Recovery is Not the Goal

Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept
Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept

Recovery is Not the Goal

I’ve spent the better part of my 30+ year career helping people recover from substance use and mental health disorders, so my saying that recovery is not the goal likely comes as a bit of a surprise. The goal for people is as varied and different as the people are themselves. For some people the goal might be to live without shame, become an electrical engineer, go back to school, raise their own children, get their license back, be honest, like themselves again, restore trust in a relationship, get a good job or get married. Recovery is not the goal, it is the avenue to reach the goal. For most of my clients, sobriety and long-term recovery is the only road that makes their goal attainable.

Finding What is Important

You might ask, which is of these is the most important, the goal or the avenue that will take me there? We need them both. They are inseparable. Without the goal you work diligently to go toward an unsure and unclear destination. Unclear goals quickly evaporate and we often lack commitment and motivation to do the necessary hard work. If the goal is vague, confusing, or ever moving, we will give in and give up. But even the clearest goal requires the road to get there. Both are important, vital, and absolutely necessary.

Making the Most of Every Recovery Opportunity

Recovery might be the avenue that makes your goal possible, and treatment just might make recovery possible. Don’t regret it or fight it, use it to your advantage. Every part of recovery can be leveraged to enable you to reach your ultimate goal, to become the person you’re destined to become. Get your treatment to work, and get it to work for you. This is the avenue to get you where you want to go. Don’t fuss about others who are also on the avenue with you. Maybe they are ahead of you, or behind you. Reach back to help someone move forward and reach forward for guidance, direction, and support.

Taking the First Step

Nobel Prize winning author, Saul Bellow said, “Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.” The long, hard work of recovery makes your goal possible and, of course, is accomplished like a journey on any road – one small step at a time.

Clarify Your Goal

As you start treatment, be careful and deliberate in planning out your reasons for doing the hard work of recovery. Take some time to think through your long-term purpose and priorities. Creating a goal enables you to plan your route and envision the avenue you’ll use to arrive at your destination. Additionally, use the importance of your own goals as motivation to stay on task.

Build Your Road

In one sense, to reach your goals in life and relationships, you’ll need to create your own road. Your recovery program is the avenue that is needed to accomplish your desire. Dream big, then do the work to make the dream happen.

Keep Your Motivation High

Along the way you’ll encounter difficulties, naysayers, missed opportunities, and bad breaks. Brush these off. Stay focused on where you want to end up, not just where you are now. Wayne Gretzky, the famous hockey player said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.” Look forward and keep moving.

Get Back Up

If you slip, relapse, or fall, get up. Try it again. Get help, buy better shoes, or borrow a cane – but get up! The fall may be the most painful part, but it’s the failure to get up that does the most damage.

Celebrate Progress

With the approaching goal of a better life crystalizing in your focus, congratulate yourself for progress made. There will likely be no thunderous applause coming from the crowd. This may be a service you’ll need to do supply for yourself. Let your last positive step you took be both encouragement and proof to you that you can take another.


Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!