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Setting SMART Goals in Recovery

Setting goals is a valuable tool for recovery. One important value of goals is that having a clear goal keeps you focused and motivated. When people start recovery, they usually just want to get sober and stay sober. That’s a worthy ambition but it’s also indefinite. It’s hard to keep yourself motivated when your goal constantly recedes over the horizon. Setting recovery goals can be a way of connecting your larger values and motivations to concrete, achievable actions.

SMART goals

SMART stands for “specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.” These criteria are what separate a goal from a vague wish or desire. Specific means you state exactly what you want to do or accomplish. Measurable means you can actually tell when the goal has been achieved. “I want to be a better person,” for example, is an admirable sentiment, but how exactly do you measure it? 

Achievable means that your goal is within reason. That doesn’t mean it should be easy or trivial–challenging goals are often more motivational–but neither do you want to set yourself up for disappointment. A good goal is typically just outside your comfort zone. Relevant means your goals should align with your broader aim of long-term sobriety as well as the reasons you want to stay sober. Finally, goals should be time-bound, meaning you intend to accomplish them by a certain date. 

So, for example, a common goal of people starting recovery is to attend 90 12-step meetings in 90 days. This goal is specific and measurable–attend 90 meetings. It is achievable–most people can spare an hour, on average, out of their day; the challenge is being consistent. The goal is certainly relevant and it is time-bound, since it is to be completed over 90 days.

Start with values.

Many people will have similar goals in recovery but ultimately, your goals should be based on what’s most important to you. So, for example, many people say they decided to seek help for addiction because they realized their substance use was hurting their families. So, while sobriety is your overall aim, family might be the core value associated with that aim. Therefore, your goals might emphasize ways to strengthen your relationship with your family. Exactly what form that takes depends on your situation. Identify some aspect of your family life you would like to improve and come up with three ideas for SMART goals that would help that happen. Make sure to write your goals down and keep them somewhere you will see them often. If necessary, break a big goal down into smaller parts, and write SMART goals for each of those parts. 


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premiere men’s addiction treatment facility that uses eight different modalities to help our men become the best versions of themselves they can be. We teach our men that every day of their journey is something to celebrate and that recovery isn’t a sprint– it’s a marathon. To get started with Tree House Recovery, call us today at (855) 202-2138

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