Goal Setting to Help With Addiction Recovery

woman holding wooden blocks that spell out the word goals

Goal setting is a critical step in addiction recovery. Without defining what you aspire to achieve, you may find yourself spinning in circles and repeating old habits. You’ll need to dedicate some time to visualizing what you hope to accomplish and how you will get there. To do this, you’ll need to think smart—or should we say S.M.A.R.T., to be exact.


S.M.A.R.T. is a goal-setting model that can help you set, reach, and celebrate milestones along your path to sobriety. While it’s not designed specifically for addiction recovery, it can be applied universally to just about any situation. Each letter in the acronym represents a component of goal setting, and will guide you through the process of setting tangible and obtainable treatment goals.

To get the results you’re looking for, you can follow this model to develop goals that are just right for you and your individual circumstances.

The goals you set should be:


You can’t just throw out a general statement of what you want to do. It’s pretty obvious that, as a recovering addict, you would like to abstain from drugs. Okay, that’s fine, but you’ll need to break that down further into smaller, more tangible milestones. Maybe you’d like to attend more AA meetings, or go to the gym regularly as a healthier alternative to drug use.


You need to make sure that your goal can be measured. One way to keep yourself on track is to apply a number to your specific goal. How many AA meetings would you like to attend? Six months from now, you should be able to look back on your progress and evaluate your performance based on tangible metrics.


You should be able to visualize your goal. What does it look like? How will you know when you’ve achieved it? Setting goals like “staying sober” won’t give you much to celebrate because sobriety is a lifelong process, and not something you can physically attain. Instead, visualize the milestones you hope to reach along the way.


It’s okay to dream big, but don’t set your sights so high that you set yourself up for failure. For example, if you wanted to quit smoking, it may not be realistic for you to stop completely right away. Instead, you would need to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke. You want to push yourself, but not too hard.


Give yourself a timeframe. Maybe your goal is attending a 12-step meeting each week. Specify for how many weeks or months you want to continue until you can say you’ve achieved your goal.

Goals give us purpose to move forward, so with each goal you achieve, set your sights on the next one and push yourself a little bit more. If at any point you fail to meet a goal, don’t be discouraged and don’t give up. Look back on what you could have done differently and set a new goal using the S.M.A.R.T. model.

When choosing your goals, remember that recovery isn’t always about reaching a specific destination, but maintaining sobriety through a lifelong journey.

Written by
Recovering Champions Editorial Team

Published on: January 31, 2018 | Edited on: August 10, 2022

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This page does not provide medical advice.