Blog post author header image John Makohen recovery coaching in nyc

John Makohen
Arise Recovery Coaching in NYC

Recovery is a process. It begins when you choose to start reducing the dangerous consequences of your substance use disorder. 

Many in the United States want you to believe recovery begins when you stop using drugs or alcohol. Well, I say to those egocentric abstinence-first curmudgeons, Go F$%k Yourself! 

Your recovery is your recovery, and no one has the right to tell you the path to take or what success looks like.

However, no matter what recovery looks like to you harm reduction or abstinence and what pathways you choose to incorporate into your recovery lifestyle, it is best to create some goals, objectives to accomplish them, and a system to stay on track. 

Without a system for recovery, it is easy to get sidetracked. 

Before I lay, the benefits of following a system in recovery let me explain what a recovery system looks like. 

If you have been to inpatient or outpatient drug rehab or worked with a recovery coach, you certainly had a treatment or recovery plan. A treatment plan is nothing more than the goals you wish to accomplish and the objectives you will use to achieve these goals. Your recovery plan should follow the SMART Goal framework.

SMART Goals infographic explaining how to create goals aligned with a system of recovery

The SMART Goal Framework

–  Specific


A specific goal has meaning and depth, so you wouldn’t work towards the goal of harm reduction. Instead, you’d create goals specific to reducing consequences and harm from your substance use. For example, a goal to reduce the harm from your heroin use disorder could be to ––Save a wake-up/money for each morning, so you don’t wake up panicked and dope-sick. 

When you wake up without a fix or money to cop your first fix of the day, you panic. Most often, when the looming threat of dope-sickness caution is thrown to the wind. You take unhealthy chances to make money, i.e., unprotected sex, armed robbery, or mugging a person on the street. 

Another goal or living area you might want to work on in recovery is spirituality. The intention to be more spiritual is too vague. Instead, brainstorm specific goals that focus on spirituality, such as ––to live in a state of grace each day.

Before I lay, the benefits of following a system in recovery let me explain what a recovery system looks like. 

If you have been to inpatient or outpatient drug rehab or worked with a recovery coach, you certainly had a treatment or recovery plan. A treatment plan is nothing more than the goals you wish to accomplish and the objectives you will use to achieve these goals. Recovery plans follow the SMART goal framework. 

–  Measurable


A measurable goal has some metric attached to it. You have to find a way to track it. Measurable goals help you see, hear, and feel your achievement when reaching your goal. 

When you set out to stop using heroin or other drugs, you might have worried about weight gain. Face it, you will gain weight. I always struggled with my weight. When I considered getting sober, my first argument was getting fat. It didn’t matter that a life of homelessness and heroin addiction was killing me as long as I looked good. Yeah, I know its a matter of opinion, but I totally did heroin chic, sunken cheeks and ribs poking out.

In my system of recovery, I could’ve listed, to stay in shape, as a goal. But it is too general, not specific, and it isn’t measurable. A measurable goal would be ––to maintain a healthy weight of 154 pounds.

–  Attainable

Your system of recovery requires you to not break your goals down into smaller, more attainable goals. If you are overzealous when setting goals, it won’t make sense to you or your recovery coach. 

For example, the overall goal of recovery is a more rewarding life free from the compulsion to use substances. Now, this cannot be achieved overnight. You can stop using it immediately if you choose, but the rewards from this decision are going to take some time.

Pull out your journal and do some soul searching and define what a rewarding life is to you. Do you want more money, health, happiness, family, freedom to travel, education, a better career, and to be of service to others? Understanding of your addiction, to be more spiritual, fit to run marathons, or just happy living life by life’s terms. All of this is available to you in life. Now break these goals down into specific tasks with objectives to attain each one and start living. 

–  Relevant


Goals you set within your system of recovery are relevant to you. It isn’t your recovery coach sponsor, therapist, or loved one who isn’t responsible for setting up your recovery system. It’s your recovery, so make it relevant to you. 

What do you want out of life? Less harm from susbtance use, total freedom from active use, to live a life of reward and happiness? Your final outcome depends on how relevant the goals of your system of recovery are to you. 

– Timely

The best intentions are stamped with time. If you want the best results of a recovery plan, you’ll need to bind your successful outcomes with a time-stamp.it’s best to use your system as a way to measure your daily progress. After your morning journaling session, review your recovery plan and the three priority goals planned out the night before. Each day’s nighttime journaling session should reflect upon your daily progress. You should also plan your next day’s top three goals.

When you use journaling as a tool to maintain your system of recovery, you create the habit of injecting recovery focussed activities, goals, and objectives into your daily routine. Taking daily action to stay focused on positive change is crucial to creating a lifestyle immersed in recovery.

Train your subconscious to solve for X

Lastly, your night routine, you can begin to train your subconscious mind to get to work solving problems, planning for the day, and finding answers to questions troubling you. 

Creating a system of recovery filled with SMART goals is necessary to develop the highest version of yourself.

Now that you understand how to create the goals for your recovery plan, let’s have a look at the benefits of a system of recovery.

Patience is a benefit of your system of recovery.  This image depicts Helen Keller quote on patience

“We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.” ––Helen Keller

•  Patience

A prerequisite of drug addiction is impatience ––We want what we want when we want it!

Learning to work a system for recovery requires patience. A system or recovery process forces you to slow down. 

When you first make the decision to quit using heroin or other drugs, you jumped in and got busy. Reaching out and connecting with multiple pathways of recovery, but your inner change, triggers, and cravings cause emotional turmoil. At times, you couldn’t understand why the hell you will still craving 180 days into your recovery plan. It’s normal to crave, have drug dreams, or grieve your past lifestyle for years after you stop using. 

When you have a recovery system, you learn to take it slowly. Over time you’ll begin to notice all the little changes taking place within your life. Every change, no matter how big or small, is significant to your process of change. Celebrate the little wins and victories.

Keep in mind, “Patience is a virtue.”

Self esteem is a benefit of your recovery plan. In this image quote you see Parker Palmer's quote on self-esteem and self care

“Self-care is never a selfish act–it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.”  ––Parker Palmer

•  Self-esteem

When you made the decision to reduce harm or abstain from alcohol and other drugs; ultimately, you most likely weren’t the epitome of confidence and pride. You were filled with self-doubt, loathing, and hatred. Setting goals and working a system of recovery is the first step towards regaining your confidence.

When you have goals to strive for each morning, you have direction. When you work towards completing your daily goals, you’ll feel accomplished. 

Striving to reach your goals creates an understanding of your strengths and capabilities. You will use these skills to reach your full potential.

If you fall short of a goal, you’ll have a better understanding of where you need to better educate yourself, strive harder, or plan smarter.

Every step you take towards achieving your recovery goals ignites a sense of pride. 

Purpose is a benefit of your recovery plan.  This image depicts Winston Churchill's  quote on purpose

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.” ―Winston S. Churchill

•  Purpose

When you were using, you lacked purpose. I guess this isn’t entirely true. You had one goal to never run out of drugs. However, a mission such as this doesn’t empower or encourage you to live the most meaningful life possible to you. 

Purpose gives meaning to life.

Without purpose you’ll have n need to work a system for recovery. Purpose provides the necessary motivation, excitement, and gratitude you begin each new day with.

Your goals give you the reason to act towards the life you now know you can achieve. 

The more purpose you have in life, the more connected you will be to yourself, your mentors, friends, loved ones, and recovery community.

Without purpose it’s futile.

Do you recall what we determined is the opposite of addiction?
No, it is not sobriety.
It is a connection.
A connection to social ties in the community. Your purpose in recovery is to become the greatest version of yourself. You’ll need to use your strengths, accomplishments, and skills to achieve this goal.

Focus is a benefit of your recovery plan.  This image depicts Zig Ziglar's quote on focus.

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.” ––Zig Ziglar

•  Focus

Your goals will help you hone in on the person you want to become. A system for recovery gives you laser focus on what tasks you need to complete to make each day better than the last. With the ability to look at your plan and strive to achieve each day’s objective, you zero in on becoming the person you set out to become. 

When you awake each morning, open your journal, and do the work you choose to do to become the person you wish to be, you gain the confidence you need to succeed. 

Control is a benefit of your recovery plan. In this image quote you see Henry David Thoreau's quote on confidence and control

•  Control

With a system for recovery, you’ll set goals and make advances no matter how small you are taking your power back. For years, 12 step fellowships such as AA have told people like you that you are powerless, and the only way you can overcome your addiction is by turning your will over to a higher power. 

C’mon life doesn’t work this way.

You can have faith in God, but seriously, God isn’t going to get you sober or keep you alive. It’s up to you do make the changes in your life, if you want to see progress.  

When you take the time to write down your goals, the objectives to help you get there, and do the work it takes to achieve these goals, you begin to take control back from your addiction.

Unleash your badass self with your personal system of recovery

Now you’re ready to create a system of recovery to help you release your badass self back into the world. 

Grab your journal and write about your values, skills, strengths, and weaknesses. Don’t take to long remembering your past failures and shortcomings, instead focus on how your strengths and abilities can help you achieve the goals you desire. 

You can have the life of your dreams. Free from compulsion, obsession, and addiction. Rewrite your story, create a recovery plan, and act upon it. Strive to be a better person each day. Before you know, you’ll harness your strength and unleash your badass self. It’s up to you to decide the life you want to pursue. 

What are you waiting for?

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