Goals are important for everyone. Thinking on and reviewing goals are important both before and after you quit using an addictive substance.
What are goals? You can think of goals as being what you want. Generally your goals are happiness and survival. More specifically, you may want a better job or a happier marriage. When you use addicting substances, you seek relief from stress and misery, a high, or fun with friends. When thinking of quitting, you think of getting rid of some of the problems you’ve developed and living a better life.
What about later, when you are well on your way to recovery? You’ll do well to have some goals that are long-term interests. Many people try improving their relationships with others, finding a better job (as mentioned above), or finding a hobby in which they can absorb themselves.
Often this isn’t easy. Addiction creates such a focus on short-term pleasures and solutions to problems that you may not readily find yourself succeeding at enjoying yourself when you quit. Here are some questions you may ask yourself to see how well you are achieving your goals. Occasionally ask them to yourself, be honest with how you answer them, and see what you find.
- Am I looking forward to any pleasant activities in the future?
- Am I enjoying myself right now?
- Have I been doing things that reasonable people would agree can lead to happiness?
- Have I been copping out on making a commitment that would lead to more happiness?
- Have I been thinking of how hard it is to do what I want and how it should be easier?
If you ask these questions and discover you aren’t doing so well, then clearly you have some problems with your thinking and behavior. You’d better focus on changing your behavior in recovery as you did with your addiction by enhancing your motivation, eliminating your self-defeating beliefs, committing yourself to a goal and pushing yourself toward accomplishing it. Set a goal for yourself, do the work needed for change, spend time on it every day, and measure your progress.
This article was adapted from the Three Minute Therapy column by Dr. Phillip Tate, 1996 SMART Recovery® News & Views.