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Navigating Recovery: A Veteran’s Guide to Charting Goals and Rediscovering Purpose

Last Updated: March 2, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

When a drug or alcohol addiction takes hold, a veteran may lose sight of their purpose. In the journey of recovery, rediscovering purpose becomes the compass guiding them through rehabilitation. Studies underline the role of purpose in preventing relapse, emphasizing its pivotal place in a veteran’s recovery journey. Armed with resilience, veterans can set sail toward a substance-free life by establishing purposeful goals during recovery.

Guiding the Voyage: Purpose in Recovery

Having a purpose in recovery serves as the guiding light, illuminating the path to a new life. For veterans entering addiction treatment, this light becomes a beacon, helping them rediscover life goals related to work, school, or relationships. Recognizing their purpose empowers veterans to set meaningful goals, transforming their lives as they heal from the effects of substance misuse. Whether it’s returning to school or healing relationships, purpose keeps them focused on their treatment journey.

Military Precision: A Veteran’s Approach to Recovery Objectives

Military training instills a profound sense of duty, teaching service members to fulfill their commitments. In recovery, veterans can view treatment goals as their next mission. Drawing from the values embedded in military culture, they treat recovery goals as personal responsibilities, staying focused on the task ahead.

Navigating Sobriety: Goals as the Recovery Map

In addiction treatment, goal-setting is not just a task; it’s a course map toward sobriety. Treatment programs assist veterans in developing various goals, specifying what they aim to achieve by the end of their recovery journey. These goals become a roadmap, guiding veterans toward a new mindset oriented to sobriety rather than substance use. Some experts even view goal-setting as part of a process where individuals rewrite their self-narrative, envisioning themselves as parents, athletes, or professionals.

Navigational Tools: SMART Recovery Goals

The concept of SMART goals becomes a navigational tool for veterans in recovery. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound goals serve as the compass guiding them through the rehabilitation journey. 

  • Specific: Clearly outline the desired changes with detailed action words.
  • Measurable: Establish goals with objective measures of success.
  • Attainable: Set challenging yet realistic goals.
  • Relevant: Connect goals to the recovery journey, impacting mental health, physical health, family, career, and overall well-being.
  • Time-Bound: Attach a timeline for completion.

For instance, achieving six months of sobriety by a certain date becomes a specific, measurable, and time-bound goal, providing a clear deadline and objective measure of success.

Questions that Steer the Recovery Course

Setting recovery goals involves asking pivotal questions. Who does one aspire to be without addiction? What long-term achievements are envisioned? Imagining life without addiction can direct veterans toward actionable goals, shaping their recovery journey.

Diverse Goals: Repairing Every Facet of Life

Recovery goals encompass various aspects of life impacted by addiction. Beyond achieving sobriety, veterans often set goals to enhance their finances, secure gainful employment, or repair relationships. These goals become the tools steering them toward a fully restored life.

Goal-Oriented Care: Navigating the Treatment Seas

Professional treatment programs act as skilled navigators, assisting veterans in devising meaningful goals. The treatment team collaborates to identify goals tailored to the veteran’s needs, crafting a personalized treatment plan with services to ensure each goal is met.

  • Individual and group therapy: Identify triggers, offer coping strategies, and address underlying issues.
  • Medication: Manage withdrawal symptoms, supporting goals like finding employment or improving overall health.
  • Support groups: Exclusive veteran support groups provide accountability and shared coping strategies.

Celebrating Success: Milestones on the Recovery Journey

Recognizing that recovery is an ongoing commitment, it’s crucial to celebrate small successes along the way. Acknowledging milestones, such as achieving one, two, or three months of sobriety, becomes a compass pointing toward the ultimate destination — a life where drugs and alcohol no longer hold center stage.

Specialized Veteran Rehab: Anchoring the Recovery Voyage

Initiating the recovery journey often begins with entering a treatment program. Choosing a specialized veteran rehab, such as The Recovery Village’s FORTITUDE Program, tailored to the unique needs of former service members, sets veterans on a course for success. 

If you’re ready to embark on your recovery journey, take the first step. Contact one of our Veteran Advocates at The Recovery Village today to begin the admissions process. As part of the VA Community Care Network, we’ll walk you through obtaining VA authorization for services at our facility.


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McConnell, Doug; Snoek; Anke. “The Importance of Self-Narration in Recovery from Addiction

Doug McConnell , Anke Snoek.”  Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, September 2018. Accessed December 21, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives.” Accessed December 21, 2023.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Medications for Substance Use Disorders.” October 3, 2023. Accessed December 21, 2023.

Costello, Mary Jean; Sousa, Sarah; Ropp, Courtney; Rush, Brian.  “How to Measure Addiction Recovery? Incorporating Perspectives of Individuals with Lived Experience.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 2020. Accessed December 21, 2023.