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5 Tips to Help You Stick to Your Recovery Goals

Starting a new life in recovery can be a positive, life-changing experience. Not only are you freeing yourself from the chains of addiction, but you’re also allowing yourself to experience life on your own terms.

Setting recovery goals is an excellent way to help you reap the rewards of recovery, but sticking to these recovery goals isn’t always easy.

By following a few simple tips, you can ensure you stay on track to achieving your goals and build a better, healthier life in recovery.

1. Make SMART Goals

When setting recovery goals, there’s a specific template you can use to maximize your chances of success. This template is known as SMART goals, and it has been used in medicine, behavioral health, physical fitness, education, and much more.

The SMART method has decades of research supporting its effectiveness and can help you with your goal-setting strategy as well.

What are SMART goals? The acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

By applying these five principles to your recovery goals, you can ensure you have the greatest chance of success. Let’s look a little closer at how each facet of a SMART goal can impact your goals in recovery.


The first step is to make your goal as specific as possible. By narrowing your goal to a single target rather than a broad generalization, you ensure it’s easy to see the outcome of your goal and how to work toward it.

Making your goal specific also helps in making sure that it will be impactful. A specific goal means a tangible result.


Next, you should make your goal measurable. You need to have a way of tracking your progress or determining if your goal has been reached. This could include specific milestones, tracking your mood or symptoms, or having a well-defined endpoint.

Having specific measurements keeps you engaged with your recovery goals throughout the process. You can see if you are improving, backtracking, or need additional support, and you can build upon your successes as you go along.


Too often, people set lofty or unattainable goals for themselves. Focus instead on things you know you can accomplish if you put in the work. This often includes several factors, such as:

  • How much time you have available to work on your goals
  • What your current skill level is for your goal
  • What resources you have available

For example, it might be unreasonable to set a goal of running a marathon next month if you have no experience running. But setting a goal of running a shorter distance is possible with effort.


Your recovery goals should be focused on just that — recovery. Making your goals relevant to your needs is critical, as time spent on irrelevant goals won’t provide much help in the larger picture.

This doesn’t mean everything needs to be focused on symptoms exclusively, though. So long as your goals are focused on building a healthy and sustainable life that supports your recovery, you’re on the right track.


Having a time limit on your goals can motivate you to work toward them. Try to keep your time limits relatively short — as in weeks or months rather than years.

Setting goals to be accomplished in the far future or without a time limit at all can quickly lead to procrastination on starting your efforts, which ultimately holds you back from achieving them.

A common example to illustrate this point is New Year’s resolutions. For many people, a year-long goal is too distant — it’s hard to maintain the motivation across twelve full months. Many people will start working on their goals in January but give up before February is over.

Example of SMART Recovery Goals

As an example, put the SMART method into action for a common goal people have in recovery — finding more social support. This is a fantastic goal for anyone in recovery, but in its current state, it is vague, unmeasurable, and has no time limit.

By applying the principles of SMART, you can make the goal much more achievable and actionable. It may look something like this:

  • Specific: My goal is to build a support network to support my recovery by attending recovery-related activities twice a week
  • Measurable: I’ll track each time I attend a support group, therapy session, or 12-step meeting in a journal
  • Achievable: I have enough time for these activities on Tuesday, Thursday, and the weekend
  • Relevant: Building a support network helps me stay sober
  • Time-Based: My goal is to have a stronger support network in one month

Compared to the broad goal of “finding more social support,” the SMART goal provides a clear action plan, measurable progress, times when you can work toward your goal, and an endpoint to check if you’ve met your goal or made progress toward it.

2. Work on Building Healthy Coping Mechanisms

No matter what your recovery goals may be, there are bound to be challenges along the way. Learning to cope with difficult times and get through them while maintaining your recovery is critical to your success, but people often don’t have these healthy coping mechanisms when they start the recovery process.

Psychologists have described the various types of coping mechanisms and placed them into three distinct tiers:

  1. Adaptive cognitive coping
  2. Problem-focused coping
  3. Emotional-focused coping

For many people with substance use or mental health disorders, emotional-focused coping is the norm. It focuses on alleviating the emotion itself, which often provides the least benefit for your recovery goals.

For example, a person who feels sad and uses emotional-focused coping mechanisms may try to distract themselves from the sadness with video games, use drugs or alcohol to suppress the sadness, or lower their expectations for the future.

Problem-focused coping is often a step up in terms of coping mechanisms, but it’s not without its own set of faults. Problem-focused coping aims to fix challenges by changing the environment. This style of coping can often lead to great success but comes at the cost of effort.

For example, if you fail to get a promotion at work, a problem-focused coping style would be to increase your productivity and perform better at the workplace. This might earn you a promotion in the future, but it can also contribute to your overall stress level in daily life.

Adaptive cognitive coping mechanisms are by far the healthiest. This style of coping is what is often taught by therapists or psychologists and includes strategies such as:

  • Cognitive reframing
  • Meditation or mindfulness strategies
  • Putting problems into perspective
  • Acceptance

While adaptive cognitive strategies are often the most helpful, they are the hardest to develop. But learning your coping strategies, what works in which situations, and how you can improve can all help you work toward your recovery goals.

3. Keep a Daily Routine

Variety may be the spice of life, but a daily routine can be critical to maintaining your mental health, particularly if you deal with challenges such as anxiety or a substance use disorder. A healthy daily routine can go a long way toward alleviating your symptoms and keeping your challenges at bay.

Sticking to an established routine can help remove many of the stressful aspects of the day. When you know where you need to be, what you need to do next, and who’s relying on you for what, it’s easier to manage a busy workday and still have time for your recovery goals.

Even better, try incorporating some new healthy strategies into your routine. For example, some of the best things you can do for your overall mental health include:

  • Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night
  • Regular exercise
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Spending time with friends and family

If you’re not already doing these things, slowly incorporating them into your routine can have a profound effect on your energy levels, stress, and overall recovery.

With more energy and less stress, you’ll feel more capable of taking the next steps toward your recovery goals.

4. Be Patient

Recovery from any mental health challenge is a process. It takes time, effort, dedication, and a lot of patience before you start to see the rewards of your efforts.

While there are several definitions of recovery, the National Alliance on Mental Illness describes it as a process of change where people improve their health and wellness, reach their full potential, and live a self-directed life. These are ambitious long-term goals for anyone, and it’s important to recognize that it doesn’t happen all at once.

If you haven’t met your recovery goals quite yet, it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up. The rewards of recovery could be waiting for you just around the corner — you just need to be patient and continue working toward your goals until you see them come to fruition.

5. Get Professional Help

If you feel like you haven’t received the rewards of recovery despite your best efforts, it might be time to seek professional help.

Whether you’re seeking treatment for the first time or have been in recovery for years, working with a therapist or mental health professional can provide actionable guidance and support to help you achieve your recovery goals.

Talk therapy is the most common form of professional help. Working with an individual therapist can help people achieve any number of goals in recovery, including:

  • Overcoming depression or anxiety
  • Resisting substance use cravings
  • Helping to repair damaged relationships
  • Learning communication skills
  • Training in healthy coping mechanisms

Many of the same benefits can be found in group therapy with the added benefit of social support from a group of peers with similar experiences.

There are countless other styles of treatment you can engage in, depending on your goals. Cutting-edge technologies and treatment methods help people make progress in recovery and include methods such as:

By taking advantage of a wide range of traditional and innovative services, you will have every tool at your disposal to achieve your recovery goals.

Call APN Today

The services at APN can be just what you need to kickstart your recovery goals. With our comprehensive mental health and addiction treatment packages, we offer our clients the very best in mental health treatment and holistic care to fit a wide variety of needs and preferences.

Contact our team today by calling 855.510.4585 or filling out our confidential online contact form for more information. The path to recovery isn’t always easy, but with the help of APN, your recovery goals are within reach.


  • Ogbeiwi O (2017) Why written objectives need to be really SMART. British Journal of Healthcare Management. 23 (7): 324–336.
  • Schoenmakers, Eric C et al. “Problem-focused and emotion-focused coping options and loneliness: how are they related?.” European journal of ageing vol. 12,2 153-161. 11 Feb. 2015, doi:10.1007/s10433-015-0336-1