Setting Your Own Drinking Goal, Safely

If you’re working to change your relationship to alcohol, one of the most important steps to take is to set your very own goals related to both your drinking and your life (read about the other key steps here). Why?

First, having a drinking goal is important because it gives you a way to track your progress and success.

Our aim is to help you build a healthy relationship to alcohol. For you, that might mean working toward quitting altogether. Or it could mean to cut back on your drinking.

When setting a drinking goal, it’s always a good idea to consult a trusted medical professional because some symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be serious and long-lasting. Remember that this change should be on your own terms; research shows that people have more success when they set their own goals for treatment, in consultation with their health care providers.

Second, having a goal for your life outside of drinking will motivate you to stay on track.

These goals are about things you look forward to. When you remove drinking, you want to fill that void with positive activities or actions.  Maybe it’s to walk your kids to school in the morning, to cook dinner with your partner once a week or work out twice a week after work — whatever it is, it’s important to set personally fulfilling goals for your day-to-day life.

Only you can say for sure what goals make sense for your life, but here are some tips to get you thinking:


There are so many types of goals you can set, so it’s important to pare it down and get specific.


You’ll need to be able to track your successes in order to know that you’re making real change. Be able to answer the question: Did I achieve my goal, yes or no?


Ask yourself, “Is this something I can accomplish?” The most important thing when setting a goal is that you feel highly confident you can achieve it. When deciding on your goal, consider all the things that may get in the way of achieving this goal, make a plan to overcome, or reassess the appropriateness of the goal. Starting “small,” or achievable, helps set you up for success because it will help you build confidence and keep you moving in the right direction. Think about it this way: Small successes add up to big wins.


If you find that you’re consistently not reaching your goal, adjust your goal so it is more realistic. That’s perfectly okay!  For example, if your goal of going to the gym three times per week isn’t working out, try for once a week first. Setting effective goals truly is a continuous process and you have the power to make changes when you need to.  


Making your goal time-bound will help make sure it’s within your reach.  For example: instead of, “I’m going to start reading more,” add some time-bound parameters such as, “I will read for 15 minutes before bed three days this week.” That sounds like something you can do, right?

Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Timely. In the field of behavior change, this is how we know a goal is “SMART.”  In order to reach your goals related to drinking, make sure your next goal passes the SMART test.

You may encounter some bumps along the road to recovery—and that’s okay—but adhering to these five principles will help keep you moving forward.

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