Practicing Recovery


Goals for the New YearMaking New Year’s resolutions may be a time-honored tradition, but most of us aren’t very good at keeping those resolutions. Often, our lack of follow-through isn’t a matter of motivation or willpower. It’s because we haven’t taken the time to set goals that are effective in bringing about real changes in our lives. If you’re in recovery, setting SMART goals can help you stay sober and prevent relapse.

What Are SMART Goals?

Effective goals follow the principles outlined in the acronym SMART.

  • SPECIFIC: The goal involves a precise outcome that is desired.
  • MEASURABLE: The goal has a way to measure your progress.
  • ACTION-ORIENTED: The goal explains what behaviors you must follow to achieve your objectives.
  • REALISTIC: The goal is reasonably attainable given the current tools and resources at your disposal.
  • TIMELY: The goal comes with a built-in timeframe that gives you a sense of completion, such as doing something every day or once a week.

The SMART goal framework helps prevent some of the most common mistakes people make when setting goals by encouraging you to turn vague ambitions into specific and actionable steps that can be undertaken to achieve your objective.

Why Use SMART Goals for Addiction Recovery?

The SMART goals acronym can be used in any situation, but it’s particularly useful for people in recovery. Getting clean after being addicted to drugs or alcohol for a long period of time requires a total lifestyle change, which often feels overwhelming. The SMART goals acronym helps you visualize your recovery as a series of smaller and more manageable steps.

For example, one common goal people try to set for themselves in recovery is “I’m never going to relapse.” While this is certainly an admirable sentiment, the time parameter involved is too long and there are no steps explained for how you want to prevent relapse. (Remember that addiction is a chronic illness, you can’t simply pronounce yourself cured after going through detox.)

Better examples of goals to set for yourself include:

  • When I feel the urge to drink or use drugs, I’m going to call my sponsor.
  • I will write in my journal for 15 minutes before bed each night to better understand what factors in my life affect my cravings for drugs and alcohol.
  • I will exercise for 30 minutes per day to keep my energy level up and release endorphins to improve my mood.
  • I’m going to go to guitar lessons once per week, since music helps me cope with my cravings.
  • I will attend worship services each week, using my faith as a tool to assist in my recovery.
  • I’m going to apply for two jobs per week that offer at least 20 hours of work until I find a position that suits my needs.
  • On Friday nights, I will cook dinner for my family while we talk about what has happened during the week.
  • I will begin each day by spending 15 minutes celebrating the progress I’ve made in my recovery.

Short Term vs. Long Term Goals for Recovery

When setting SMART goals for your recovery, it’s important to think about both short term and long term goals. A successful recovery plan should include a mix of both goal types.

Short term goals are those that focus on the immediate challenge of maintaining your sobriety, such as controlling cravings, staying in contact with your sponsor, and attending therapy regularly. The sobriety chips given in AA meetings for 24 hours, 30 days, and 60 days of sobriety recognize the importance of setting short term goals in recovery.

For many people, long term goals often focus on what type of sober life they want to build for themselves. For example, you might be imagining a special anniversary trip to celebrate 25 years with your spouse. Or, you might want to finish your degree so you can be a good role model for your child as he or she enters high school. Long term goals can be one year, five years, or 10 years away—as long as they help keep you motivated on a day to day basis.

Evaluating Your Progress

Setting goals is an important part of creating a sustained recovery, but you also need to evaluate your progress periodically to make sure you’re on the right path.  If you’re struggling, it may be time to approach the problem differently. For example, if you’re worried you’re not making any progress finding post-recovery employment, you may need to arrange a meeting with a career counselor who can review your resume and offer some interview tips to boost your confidence.

It’s okay to make mistakes along the way, as long as you don’t use minor slip ups as an excuse to stop trying to live a clean and sober life.  Recovery is about progress, not perfection.

By Dana Hinders

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, please call St. Joseph Institute at 888-352-3297.

Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders

How to build a recovery playlist

Music can be a wonderful source of support, inspiration, and motivation during the recovery process. Consider developing your own addiction recovery playlist to help you tackle the challenges of sober living, using these popular songs as a starting point.

Breaking the Habit – Linkin Park

I don’t know what’s worth fighting for
Or why I have to scream.
But now I have some clarity to show you what I mean.
I don’t know how I got this way.
I’ll never be alright,
So I’m breaking the habit.
I’m breaking the habit.
I’m breaking the habit tonight.

“Breaking the Habit” is a song about hitting rock bottom. The lyrics express frustration with the burdens of addiction, as well as an understanding that nothing gets better unless you make a conscious decision to change your own behavior.

Amazing – Aerosmith

It’s amazing.
With the blink of an eye, you finally see the light.
It’s amazing.
When the moment arrives that you know you’ll be alright.

Aerosmith’s popular power ballad begins by describing a life of pain caused by drug abuse, but shows how drastically life can change if you find the courage to ask for help. If you’re in the early stages of recovery, this is a song to remind you that things will get better.

My Silver Lining – First Aid Kit

Can’t worry ’bout what’s behind you or what’s coming for you further up the road.
I try not to hold on to what is gone.
I try to do right what is wrong.
I try to keep on keepin’ on.

When you’re in recovery, it’s easy to get distracted by guilt over past mistakes and anxiety about the future. “My Silver Lining” is a reminder to focus on the present and take your recovery one day at a time.

Recover – Natasha Bedingfield

Been torn apart,
Got so many scratches and scars.
Maybe they won’t all go away,
But they’ll fade.
Maybe time can mend us together again.
It’s not what we’ve done but, how far we’ve come.

“Recover” is a powerful song because it acknowledges that addiction causes lasting pain, but gives hope that recovery is possible. Think of this song as a reminder that your own scars are a badge of honor and a sign of survival. They tell the story of all you’ve been through and prove that you’re strong enough to conquer the world.

Survivor – Destiny’s Child

Now that you’re out of my life, I’m so much better.
You thought that I’d be weak without you, but I’m stronger.
You thought that I’d be broke without you, but I’m richer.
You thought that I’d be sad without you, I laugh harder.
Thought I wouldn’t grow without you, now I’m wiser.

This song is about getting over a bad breakup, but it’s not difficult to see the parallel between ending a toxic romance and overcoming drug and alcohol addiction. Think of it as a catchy tune to help you remember all the ways your life has improved since you made the decision to get clean.

Titanium – David Guetta featuring Sia

I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose.
Fire away, fire away.
Ricochet, you take your aim.
Fire away, fire away.
You shoot me down, but I won’t fall.
I am titanium.

“Titanium” is a song about inner strength and finding it in yourself to overcome whatever obstacles the world throws at you. It’s a song that resonates with many people who’ve turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with trauma in their lives.

Firework – Katy Perry

You don’t have to feel like a wasted space.
You’re original, cannot be replaced.
If you only knew what the future holds.
After a hurricane, comes a rainbow.

More than just a popular dance number, “Firework” offers a powerful message about embracing your individuality. It’s a worthy addition to any recovery playlist, especially if you’re struggling to redefine your sense of self without drugs and alcohol.

Hold Fast – Mercy Me

Hold fast
Help is on the way.
Hold fast
He’s come to save the day.
What I’ve learned in my life
One thing greater than my strife
Is your grasp.

Contemporary Christian band MercyMe sings about the power of Christ’s love, urging anyone who is going through a difficult time to turn to their faith as a source of strength. Even though this song isn’t specifically about addiction, it’s a message that resonates with many who are in recovery.

The Man I Want to Be – Chris Young

I wanna be a good man,
A ‘do like I should’ man.
I wanna be the kind of man the mirror likes to see.
I wanna be a strong man
And admit that I was wrong, man.
God, I’m asking you to come change me
To the man I wanna be.

Country music singer Chris Young expresses the desire to make big changes in life, while acknowledging that this is a job too big to undertake alone. This song reminds us that all things are possible with God’s help.

By Dana Hinders

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