How should I set goals for recovery from addiction?

Howard J. Shaffer, PhD
Addiction Medicine
If you have addiction and decide to make a change, you'll have to sort out exactly what, when, and how you want to change. That will depend a lot on your view of the problem. Those who are most invested and motivated to change will have the best chance of success.

Assuming you want to make a change, the next step is to choose your goals. Ask yourself:
  • When do I want to make a change?
  • Do I want to stop altogether or do I want to simply cut down?
  • If you decide you want to cut down, determine the level to which you want to limit your use or participation and be specific. As with any behavior change, you might find the following "SMART" goals helpful. Your goal should be:
  • Specific, meaning you should set a specific goal, such as, "I will stop drinking any alcohol between the hours of 1 a.m. and 10 a.m."
  • Measurable, meaning that your success should be easy to quantify. In the case of the goal mentioned above, you might keep a log of your consumption to be sure that you adhere to your goal.
  • Achievable, meaning your goal should be something you are physically capable of doing today, and something that would be safe for you to do. If you drink chronically, round-the-clock, the sample goal might not be safe without the help of a doctor, because the interruption in drinking could bring on life-threatening withdrawal consequences.
  • Realistic, meaning that it is something you believe you can do.
  • Time-based, meaning that you should set a date and time when you start the goal, and you should examine your progress at regular intervals.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.