Setting Sobriety Goals For the Year Ahead

Ioana Cozma
Morgan Blair
Written by Ioana Cozma on 08 December 2023
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 08 December 2023

Sobriety is a lifelong journey requiring accountability, motivation, and healthy coping mechanisms. Setting sobriety goals contours the necessary roadmap and gives you the tools to continue your journey to sobriety. This article discusses the importance and benefits of setting sober goals, advice to set achievable objectives, and examples you can adapt in your journey.

Setting Sobriety Goals For the Year Ahead

Why is setting sober goals important?

Setting sobriety goals is important because these objectives help you stay focused, accountable, and self-directed. Completing specific objectives is easier than a larger, more generic goal, like staying sober. As a result, people with alcohol use disorders who set drinking goals at treatment-onset have better treatment outcomes.

Setting sober goals is also important to create positive behaviors and mindsets in the long term. Sobriety is a continuous journey that requires taking correct actions and using sustainable coping strategies when unpredictable events happen. Having highly specific goals allows you to take the right steps more easily and consistently and, thus, educate your entire behavior.

However, correct goal setting increases the chances of success.

For better health behavior changes, specific objectives are better than generic goals such as “do your best.” Counterintuitively, research shows that although health behavior change programs set easy goals, setting harder goals may be better. Setting ambitious goals during the first stages of sobriety or recovery is followed by more ambitious goals, thus ensuring your progress.

What are the benefits of sobriety goals?

Sobriety goals sculpt your behavior and help you stay motivated, focused, and accountable. Ultimately, these types of goals feel empowering. Let’s review the specific benefits of sobriety goals stemming from their mechanisms.

1. Improved sense of purpose

People who want to maintain their sobriety may have lower self-esteem than other people. Refraining from socially-accepted substances like alcohol may lead to social isolation and shame. Similarly, reducing the consumption of drugs may entail an abrupt separation from their group of friends.

This distance may enhance feelings of loneliness, guilt, and indecision. However, setting specific sobriety goals helps you remember the reasons behind the decision to remain sober. Additionally, focusing on tangible actions increases your focus and motivation as you complete each goal.

2. Improved focus and motivation

The decision to remain sober may be difficult to enforce, even if you have support from your loved ones. One reason is that sobriety is a generic objective lacking timeframe and specificity. Another reason is that setting a major goal may feel overwhelming.

As a result, the accumulation of psychological pressure may decrease your self-confidence, leading you to relapse into alcohol or drug use. This relapse may then further accentuate your lack of self-esteem.

By contrast, more attainable sobriety objectives allow you to complete easier targets. In the long run, this strategy increases your self-esteem, helping you stay focused and preventing relapses.

3. Better mindset

Sobriety is a long-term, ongoing process, but setting tangible goals allows you to grasp its complexity. This process involves wins as well as setbacks. Therefore, it requires continuous discipline and positive coping skills.

Educating your behavior and recovering from potential hardships will motivate you to continue this journey. Additionally, remembering your original purpose and learning healthier tools will improve your mindset, empowering your daily life.

Tips for setting achievable sober goals

Achievable sober goals follow the SMART framework (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound).

This approach transforms goals from good intentions into actionable, trackable steps that constitute a clear roadmap. As such, you can maintain your focus and measure your progress, taking more actions that help you reach your final purpose.

1. Set specific goals

Specific goals provide clear direction and focus. This strategy entails setting precise objectives in sobriety, like “I will attend two support group meetings per week” or “I will engage in 30 minutes of physical activity daily.”

This clarity helps you understand your desired results more precisely, thus structuring your path to sobriety with a clear plan.

2. Set measurable goals

Measurable goals allow you to see clear progress and celebrate sobriety milestones, thus enhancing your motivation.

For example, a measurable goal could be, “I will reduce my alcohol intake by one drink each day.”

3. Set attainable goals

Goals need to be realistic and achievable. Challenging or generic goals may lead to disappointment and fear of failure.

In the context of sobriety, attainable goals respect your current limitations and encourage gradual progress, such as “I will spend 15 minutes in meditation daily to manage cravings.”

4. Set realistic goals

Realistic goals consider your resources, time, and circumstances. Although challenging goals are shown to lead to more ambitious goals and better outcomes, remember to set goals that are possible to achieve.

For sobriety, a realistic goal might be choosing to participate in activities that don't involve alcohol or substances, and reconsidering your lifestyle and social circle.

5. Set time-bound goals

A timeframe provides a sense of urgency and a deadline that can spur action, such as “I will attend bi-weekly therapy sessions for the next four weeks.”

These time-bound objectives help you stay committed but also allow you to reevaluate and adjust your goals.

Resources:

  1. DeMartini, K. S., Foster, D. W., Corbin, W. R., Fucito, L. M., Romano, D., Leeman, R. F., Kranzler, H. R., & O'Malley, S. S. (2018). Drinking goals and attainment in a naltrexone trial of young adult heavy drinkers. Journal of consulting and clinical psychology, 86(9), 765–774.
  2. Strecher, V. J., Seijts, G. H., Kok, G. J., Latham, G. P., Glasgow, R., DeVellis, B., Meertens, R. M., & Bulger, D. W. (1995). Goal setting as a strategy for health behavior change. Health education quarterly, 22(2), 190–200.
  3. Melemis S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 88(3), 325–332.
  4. Aghera, A., Emery, M., Bounds, R., Bush, C., Stansfield, R. B., Gillett, B., & Santen, S. A. (2018). A Randomized Trial of SMART Goal Enhanced Debriefing after Simulation to Promote Educational Actions. The western journal of emergency medicine, 19(1), 112–120.

Activity History - Last updated: 08 December 2023, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 06 December 2023 and last checked on 08 December 2023

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

Ready to talk about treatment? Call us today. (855) 648-7288
Helpline Information
Phone numbers listed within our directory for individual providers will connect directly to that provider.
Any calls to numbers marked with (I) symbols will be routed through a trusted partner, more details can be found by visiting https://recovered.org/terms.
For any specific questions please email us at info@recovered.org.

Related articles