As the social media manager at Vertava Health’ home campus, I have the pleasure of talking with many graduates of our programs who have seen their lives changed through addiction treatment and recovery. One question I always like to ask people in early addiction recovery is, “What was the scariest part about going to rehab?”
You may be surprised at the number one response.
Many people answer that they were worried about leaving their families, others said they were nervous to take time off of work, others said they didn’t think that people would like them without the drugs or alcohol. But the most common response? “I couldn’t believe that I would never drink (or use heroin, pills, cocaine, meth, etc.) again.”
Long Term Goals
Addiction recovery is a lifelong journey – and although your recovery will not define who you are, it will always be a part of your life. It’s great to have a positive outlook about the future and have aspirations to achieve.
Long term goals help us to see the big picture.
However, with long term goals there are some risks. Goals that are too distant and stretched can become overwhelming. Goals that contain the words “always” and “forever” and “never” – are often popular delivery vehicles of fear, obligation, and guilt. These words can leave you feeling disoriented and anxious, making it easier to become discouraged along the way.
Breaking It Down
Two years ago, my big, daunting task was paying off student loan debt. I had almost $40,000 worth of it. $40,000 may or may not be an enormous number to you – but it was to me. I became anxious, irritable and overwhelmed every time I received a statement from Sallie Mae. $40,000? No way.
I knew I wanted that big debt gone, but I couldn’t stomach the big number. So instead, I broke it down into individual loans – from smallest to largest. My smallest loan was around $1,500 – still a lot, but nowhere near the big number. So I budgeted, worked, and saved – and paid off that first loan. And you know what? It felt awesome. I didn’t think about the fact that there was still $38,500 left – I thought about how good it felt to scratch one off the list, and move onto to the next one. Fast forward a year later, after paying off each loan one by one – and my husband and I kicked Sallie Mae out of our lives.
By now, you know and understand that breaking up large, ambitious goals, like paying off debt and achieving long-term recovery, can be much less daunting when broken up into smaller goals. Set the bar high, and give yourself room for motivation each time you achieve a small goal to get there. Completing goals, regardless of how easy or difficult they may have been, can help build self-confidence for these reasons:
- Helps an individual, especially someone in addiction recovery, understand that he or she is good enough and strong enough to fight and overcome addiction.
- Self-confidence leads to laying a solid foundation that those in recovery can grow and build upon.
- Goals keep those in addiction recovery on track to remain focused on what they want out of life.
The process of achieving long-term recovery isn’t something that is set in stone and can only accomplished one way – it’s something that you must grow and adapt with along the way. Breaking large goals like recovery down into smaller goals, allows for that flexibility.
Short Term Goals in Addiction Recovery
An ancient Chinese proverb says, “the man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
When a person coming out of active addiction looks at the task ahead of him or her (ie. “Never using drugs again”) it can be very daunting. But finding the small stones, or the immediate or short term goals, makes the journey seem less intimidating.
These are 6 examples of immediate and short-term goals to set after drug rehab:
Discard all of your drug or alcohol-related items. Maybe you had a few flasks or bottles hidden in your home, your car, or even the desk draw of your office. Perhaps you had needles, spoons, ties, lighters – even empty pill bottles littered in coat pockets, purses, or cabinets. All of these serve as reminders of your past – preventing you from looking forward and focusing on your goals. No matter how strong you may feel at this moment, these items can be triggers in weaker moments, and will remind you of what you brain may be craving.
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Delete your dealer’s contact info. Even though you may be fresh out of drug addiction rehab, people you once smoked or used with are still out there – and they’re still using. They’re in your stored contact numbers and your text messages, just waiting for you to answer. Delete, block and distance yourself – even if it means getting a new phone and a new number.
Find a recovery sponsor and/or a local support group.
Finding allies in your recovery is crucial to laying a solid foundation for the long term. Doing so starts by reaching out to other alumni of your rehab program, finding a local support group, or connecting with a sponsor. For some people, a local network is the best solution – for others, staying engaged with a sponsor or fellow graduate may mean contact through text, phone calls or social media. Set your goal to find the right solution for you.
Restore positive relationships.
Often, people in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction find that they burned bridges with friends or family members while actively addicted. Rebuilding relationships won’t be an immediate goal; it will take time and commitment. However, manage your goals by restoring each relationship one person at a time, one step at a time. Rebuilding a relationship after rehab starts with communication – whether it be in person, by phone, text, email, or even in a handwritten note. Just like the small stones were used to move the mountain, set small goals within each relationship you wish to rebuild.
Commit to one positive action each day
What qualifies as a positive activity may differ from person to person, however – some examples may include journaling, exercising, cooking a new meal, meditating, praying – or a combination of various actions and activities. The point is to commit to one thing per day that will cue positivity in your life.
Try new things.
Too much idle time isn’t good for anyone. Being willing and open to trying new things will help you find a new hobby – or reignite passion for an old one. Make a list of things you’d like to try or things that you miss doing, and set aside time to do them.
As we so often hear, addiction recovery involves taking things one day at a time. Seeing each sober day as a victory will help you to maintain a positive mindset, and empower you to achieve and continue to set new goals in your journey. By starting with the basics, you will slowly, but surely build. You’ve got this.