By Jim Woods

When you’re in recovery, the start of a new year brings both new opportunities and challenges. Wherever you are today, know that having a positive attitude plays an important role in your success. Let’s face it: The past is in the past. When you focus more on the decisions you make today, you’ll find it easier to move forward.

Whenever you have goals you want to accomplish, challenges will pop up. That’s okay. The truth is, growth is rarely comfortable. Statistics from the University of Scranton say that approximately nine out of 10 people do not meet their New Year’s goals.1 Instead of focusing on the challenges you’ll face, let’s spend some time discussing practical tools that will help you accomplish your goals. There are several simple steps you can take that will encourage success.

The Important First Step

New Year's resolutionsThe most important step you can take is to set a goal based on your priorities. When you’re in recovery, your sobriety needs to be a priority. Spend some time thinking about ways you can support your recovery. Don’t hesitate to write down your thoughts on paper; there’s great power in writing out your goals. Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University found that when you write down your goals on a daily basis, you are 42 percent more likely to achieve them.2

Writing down your goals reinforces what you want to accomplish. The process of writing it out also gives you clarity. Then if you hang your goal up on the wall, it becomes a continual reminder that can encourage you with whenever you see it. Think about it: The more you see something, the more you will accept it and even believe it. If you attach an image to the goal, it is even more powerful as it tells your mind a story. An article in Psychology Today states that when you visualize, your brain is getting trained for actual performance.3 Best of all, every day you are successful, your confidence grows, and that positive attitude gives you a boost in the future.

Know How to Achieve Your Goal

Much of the time, people don’t know how to accomplish their goals. Instead of setting a really big goal that’s hard to define, like “getting healthy,” set a SMARTER goal.4 While it’s likely one of your goals in recovery to stay sober, even that goal can be too broad on its own. Abstaining from substance use is not enough. Some individuals are sober but behave in dysfunctional ways and are mentally unhealthy.5

SMARTER goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-sensitive
  • Evaluated
  • Reviewed

Here are a few SMARTER goals you could set for your recovery:

  • Going to group therapy two times each week for one hour.
  • Working out at the gym two times a week for one hour with a trainer.
  • Volunteering for a cause you care about for one hour each week.
  • Attending one individual therapy session for one hour each week.
  • Reading a new book each month for half an hour before you go to sleep.

All of these examples are time-sensitive and specific. In addition, each goal needs to be achievable. As you move forward, you can evaluate your success and review how things are going. Whenever possible, it’s helpful to set goals that benefit you in several areas of your life. For example, working out at the gym is something that helps you both physically and mentally. Volunteering your time helps both you and others. It can also help support your recovery. You are more likely to stick with an activity that gives you multiple benefits.

Even when you set a goal that aligns with your priorities, there will be times when you need to change it. That’s where the evaluation and review process gives you a chance to adjust. Perhaps you need to make the goal larger to support your personal growth. Other times you may have to make a goal smaller. There will also be times you fail, and that is completely normal. Try not to beat yourself up about it. Talk to your support network, adjust accordingly and keep moving forward. If you would like to talk to someone right now, please read on.

Support Makes All the Difference

If you need help with setting goals for getting sober and starting your life in recovery, we are ready to help. We know how you feel as you move forward in your journey. Our admissions coordinators are only a phone call away. Lakeside offers a comfortable environment where you can receive individualized treatment to meet your needs. Please don’t delay. Call us now.


1 Schwantes, Marcel. “Science Says 92 Percent of People Don’t Achieve Their Goals. Here’s How the Other 8 Percent Do.” Inc, July 26, 2016.

2 Morrissey, Mary. “The Power of Writing Down Your Goals and Dreams.” Huffington Post, September 14, 2016.

3 Adams, AJ. “Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization.” Psychology Today, December 3, 2009.

4SMART Goals: How to Make Your Goals Achievable.” MindTools, Accessed January 16,2018.

5 Bennett, Carole. “Is there a “Dry Drunk” in your life?” Psychology Today, May 14, 2011.