Setting Substance-Use Disorder Recovery Goals for the New Year

Man in alcohol detox

Approximately 188.9 million American adults (over 74 percent of the population) say they’re setting a New Year’s goal for 2021, reveals a recent Finder survey [1]. And while research shows that setting and working towards goals boosts motivation and promotes hope [2], the sad reality is that many people give up on their New Year’s goals before January even comes to an end. This doesn’t have to be your story, though. If you’re planning on setting substance-use disorder recovery goals for the New Year, here are three practical tips to help you not only set recovery goals but also stick to them all year long.

Define Your Why for Substance-Use Disorder Recovery Goals

The first step in setting substance use disorder (SUD) recovery goals for the New Year (or at any time of the year) is to define your ‘why.’ In other words, why do you want to recover? What is motivating you to make this positive change? Maybe your ‘why’ has to do with your children or your partner, or maybe you want to recover so you can pursue a healthier lifestyle or achieve certain career goals.

Take several minutes right now to define the reason/s why you want to set recovery goals. Once you’ve determined your ‘why,’ write it out on a piece of paper and tape it somewhere you can see it every single day (your bathroom mirror, near the kitchen sink, on your desk at work, etc.). Next, make sure to read your ‘why’ out loud to yourself each day. This simple action will be a powerful reminder of why you’re working towards recovery and will motivate you to keep going even on the hard days.

Set SMART Goals

Woman setting substance use disorder recovery goals with her boyfriendSMART is an acronym that first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Since then, this powerful goal-setting tool has been used by many people to help them create and achieve both their personal and professional goals. So what is a SMART goal? A SMART goal must be:

Specific – Throw out the vague ideas and obscure goals, and instead, clearly define a simple and specific target you can work towards.

Measurable – Measurable goals are (not surprisingly) ones that you can measure. This means you need to break down your larger goal into smaller, easy-to-define elements and specify exactly what it will look like when you’ve made progress towards or reached the goal.

Achievable – Make sure your goal is realistic and can be attained. If you start out with a goal that you believe is impossible, you’ll most likely give up before you’ve even started.

Relevant – Ask yourself if the goal your setting is 1) relevant for right now and 2) relevant for the future. In other words, when you begin to make progress towards this goal, will it directly impact your life right now in a positive way? And will it help you reach your long-term life goals?

Time-bound – Determine a reasonable timeframe for your recovery goals. Keep in mind, this is not about setting an unrealistic deadline for your complete recovery. Rather, it’s about placing achievable timeframes on specific targets within your goal, so you keep taking action and stay motivated each day.

Take Action Today

Finally, the most important step in setting (and achieving) substance-use disorder recovery goals for the new year is to take action today. While it’s critical to define your ‘why’ and set achievable, “SMART” goals, none of this does any good if you fail to take action. So start working towards your New Year’s goals by reaching out and asking for help today.

You may start by calling the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357, searching for a treatment center in your area, joining a support group, or meeting with a professional therapist or counselor. Remember that recovery is possible for YOU and that asking for help is the first step towards a clean, sober life.


[1] Catherine Choi l. (2020, December 4). New Year’s resolutions statistics.

[2] Clarke, S. P., Oades, L. G., Crowe, T. P., & Deane, F. P. (2006). Collaborative Goal Technology: Theory and Practice. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 30(2), 129–136.

About the Author:

Sarah Musick PhotoSarah Musick is a freelance writer who specializes in eating disorder awareness and education. After battling with a 4-years long eating disorder, she made it her mission to help others find hope and healing in recovery.

Her work has been featured on numerous eating disorder blogs and websites. When she’s not writing, Sarah is off traveling the world with her husband.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on December 31, 2020
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 31, 2020
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.