Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery

Recovery & Sobriety – Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery
Recovery is about a return to good health and in order to return to good health you may benefit from setting goals to help you get there. I talk to lots of clients early in their recovery about the importance of goal setting to help them achieve what they really want out of life, which is often ultimately to achieve sobriety, repair relationships and get some control back in their lives.

Sobriety requires much more than just sheer willpower which can be the reason people fail trying to do it alone with no direction. It requires motivation, goals, support, time, practice, routine, focus, patience and positive reinforcement.

‘Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.’    -Tony Robbins

If you are starting to understand setting goals for your recovery then focus on sorting them into short, medium and long term goals. Short term goals are from day one to day ninety. Medium term goals are from three months to twelve months. While long term goals are from twelve months and into the future. Its important to set goals which are realistic, achievable and motivating. Working towards your goals then starts to become part of a new routine in the longer term. As you reach your goals you will experience positive reinforcement that you have completed something you set out to achieve along with the feel good factor. They helps to build your confidence and self-esteem and most importantly your belief in yourself. Good strong routines in turn are a great relapse preventative measure in the long term.

Firstly you need to make a very clear decision on what your basic ultimate goal is in terms of your recovery. For example, do you want to be alcohol free, drug free, stop using pornography or give up gambling for good? What ever your ultimate goal is, that is your finish line. Right now in early recovery your only thinking about running a race. Every single goal you set out will help to support and reinforce your ultimate goal.

What should your short term goals be in early recovery?

Short term goals are really about helping the individual find some kind of balance and routine in their lives. These goals are focused on the present and should be quite simple and achievable. Set both daily and weekly goals, one week at a time. I think limiting them to no more than ten goals can help prevent feelings of being overwhelmed. It is much better to do two or three really well then ten half hardheartedly. Short term goals are about helping the client stabilise physically, mentally and emotionally.

Here are some common short term goals my clients often set out in the first 90 days.

  • Committing to one personal therapy session every week in the first 90 days.
  • Going to a support group two to three times a week in the first 90 days.
  • Learning about recovery and reading a book every night about recovery and self-development can help you to focus and gain some personal insight or, reading one book a week.
  • Keeping a journal and once a day spending some time writing down your thoughts and feelings.
  • Keeping a diary each day and writing in it each morning the things that will help you to focus on your recovery and sobriety that day. One day at a time.
  • Choosing an exercise like running or swimming, something you know you enjoy which will help you to burn off stress, anxiety, tension, frustration and all the emotions your may start to feel as you change your habits and behaviors. Exercise clears your head, helps you to focus and improves your sleep. Try to commit to your exercise every second day or so.
  • Start thinking about housekeeping. Housekeeping means that you start to get rid of any triggers, paraphernalia or products which may lead you to acting out. This may be deleting email addresses and accounts, clearing the house of alcohol or cigarettes or removing traces of anything which may lead you to consider a relapse.
  • Setting some goals around relationship healing is often on most peoples list. This may be something simple like asking your partner to sit down with and start talking to them about what your goals and plans for sobriety. It might also mean sitting down with your partner and listening to their needs and feelings. It might mean inviting them to a therapy session or talking about going to relationship counselling together.
  • Listen to a podcast or audio book about recovery, motivation or personal development.
  • Start writing lists which you can bring to therapy or work through yourself. List of goals, lists of motivations, lists of regrets, lists of thoughts and insights, lists of relapses, lists of people to connect with, lists of triggers, lists of music to listen to that will inspire you, lists of emotions, lists of hurt, lists of pain, lists of plans for the future. Writing down your thoughts can help you put context onto what you have be going through and is a way of letting go and releasing emotional pain.
  • Finding ways to learn to relax maybe by going to a yoga class or having a massage therapy session once a week.
  • Write out some thoughts on medium and long terms goals for recovery and your personal life.
  • Short term goals may simply be doing the things you have been avoiding for a long time like going to the GP, dentist or getting health checkups.
  • Personal hygiene and self-care is often a good short term goal. It may be simply getting up earlier every day, taking a hot shower and getting dressed.
  • Write an activity list of things that you can do to help you work through urges. This is a kind of activity list you can practice when you are feeling triggered. It may include things like meditation, go for a walk, do press-ups, phone a friend, breathing exercises, stretching etc.
  • Find an app that you can use every day to help monitor and motivate your recovery.
  • Do some research online of support groups, resources, workshops or blogs that might help promote your recovery.
  • Do something different at the weekend from your regular weekends. This might mean not socialising in the same way or meeting with different friends or family or planing activities for early in the morning instead of later at night.

So you can now start to see that short term goals are about helping you to focus on all the things which will promote your sobriety one day at a time from week to week. As you reach your goals, set new ones, this is how you grow and change. Recovery really is a learning process that times time and persistence. The more time you give it, the more you will gain from the work you put into yourself.

I believe that support and connection with people is a major part of what gets people through the early days of recovery.  Addiction counselling helps you to work through all the challenges you come up against so that you can learn how to recover. Recovery is about returning to health and finding your true happy fulfilled self. Keep it simple. Achieve your short term goals. Sooth yourself in positive ways. Give yourself praise and positive recognition every single day. Stay strong one day at a time. Reward yourself for goals achieved.

The biggest mistake is that people try to do it alone. You alone can do it, but, you can not do it alone. Remember, keep up your therapy sessions and support groups in your early days no matter how good or bad you are doing.

 

20 Early Recovery Insights from an Addiction Counsellor

20 Early Recovery Insights from an Addiction Counsellor

Last week I saw a picture online trying to portray how complicated the process of recovery from an addiction can feel in the early days for someone who had no clue about recovery. It looked like a giant blackboard packed full of mathematical equations which equal (=) ‘Recovery’. Now for someone who could never get the hang of basic long division and also as a therapist who sits across from men, women and family who desperately want to understand the recovery process in order to get a feeling for what to expect, I can wholeheartedly empathize with how confusing that analogy depicting the recovery process must feel. Abstinence and recovery is not a straight road.  The various roles of an addiction counsellor are to support, listen, empathize, encourage and educate clients. But often in the early days, the individual is so clouded with emotion, stress, pain, dependence or chaos that they are unable to hear simple messages that anyone, including their therapist are trying to get across.

Early recovery should be about focusing daily on practical abstinence and harm reduction goals, support and positive habit forming behaviours. However, understanding recovery really comes from being in a recovery process and the personal experience gained from recovery and sobriety. Here are some of these insights and strategies which I hope will help to motivate and encourage individuals early in recovery to stick with the process through the good and bad.

  1. Make a clear conscious decision that some things in your life need to change. Make a long list of those specific things and how you might change them.
  2. Remind yourself you will have good days and bad days, it won’t be easy, but, it will be worth it.
  3. If you are blaming everyone else for all your problems, you are still in denial about your problem. Stop blaming others for the things only you can control.
  4. It really is ok not to be ok and to reach out to someone or a professional who can help you understand what might be happening.
  5. The first steps to getting help can feel like the hardest, you are not alone, there are people who will understand and help you, you just have not met them yet.
  6. You don’t always have to go to rehab to recover from dependence or addiction, you can try support groups and addiction counselling first.
  7. Start talking yourself ‘out of acting out’ instead of ‘into acting out’.
  8. Motivation to recover does not come naturally in the early days, sometimes sobriety and feeling better in yourself motivates recovery.
  9. Willpower alone is never enough to change. Willpower is all in your head BUT practice makes perfect.
  10. You will have cravings, physical, mental, emotional and psychological cravings, but they too will pass.
  11. You won’t really understand how addicted you are to a substance or behaviour until you stop feeding your addiction, focus on abstinence and actively try to stop for a period of 7, 10, 30 days etc.
  12. Recovery is a process of change, challenge, learning, abstinence, re-discovery and time.
  13. Expect mood swings, difficulty sleeping, frustration, aggravation, withdrawals, anger, sweat and tears but not forever!
  14. Do not expect your partner and family to understand what you are going through until you can learn to share with them what you are going through.
  15. Time – Focus on your recovery every day in everything that you do until you realize you don’t need to think about recovery and what you do anymore.
  16. Be realistic about your expectations of yourself and others once you achieve sobriety because real change and healing takes time.
  17. Learn and connect with healthy balanced people how to be healthy balanced and connected.
  18. Our addiction tells us everyone else is doing ‘it’, but that’s just the world you see around you, its not reality. When you are in recovery you will realise that in general most people are relatively healthy, functioning, non-users and enjoying life.
  19. You can recover, you are not your addiction, your addiction does not define the beautiful human being that you really are.
  20. Believe that you can change, trust in others to help you, tell yourself you are worth it, share your story and focus on getting mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually better.

Sobriety and meaningful recovery takes willpower, motivation, practice  support, self-love, connection and time. The goal should also be gently focused on finding meaning and connection in life. Ultimately, recovery from illness and addiction is a path of personal development, self-love and healing.

Read about Setting Short Term Goals in Early Recovery.

 

Addiction & Twelve Step Support Groups in Ireland

Addiction & Twelve Step Support Groups in Ireland
Everyday in Ireland there are support groups and Twelve Step Anonymous support groups for individuals and family members effected or impacted by addiction and problematic behaviours. These are often open or closed meetings and can be attended daily. Unlike many mental health services in Ireland, there is no waiting list or requirements to attend these daily meetings, simply a desire to seek out support from others who understand what you or your loved ones are going through.
Resources & Support Groups in Ireland

Addiction Counsellors of Ireland | www.addictioncounsellors.ie
Alcohol Action Ireland | www.alcoholireland.ie
Alcohol Help | www.drinkhelp.ie
Alcoholics Anonymous | www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie
Al-Anon & Alateen Ireland | Support for families of alcoholics | www.al-anon-ireland.org/
Anon & Alateen Ireland | Support for families and friends of alcoholics | www.al-anon-ireland.org
Cocaine Anonymous Ireland | www.caireland.info
Co-dependents Anonymous Ireland | www.codaireland.com
Drink Aware | www.drinkaware.ie
Drugs | Drug & Alcohol Information & Support | www.drugs.ie
Food Addicts Anonymous | www.foodaddictsanonymous.org
Gamble Aware | www.gambleaware.ie
Gamblers Anonymous Ireland | www.gamblersanonymous.ie
Gam-Anon UK & Ireland | www.gamanon.org.uk/
Irish Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy | www.iacp.ie
LifeRing – Sobriety from Alcohol & Substances | www.dublinlifering.com
Narcotics Anonymous | www.na-ireland.org
Overeaters Anonymous | www.overeatersanonymous.ie
The Centre for Sexual Addictions | www.centresexualaddictions.com
Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous | www.slaaireland.org
Sexaholics Anonymous | SA Ireland | www.saireland.com
S-Anon | Support for partners of Sexaholics | www.sanon.org/meetings/meetingsireland.html

Residential Addiction Treatments Centres in Ireland

The Rutland Centre | www.rutlandcentre.ie
Aiseiri | www.aiseiri.ie
Cuan Mhuire | www.cuanmhuire.ie
Smarmore Castle Private Rehabilitation Clinic | www.smarmore-rehab-clinic.com

Find out more about private one to one addiction counselling in Kildare at www.orlaghgahan.ie

How to Start Changing Problematic and Unhealthy Behaviours

When it comes to changing problematic and unhealthy behaviours it can be difficult to know exactly where to begin. Maybe you’ve tried many times before but find yourself defaulting back to where you began only a little wiser and feeling somewhat defeated.

A good place to start is by simply learning to listen to yourself. Is your gut instinct trying to tell you something? Listen to your intuition, that gut feeling that is telling you subtly and consistently that something feels wrong or right. Many clients when they attend counselling say I’ve been thinking about getting help for years or I’ve felt for a long time that something isn’t right. 

The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.‘  Socrates

Write a list of all those reoccurring or conflicting thoughts you have had over the past year. Often expressing and writing thoughts on to paper allows your to be more objective rather than subjective, helping you to identify visually what is taking up your valuable head space. This simple task is often the first step to taking control of a situation. You have begun to really listen to yourself.

Make simple, clear and achievable goals followed by plans and actions. While time is a great healer its also important to set clear timelines. If you keep moving the goal posts, it might be a good idea to redefine your goals or start afresh with more realistic goals but remember to challenge yourself at the same time. Often pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone empowers your to reach further and think bigger while also building confidence in yourself and your ability to succeed.
Take a pen and paper and a few minutes solitude and focus on the problematic behaviour you are struggling with. It may be food, smoking, alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, masturbation etc.
Listening to yourself and identify with the below. Here is a short simple example of how you can start addressing a problematic behaviour using a common addiction in Ireland today which is Smoking & Tobacco Addiction. 
Intuition Something about smoking makes me feel uncomfortable or uneasy these days.
ThoughtI really want to stop smoking. I’m always saying I will quit some day. Some day I will give them up. I don’t want to smoke anymore.
Feeling I feel like my smoking is effecting my health. I feel bad when I smoke. I feel nervous about smoking all the time. I feel like this is effecting me long-term.
Conflicting Thoughts I enjoy smoking but I know its bad for my health. I want to quit smoking but I don’t think I can. I need cigarettes every day but I can’t really afford to keep smoking.
Reoccurring Thoughts I need to stop smoking. Everyone is giving up smoking. I can’t seem to stop smoking. Smoking is not good for my health. Everyone around me is smoking so it’s OK.
FearI’m afraid I won’t be able to quit. I’m afraid I will fail. I’m worried I don’t have the commitment it will take. I’m afraid I can’t do it. I don’t think I can leave without smoking.
Motivations I will feel healthier.  I will feel free from this addiction. I will have more money in my pocket. My skin and health will improve. I will feel better about myself. My family are supporting me.   
GoalI will focus on quitting smoking completely and becoming healthier.
PlansI will reduce how much I smoke every day. I will talk to my GP about quitting smoking. I will buy a book or read online how to quit smoking. I will talk to my friends about quitting. I will book an appointment with an addiction counsellor and learn more about my own smoking addiction. I will talk to my pharmacist. I will think positively about my efforts.
TimelineI want to stop smoking completely in i.e 7 days, 6 weeks or 3 months.
 
Changing behaviour is a process which takes time. You are changing through this course of time how you think, feel, act and how your relate to your environment and those around you. Mostly you are shifting how you associate with that particular problematic behaviour and are learning to re-associate with the behaviour in a new healthier way.
Changing behaviour is not an easy task, it can be mentally, physically and emotionally challenging at the best of times but it is also rewarding. If you have proved to yourself time and time again that sheer willpower, mental commitments or promises alone are not enough to change and you find yourself stuck in the same behavioural patterns with the same problems then your experiences strongly suggests that that’s unlikely to change.
Its time to do something different, try something new and feel inspired and motivated to change and grow.
You deserve it and you can do it.
 
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