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SMART is an acronym standing for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. It is often used for setting goals in a range of areas, including public speaking, special education, and construction. However, because it can help people set large or small goals, it is also highly beneficial for drug or alcohol addiction recovery. This means you can set SMART goals for your own recovery. Let’s talk about how.

Goals Are Necessary for Recovery

Setting goals is essential to alcohol or drug addiction recovery. Goals give you something to work toward and allow you to track your recovery successes. For drug or alcohol addiction, abstinence is not the only success. Alongside abstinence, recovery from negative thought patterns, mental health disorders, and more is the ultimate goal.

Recovery is an ongoing process, and setting goals along the way to help you achieve the bigger picture is essential. The SMART method is often recommended to help you set and achieve goals during your recovery journey.

What Are SMART Goals?

SMART goals are designed to be achievable and follow five steps.


SMART goals should be specific. Recovery has many factors, and setting one specific goal at a time can help you achieve success. For example, if you have a goal to exercise in recovery, you can set a goal of exercising twice a day for 15 minutes. When goals are vague, you are less likely to follow through with them.


How will this goal be measured? In hours, days, weeks, or months? There is any number of measurements that can be applied to goals. The idea here is to make the goal tangible, to give you the sense that it is something you can get ahold of and accomplish. 

If you have a goal early in recovery not to drink, you can set a measurable goal surrounding that. Many people choose to take recovery one day at a time, so you might set a goal to not drink for 24 hours. You can build from this and make your goal specific and measurable: “I will not drink for 24 hours.” From there, you can set the goal to not drink for 24 hours every new day.


Do you have what you need to achieve this goal? If not, are you able to get what you need? Consider this carefully before committing to the goal itself. It can be frustrating to make headway only to realize the goal needs to be reset because it was not reachable. 

For example, setting a goal of attending a meeting every day may not feel attainable. Instead, you can set the goal of attending a meeting twice a week, which may feel more manageable.


Think about how this goal works in your recovery journey. It should be related to recovery itself. In other words, if your recovery is about not using inhalants, not drinking for 24 hours is only a relevant goal if drinking is a trigger for inhalant use. If drinking is not a trigger for inhalant use, your specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant goal will look more like: “I will not use inhalants for 24 hours.”


How long do you expect it will take to achieve this goal? Your goals in recovery should be set around a reasonable time frame that helps you commit to the goal and prohibit procrastination. For example, if you want to find a job in recovery, a realistic and timely goal would be to find a job in three months. On the other hand, it would be unrealistic to set a time frame of finding a job within a week.

Building SMART Goals

Each letter of SMART is a building block for creating reachable goals. Think of them as Lego blocks being clicked together to build a Lego house. Some of the blocks are very small. Some are large and unwieldy. However, all work together to create the end result of a building with walls, windows, doors, a roof, and a floor. 

How Smart Goals Help Recovery

Treatment and recovery come with challenges. Some parts of the process are more fun than others. However, knowing that you will come out the other side able to direct your own life and begin reaching for your full potential will drive you. Setting SMART goals keeps you focused on goals that are achievable, allowing you to stay positive during the more challenging aspects of the recovery process.

Goals give you something to work toward and allow you to track your recovery success. Remember that recovery – your health and wellness – is the ultimate goal.

SMART goals can play a crucial role in your recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). Creating realistic, reachable goals related to your recovery gives you a landmark to work toward and allows you to monitor your recovery success closely. Setting SMART goals means crafting goals that work for you, contributing to your psychological resilience by encouraging a positive mindset throughout recovery and treatment. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we are ready to help you recover from addiction and co-occurring disorders. We can help you in the process of setting SMART goals, assisting you in finding lasting, self-determined recovery. Through our various traditional and holistic treatment approaches, you can find healing and learn to set goals that help you in your journey. For more information on how we can help you recover from addiction, call West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509.