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Navigating Recovery: The Role of Purpose for Veterans

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Living in the grip of addiction can obscure life's purpose. For veterans contending with substance use, rediscovering purpose becomes a cornerstone of the recovery journey. Without a sense of purpose, the risk of relapse looms large. Veterans, drawing on their inherent resilience, can formulate purpose-driven goals, paving the way toward a substance-free life. 

The Power of Purpose in the Recovery Journey

Discovering purpose during recovery serves as a catalyst for a renewed life. As you step into addiction treatment, it's common to have lost sight of life goals related to work, education, or relationships. Unearthing purpose allows you to craft meaningful goals, steering your life away from the clutches of substance misuse.

Whether it's a return to education or healing fractured relationships, understanding your purpose guides you toward impactful goals, anchoring your focus on the path to recovery.

Bridging Military Discipline with Recovery Objectives

Military training equips individuals with the skill of goal-setting — a valuable asset in recovery. The military culture, steeped in a profound sense of duty, instills a commitment to completing tasks or missions. Transposing this commitment to addiction recovery, consider your treatment goals as personal missions. Apply the same values of military culture to treat recovery goals as responsibilities, maintaining an unwavering focus on the mission at hand.

Charting the Course to Sobriety Through Recovery Goals

Goal-setting stands central to addiction treatment, offering a roadmap to sobriety. Upon entering a treatment program, staff collaborates with you to craft diverse goals, shaping your recovery journey.

These goals articulate the desired outcomes post-treatment, acting as a navigational tool toward sobriety. They also contribute to constructing a new self-narrative — one where you perceive yourself positively, beyond the confines of substance use.

Crafting SMART Recovery Goals

The concept of SMART goals, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound, provides a structured approach to goal-setting.

  • Specific: Ensure your goals are precise and detailed, avoiding vague generalizations.
  • Measurable: Craft goals that are quantifiable, facilitating objective assessment of your progress.
  • Attainable: Set challenging yet realistic goals, avoiding extremes that may be unattainable.
  • Relevant: Connect goals to your recovery journey, addressing various life aspects affected by substance misuse.
  • Time-Bound: Introduce timelines to your goals, establishing deadlines for accomplishment.

For instance, setting a goal of achieving six months of sobriety by December 1, and abstaining from all mood-altering substances during this period, provides specificity, measurability, and a defined timeline.

Reflective Queries for Establishing Recovery Goals

Initiating the process of setting recovery goals involves asking pivotal questions. Reflect on who you aspire to become without the burden of addiction. Envision long-term achievements and an ideal life scenario without substance use.

Delve into what activities you'd pursue, how family life would thrive, and how you'd spend your time in an addiction-free existence. These answers illuminate actionable goals aligned with your recovery journey.

Illustrative Recovery Goals

Beyond achieving sobriety, recovery goals extend to various life domains impacted by addiction. Common objectives include improving financial stability, securing gainful employment, and restoring strained relationships.

Tailored Recovery Objectives for Veterans

Explore specific examples of recovery goals crafted for veterans:

  • Achieving six months of sobriety using healthy coping mechanisms for trauma triggers.
  • Attaining full-time employment within a year in a personally interesting field.
  • Implementing healthy conflict resolution skills with a spouse within three months.

Professional Guidance and Goal-Focused Care

Engaging in professional treatment ensures meaningful goal formulation to mend all facets of life affected by addiction. Your treatment team collaborates with you to pinpoint focus areas, devising a personalized treatment plan equipped with services to support each goal.

Treatment Modalities for Goal Achievement

Access a range of services within a treatment program to aid in goal accomplishment:

  • Individual and group therapy: Vital for sobriety goals, helping identify triggers and fostering healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Medication: Alleviates withdrawal symptoms and cravings, supporting commitment to recovery and broader life goals.
  • Support groups: Peer support enhances accountability, offering shared coping strategies on the recovery journey.

Celebrating Progress: Beyond Goals to Sustained Recovery

Research highlights that recovery is an enduring commitment requiring continual effort. Along this long-term journey, celebrating small victories is paramount. Acknowledge milestones like one, two, or three months of sobriety, leading toward your ultimate goal, be it six months or beyond. Envision a life free from the grip of drugs and alcohol.

Initiating Recovery Goals with Veteran-Focused Rehab

Embarking on the journey toward recovery commences with enrolling in a treatment program. Opting for specialized veteran rehab, tailored to the distinctive needs of former service members, positions you for success.

Connect with our Veteran Advocates to commence the admissions process, leveraging our affiliation with the VA Community Care Network.


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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.