Rediscovering Purpose in Addiction Recovery for Veterans

Last Updated: March 1, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

When substance use dominates one’s life, a sense of purpose can slip away. For veterans combating addiction, rediscovering purpose is pivotal for a successful recovery journey. The absence of purpose has been linked to relapses, highlighting the importance of setting meaningful goals during rehabilitation. Leveraging their resilience, veterans can shape purposeful objectives, steering them toward a life free from substance dependence.

The Essence of Purpose and Goal-Setting in Recovery

Embracing a sense of purpose in recovery marks the beginning of a transformative journey. Veterans entering addiction treatment may have lost sight of life goals related to work, school, or relationships. Rediscovering purpose in recovery empowers them to establish goals that reshape their lives during the healing process.

Whether it’s pursuing education or healing relationships, having a clear purpose guides veterans to set meaningful goals, keeping them focused on their treatment journey.

Bridging Military Discipline with Recovery Objectives

Military training equips individuals with the skills to develop recovery goals effectively. Rooted in a strong sense of duty, the military culture instills a commitment to accomplishing tasks and missions. In the context of addiction recovery, treating treatment goals as personal responsibilities, similar to military missions, proves beneficial. Upholding values from military culture helps veterans stay focused on their recovery mission.

Navigating Toward Sobriety Through Recovery Goals

Goal-setting takes center stage in addiction treatment, providing a roadmap to sobriety. As veterans enter treatment programs, staff collaborate with them to formulate diverse goals for their recovery journey.

These goals, tailored to each individual, articulate the desired outcomes at the end of treatment, serving as a guide toward a sober mindset. Some experts view goal-setting as a process of crafting a new “self-narrative,” enabling individuals to perceive themselves positively beyond their substance use.

Crafting SMART Recovery Goals

Familiarize yourself with SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Ensure your goals meet these criteria:

  • Specific: Avoid vague generalizations; specify the changes you aim for.
  • Measurable: Make your goals quantifiable for objective assessment.
  • Attainable: Challenge yourself without setting unrealistic objectives.
  • Relevant: Connect your goals to your recovery journey, encompassing mental and physical health, family, career, and overall well-being.
  • Time-Bound: Attach a deadline to your goals.

For instance, set a goal for six months of sobriety, refraining from all mood-altering substances, by December 1. This specific, measurable, and time-bound goal promotes accountability.

Questions to Ponder While Setting Your Recovery Goals

As you contemplate your recovery goals, introspective questions become crucial. Determine who you aspire to be once free from addiction. Envision your long-term achievements and the ideal scenario if addiction were no longer a part of your life.

Consider what activities you would engage in without the shadow of addiction. Imagine family life without the influence of drugs or alcohol. The answers to these questions unveil actionable goals that align with your recovery journey.

Exemplifying Recovery Goals

Recovery goals encompass various aspects of life affected by addiction. Beyond achieving sobriety, individuals in recovery often aim to improve finances, secure gainful employment, or mend relationships strained by addiction.

Tailored Recovery Goals for Veterans

Outlined below are specific examples of recovery goals designed for veterans:

  • Achieving six months of sobriety using healthy coping mechanisms to manage trauma triggers.
  • Securing full-time employment in a field of personal interest within a year.
  • Utilizing healthy conflict resolution skills, such as compromise, within three months with a spouse.

Professional Treatment and Goal-Centric Care

Professional treatment programs assist in formulating meaningful goals to mend all facets of life impacted by addiction. Your treatment team collaborates with you to identify focus areas, crafting a personalized treatment plan with services to support each goal.

Treatment Modalities for Goal Achievement

When engaging in a treatment program, access a spectrum of services to aid goal attainment:

  • Individual and group therapy: Essential for sobriety goals, aiding in trigger identification and healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Medication: Used to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and cravings, helping maintain commitment to recovery and achieving broader life goals.
  • Support groups: Peer support enhances accountability, offering shared coping strategies for those on a recovery journey.

Commemorating Success: Beyond Goals to Recovery

Research underscores that recovery is an enduring commitment requiring continual effort. On this long-term journey, acknowledging small victories is crucial. Celebrate milestones along the way, such as achieving one, two, or three months of sobriety if your ultimate goal is six months. Picture a life one year or six months down the road, free from the clutches of drugs and alcohol.

Embarking on Recovery Goals with Veteran-Centric Rehab

For those struggling with addiction, enrolling in a treatment program is the initial step toward realizing recovery goals. Opting for a specialized veteran rehab tailored to the unique needs of former service members sets the stage for success.

The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper offers the FORTITUDE Program, specifically designed for veterans. Our staff, trained in trauma-informed modalities like EMDR, facilitates exclusive recovery groups for veterans and first responders. Connect with our Veteran Advocates to initiate the admissions process, leveraging our affiliation with the VA Community Care Network.


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Adler, Amy; Sowden, Walter. “Resilience in the Military: The Double-Edged Sword of Military Culture.” Military and Veteran Mental Health, 2018. Accessed December 21, 2023.

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.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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