely clean through detox.
- Participate during therapy/counseling sessions.
- Adopt other habits that will make you healthier (ex. Exercise or dietary changes).
- Attend weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly meetings.
- Find coping mechanisms to help you avoid triggers.
Now that you know what goals are and gave some good examples of goals to set, let’s discuss why goal setting is so important during recovery.
They Require Self-Examination
Self-examination is a key part of your journey in recovery. If you cannot sit and reflect on your actions and better understand yourself, you will not live a successful sober life. When you start to understand why you have developed addictive habits, you can better combat those desires to abuse substances. Self-examination helps you better understand yourself and what you need to do in order to fully recover from addiction. If you don’t take time to self-reflect, you will always see addiction is something that is out of your control. When you start to understand how it all happened, you will have an easier time controlling those desires to use drugs or alcohol.
They Encourage Positive Thinking
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Just stay positive and everything will be okay.” Though this phrase may seem overused and cliche at times, nothing reigns more true for former addicts. Addiction is a disease that can completely control a way a person thinks and acts. It mentally, emotionally, and physically changes a person into something they are not. A person suffering from addiction may have been a very fun, loving person before this lifestyle change. Through addiction, they may have changed into a mean-spirited, selfish person. However, it doesn’t need to be this way. Through recovery, a person can start to alter the way they think, leaving their selfish ways behind and focusing on more positive things. Setting goals is a great way to change focus to positive thinking rather than negative. Setting goals like “stay sober” or “attend meetings” promote positive thinking, rather than negative thinking through goals like “stop drinking” or “don’t skip meetings”. Though these kinds of goals have the right idea, they don’t have the right mindset.
Goal Setting Helps You Focus on a Sober Future
When you are going through your first initial days in recovery, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals to stay sober. Your body will go through intense withdrawal without your substance of choice. You’’ experience symptoms like insomnia, migraines, nausea, hot/cold flashes, increased heart rate, uncontrollable shakes, and other symptoms. Certain symptoms will change depending on what substance you have used in the past and for how long, but most of these can be seen in any case of withdrawal from substances. With such uncomfortable symptoms, it’s easy for some people to want to slip right back into substance abuse in an effort to quell them. But, if you are looking to live a healthy, successful life in sobriety, you want to avoid relapse at all costs. In some cases, relapse can be fatal. That’s why goals can help you focus on what you want your future to look like.
Goals can help keep yourself accountable for your actions and put you into a mindset focused on change. If you really want to change for the better, it’s up to you to make that first step. Goals can also help you cope with your past decisions. Goals are focused on the future, not the past. The past has already happened and there is no use worrying about what you have done. Addicts have a tendency to feel a sense of guilt and remorse for their past actions, but this can be a very unhealthy mindset for people. When you get into that negative mindset, it’s easy to start to hate yourself. When a former addict starts to develop feelings of self-loathing, they will surely fall into a negative mindset, increasing their chances of relapse. Instead of making up for past decisions, goals help you focus on future decisions.
As you can see, setting goals for yourself in sobriety is essential to living sober. Goals help a person self-reflect in an effort to better understand who they are, why they developed these bad habits, and what they need to do in order to avoid them in the future. They also encourage positive thinking and help redirect a former addict’s mindset toward the future, rather than the past. Setting goals is extremely important for anyone going through recovery. Start setting goals for yourself before you enter a rehabilitation program, that way you can stay focused and hit milestones in your recovery journey. Through this, you have a better chance of living a long sober life.
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