Getting sober is almost like starting a new job. You begin by making a list of things you want to accomplish, knowing who you want to impress, and doing your best not to screw it up. In a way, sobriety is a job. It’s a lot of work to stay sober, and there are things you need to learn to make sure that you stay on the right track.
Fortunately, you can’t get fired from life. However, you know there are consequences if you mess up your sober recovery. One way to stay focused during recovery is to make goals, but we sometimes get tripped up by making goals that may be unrealistic.
1. Beware the Pink Cloud
For those who don’t attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), or those who don’t listen during AA meetings, the "pink cloud" is something we refer to in the program for those experiencing an overwhelming feeling of happiness in early sobriety. We often encounter many perks when we first get sober, but we can get thrown off of that pink cloud once reality settles in and we realize we must now deal with the consequences of our past actions during active addiction.
It is important to recognize when you may be afloat on the pink cloud, because this stage of recovery may not be the best time to begin making goals. During early sobriety, we sometimes get caught up in the realization that there is so much we want to achieve. Yet, when we’re on the pink cloud, we tend to make goals that aren’t necessarily achievable or are hard to reach in the time-frame we’d like. The best time to make goals may be shortly after early sobriety when you’ve got yourself a solid sponsor who can guide you off your pink cloud and help you get grounded in reality.
2. Don't Expect Instant Gratification
Fear not, fellow addicts – instant gratification is something we seek out as humans in general, not just as addicts. (That’s why fast-food restaurants are so popular.) This is also the unfortunate reason I stopped taking pills and started shooting up heroin--so I could receive an instant high rather than wait twenty minutes.
Regardless, we sometimes forget in recovery that things don’t come immediately for us. We have to move away from the idea of immediacy and instant gratification. We need to stop thinking that we can instantly get high; we can instantly have money if we pawn something; we can instantly eat if we steal food from the store.
One of the key aspects of making goals during recovery is the realization that it may take a while to complete them. Some goals take longer than others, but most goals worth making do not have immediate results. This is beneficial to your sobriety because it teaches you patience and humility. Achieving long term goals can also positively affect your self-esteem, giving you the confidence to know your goals are achievable if you work at them, even if they take longer than you may have expected.
3. Aim High, but Not Too High
Of course, reaching for the stars seems like the best advice, but it’s not to be taken literally – unless you want to be an astronaut. In the beginning, making a list of all the goals you’d like to achieve is a great way to start. Once you start to plan how you will complete each goal, it’s okay to cross off some goals that you may not be able to reach.
Making realistic goals does not deter you from making your dreams come true, but it can help you realize what you’re able to do and how long it will take you to do it. For example, completing your probation successfully is a great beginning goal to make in your early sobriety. However, getting back the five gold rings you stole from your parents and pawned off may not be as realistic. If the jewelry has been sold, is too expensive to buy back or has already been melted, it is too late and you won't be able to achieve this goal.
If you get discouraged by not achieving an unrealistic goal, it might discourage you from achieving your other goals.
4. Take Pride in Achieving Small Goals
In sports, if you score a goal for your team, it counts as a point. The way you made the goal may be disputed, but in the end, it counts. This is similar to the goals you make in life and during your sobriety. All goals are still goals and, if you accomplish them, you should feel proud.
In my own life, I have just accomplished the goal of being able to purchase a new car, and I also make it a goal every day to remain sober. One goal may seem smaller than the other, but in my eyes, both are equally important. Remind yourself that in comparison to others, your goals may seem small, but all goals play a big role in your life. If your goal is to make it through the week with $50 left in your pocket and you complete that task, there is no reason to feel anything but proud.
Making goals is a great way to teach yourself responsibility, and achieving them will help enhance other positive characteristics that you might need to work on. I will never forget that my fellow AA members once told me that I’d never get sober, and look at me now.