Getting Real About #RecoveryGoals

Optimism and hope are essential, but rushing into a new life — no matter how promising — can set you up for disappointment. Here's how to take it slow and make it last

January 19, 2023
Darts hitting and missing a dartboard

In the spaces and support groups of early recovery, you encounter a lot of moods. Some attendees are resentful, some are bewildered, some are resigned and dejected, some are cautiously optimistic, and some are absolutely pumped to finally be free of hindrances and hopelessness of addiction.

Who could fault them? (Or, indeed, any of them?) For some in this last camp, the feeling is urgent: You’ve finally gotten out of your own way, and there’s so much to accomplish! For some others, it’s closer to serenity, a phenomenon sometimes called the “pink cloud.” It is amazing and empowering — but it can also be a little dangerous.

Why does a feeling of serenity put people in early recovery in such an elevated mood? Simply put, unlike those who have never struggled with addiction, they’ve never felt it before, or not in some time. But if you’re on a heady recovery kick, it’s worth asking: Could this early elation give you a false sense of safety?

It is a relief to find some tranquility, finally, and you should be proud of what you have already accomplished. But remember that the road to lasting recovery is long and sometimes a slog, because this is now your life and that’s how life is. So if you’re in a goal-oriented, take-on-anything mood while experiencing this newfound positive feeling, it’s helpful to keep yourself grounded and keep your early aspirations reasonable and realistic.

When we set goals for ourselves, we want the best. Why wouldn’t we? Setting goals is an important part of recovery. But equally important is developing an effective plan to achieve these goals without risking our sobriety.

You’ve cleared a huge obstacle — addiction — but there will still be disappointments and frustrations ahead. That’s a guarantee. Let’s talk about curbing expectations, exercising patience — and achieving those goals.

How To Set Realistic Goals in Recovery

The first thing to remember is that you have worked incredibly hard to get to where you are in recovery, even if you’ve found your way to All Sober just to learn what options are out there to help you get started. Active addiction is one of the toughest things a person can overcome, so pushing away from it is a monumental success.

The next thing to remember is that recovery is a journey, and there is no finish line. Remind yourself that the “finish line” is a fallacy, and a positive recovery journey should have a long road. Anyway, you’re looking forward to positive growth every day, not finding a place to stand still and twiddle your thumbs, right?

The concept of “one day at a time” can be extremely helpful in setting realistic recovery goals. Part of the idea here is that for someone who was in active addiction, just staying sober for a day is a win. Once you grasp the scope of that win and how strong you’ve had to be to get it, you can move on to setting responsible and reasonable goals.

Curbing Your Expectations in Recovery, a Little

Another important consideration: Like it or not, you share your world and your recovery with others, and you brought others into your addiction, too.

Active addiction is often like a tornado, tearing up not just our own lives but the lives of those closest to us. The fantastic possibilities of the future don’t erase the reality of the recent past. Humility, which may mean curbing expectations, is necessary.

While you may feel ready to move on, others may not. You cannot control other people’s healing; they will heal in their own time. They may have their own programs and paths for this, since addiction affects everyone differently. Remember to take this into account.

You don’t need to beat yourself down (again) over this. Just be mindful of keeping your recovery in the moment, staying on the right path and continuing to take positive steps. The rest of your life’s puzzle pieces will start to get put in place if you keep your sobriety above everything else.

That’s not being glib or trite: Truly, without sobriety, you wouldn’t even have the opportunity to get the rest of your life back on track. So just be patient; it is about the journey, not the finish line.

Patience, Patience, Patience

Sometimes it is easy to forget that we have no control over the past and can’t predict the future. We have the most agency in the present moment. If we can stay in that moment, we can take positive and thoughtful steps.

It has been said that struggling comes from two places. The first is the fear of losing something we already have, and the other is the fear of not getting something we want. Maybe this resonates with you, maybe it doesn’t; regardless, you’ve done enough struggling in addiction. You don’t need to struggle needlessly in recovery.

Be patient and do your research on what your next positive steps will be. Remember to pause when in doubt. And if you’re frustrated, buck up and cut yourself some slack — you’ve already gotten the big thing right by choosing recovery.

Achieving Your Goals! Yeah!

A goal without a plan is only a dream, as they say. Yes, sobriety can give you the life you deserve. Yes, a responsible path of recovery can give you a life beyond your wildest dreams. Just remember to live one day at a time, be patient and avoid needless struggling.

If you can avoid getting carried away by an early, temporary pink cloud, you just might find you can set yourself up with an even puffier pink cloud to live on the rest of your life.

More Help & Information

Auguste Rodin, The Thinker

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