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How to make goals now that you’re in recovery

How to make goals now that you’re in recovery

You’re sober. Now what? The fog has lifted; hopefully. A new world has come into view; hopefully. Life begins to open up! It’s as if life has been screaming at you. Pleading, yearning for you to take up your mat and walk again. That’s some exciting shit. Escape from the hell of addiction naturally breeds vitality into the sober man or woman. Now, the job at hand is to become a caretaker of said vitality and use this newfound zeal for life to build a positive, constructive life worth living. With that said, we’re going to talk about goals! And more importantly how to conquer these goals. In my years of recovery, I have seen a pervasive shortcoming in many in recovery: great starter… poor finisher. Let’s get to it.

Foundation. The stones better be in place

When I first got sober years ago I remember a gentleman asking me, “Scott, what’s your favorite color?”. I couldn’t answer him. I had been so deep in a self-constructed prison that personal “likes” or “favorites” had been stripped from me. They simply weren’t to be found. So, let’s talk about the grave shortcoming mentioned above; never seeing anything through. Sobriety, a life truly recovered from a helpless state of mind and body MUST be my first goal. I must first break the chains of my shortcomings on the recovery plane before I can be of any true usefulness to my life and those around me. 

Don’t create the goals. Let them come to you!

I know I know, this sounds uber passive. That’s because it is. And you know what? If you’re in recovery, welcome to the paradox of life! What’s the ultimate goal of recovery? To be continuously transformed as a man or woman in which the “old” you stands no chance in pulling the structure down. Spiritually this is known as “Dying Daily”. Now, back to the favorite color thing. I didn’t know what my favorite color was; by the way, it’s green. There was and is a constant process of dying and awakening that happens in which my whole life - my desires, my wants, my true compass, my values, my ideal, my favorites etc. - consistently transforms and the secret desires of my heart is revealed. At least, that has been my story! 

Strangle perfectionism to its last gasp

In short, make a damn list and get to it! Stumble and fumble around the things you love, once loved or think bring you happiness! Think about this, you’ve been to treatment before? Maybe two or three? There’s ALWAYS that damn arts & crafts group; vision boards, painting or whatever. I’m not sure about you but I didn’t want anything to do with that corny shit. Until I did it. I realized I was wrong. I did want to try it out. And you know what? I enjoyed it. Rule number one in recovery: LEARN TO BE CORNY. Make a list of all the stuff you loved doing as a kid; anything that brought you joy. As well as things you’ve always wanted to do and new jobs, hobbies, sports etc you just found out about and add them to the list. Get ready to get involved with your life!

Execute some small goals first

In the beginning - well until the end - it’s about learning to be a caretaker of your enthusiasm for life. We must find it and fan that flame. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to have fun and learn what it means to contribute to your life rather than take from it. So that’s where I started. For me it was working out; and it still is. To use this as an example, the natural inclination will be to workout everyday at 6am before work, prep all the meals, by some brand new gym gear and blah blah blah. You’re destined to fail. Without realizing it I was constantly creating unreasonable demands upon myself that I could never live up to. Thus creating my own misery. What did I do? I set the goal to walk in the morning at least three times a week. No time constraint. No required miles; just take action and move. Years later I walk twice a day, in the morning and the evening, this practice has been instrumental for my mental, physical and spiritual well-being. I know have empirical data of actually seeing something through! Guys, that is the goal! When you see that you do have the power to implement something positive and constructive into your life then strap in your seatbelt and enjoy the ride. The conviction comes: “I can do this, I can do that”. Self-belief is paramount for the addict/alcoholic. For too long my life was victimized of self-defeating thoughts. Little moments of triumph, like my walks, show me that action is the key word to overcoming the negative thoughts. The words of Gandhi ring true, “whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right”. How appallingly true for those of us in recovery.

In Conclusion

Learn to be corny. Get used to taking action when your mind doesn’t want you to. If you can prove yourself to be faithful in the small things than there is no goal too great you cannot conquer. Provided you place recovery number one in your life and keep it that way you can do absolutely anything your little heart desires. The courage lies in first giving your heart to recovery, letting yourself heal and letting your true life reveal itself to you. This blog can be summed up in the words of the great Joseph Campbell, “you must be willing to let go of the life you have planned in order to receive the life that is waiting for you”. Paradox baby, paradox. Get used to it!


Scott Russell


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