New Year Goals for People in Recovery

in Addiction
Olivia Pennelle
Published Dec 23, 2020
New Year Goals for People in Recovery

January promises a new year full of potential and opportunity. That’s probably why people set goals in the New Year. However, we’re not always the best at creating goals — sometimes they’re unrealistic or unachievable, they can be poorly defined, or just lack actionable steps. 

As people in recovery setting new year goals, we also run the risk of setting unrealistic expectations with our goals, but we can also be particularly unfair by punishing ourselves for not achieving. When in reality, recovery is an achievement already! 

One way we can work towards setting more realistic goals and expectations is to set intentions instead of resolutions. We spoke to Gallus’ Executive Clinical Director about factors to consider when setting goals for ourselves, the difference between intentions and resolutions, and how to effectively implement change.

What is the difference between resolutions and intentions?

The key difference between resolutions and intentions is that resolutions resolve to stop doing something, like drinking for example. An intention is an intended aim or plan, leaving room for error.  Resolutions minimize how difficult change can be, advises Carleton. 

“When we set expectations to be perfect, oftentimes we feel like failures at the slightest mistake. For instance, we may say ‘I am going to start running 3 miles everyday in January.’ The adrenaline and inspiration can fuel early gains from this kind of commitment. However, life will happen at some point and when a day is missed it can lead to feeling defeated,” warns Carleton.

He says that this feeling of defeat can lead to unhelpful thoughts, like  “I am a failure” and before you know it the inspiration can be washed away by the perceived failure. However, intention setting is more realistic and measured. An example Carleton says, could be “My intention is to get more healthy and here are a few ways I can measure progress – running three times a week, planning and eating three meals a week, and reducing (insert some unhealthy habit).”

The reality, Carleton says, is that “change is slow and I believe in more incremental and sustainable changes over time.”

Risks for people in recovery

We’re not suggesting that people in recovery don’t set goals, rather they are an important part of our evolution. However, it’s worth being mindful of catching yourself up by setting to high expectations and instead setting yourself up for success. “Lofty goals are great! In and of itself, this is an important component to growth,” encourages Carleton. 

However, he recommends people in recovery approach their goals without the expectation of perfection. “Go in understanding ‘this is hard and I am willing to confront obstacles without giving up.’

Carleton suggests that this mindset turns perceived failures  into opportunities for learning and that we can approach the exercise with curiosity rather than criticism. “Notice the difference between ‘What happened there? rather than ‘I screwed up again.’” 

“Ambitious goals must be balanced with the expectation that there will be small failures along the way. There has to be intention to learn, adjust, and adapt when barriers arise,” says Carleton.

How people in recovery can approach change

People in recovery are in a constant state of change. Recovery is change. However, we sometimes want to make other adjustments too, like stopping smoking or exercising more regularly. The great news is we can do this at any time of year and we don’t need to wait until January!

We asked Steve what he recommended if someone in recovery wants to make some changes?

“Make some changes!” he says. “Recovery is all about momentum so understand that going from running zero days a week to walking 3 days a week is a great start. Don’t set yourself up for a failure by setting goals that you know are unlikely to be met. Build confidence by incremental changes and take it week by week using a calendar or some other way of tracking. I too often have seen people fall prey to the all or nothing mindset.”

As a helpful reminder, Carleton says “New habits aren’t forced, they are developed!”

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, we are here to help. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery: 720-704-1432