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Recovery from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a complicated affair, with ongoing trials, stresses, and emotional turmoil. However, even though the difficulties of recovery, it is essential to continue to reward oneself for their continued sobriety and progress along their recovery path. Creating a reward system can be an art form on its own. It can help someone continuously motivate themselves through the most challenging parts of their recovery. 

Allowing Yourself to be Rewarded

Establishing a rewards system can be very difficult if someone in recovery isn’t allowing themselves to be rewarded. This can be because they may see their progress as too slow to be worth celebrating. Others might feel they somehow have earned a life of punishment due to their guilt over their actions when engaging with addictive substances. However, framing one’s recovery through a negative lens can create many problems and ultimately lead to seeing their successes as anything but the real marks of progress they are. Addiction recovery is difficult. While shame and guilt may be prevalent throughout recovery, every day brings little victories that should be celebrated. 

Goal Setting

Setting goals in recovery can be a tricky topic for some. While those in recovery from drugs or alcohol may start recovery only to “get sober,” it is crucial to have more personalized goals too. Asking about someone’s plans in life often gets you answers in the professional realm. When you hear “goals,” you likely think of achieving a certain rank in a company or starting a passionate and lucrative career. More personal goals would include becoming a parent or achieving a particular goal in a personal passion, such as mountain climbing, diving, running marathons, or publishing a book. Personalized goal-setting isn’t about getting sober as a whole. It is what someone wants out of their lives that pursuing sobriety will help them achieve. 

Setting this overarching goal is essential, as a constant reminder to someone why they are in recovery. It is one thing that can inform your plans each and every day and can help you not just stay focused on your sobriety, but also on your own identity. However, goal-setting has another aspect. There need to be other, smaller steps between admitting that you have a problem with substances and achieving your biggest goals. 

Creating Manageable Steps

This other aspect of goal-setting is what rewards systems typically focus on. These are the day-to-day rewards that someone will need to inform their daily activities. Additionally, these rewards help maintain motivation and a healthy relationship with the recovery process. These rewards are attached to goals that can be easily measured, such as “go one day without drinking,” or even merely starting by “cutting down on spending money on drugs.” These then develop into “go one week without drinking,” or “try one new therapy this month.” These targets don’t have to be grandiose, nor should they be. Addiction recovery is a long process divided into many steps, and each step towards sobriety that someone takes, even one day at a time, needs to be rewarded. 

Make Rewards Comparative to Achievement

Just as one’s goals need to be managed in steps, so do the rewards. For example, each day that someone goes without drinking, they may have a sober fund where they reward themselves with a dollar or two to spend on whatever they want. This money can be used to pursue a hobby, go on a trip, or anything that isn’t an essential need for them. Others may feel that they can reward themselves by giving themselves mini-vacation days for every two weeks that they continue successfully on their recovery path. However, it is vital to keep these in balance. Rewarding oneself too grandly for simple achievements may trivialize the recovery process. On the other hand, insufficient rewards can make the complicated recovery process not seem worth it. This also provides another perspective, though. When someone makes great strides in their recovery, such as their first year sober, they should feel empowered to reward themselves appropriately. 

Rewards will look different to each person, based on their own interests, hobbies, and goals in recovery. However, it is vital to reward oneself for each step they take. While guilt and shame may be prevalent emotions during addiction recovery, the difficulties only show the importance of having effective, accessible rewards to coincide with them. Setting these goals and allowing oneself to be rewarded can be empowering. Each small step helps someone begin to take control of their own future through their own sobriety. 


No part of the addiction recovery process is easy. Still, the physical and mental toll of addiction can be even more intense. If you or a loved one struggles with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, Lighthouse Recovery can help you take your first step towards sobriety today. We can help you develop your recovery plan with skills and techniques most pertinent to you, through sober living and our inclusive intensive outpatient program. Caring staff can work alongside you to establish your own rewards system, as well as help you realize your own goals for a sober future.


Learn more about our services or contact us below to discover how Lighthouse can help you on your road to recovery today. Thank you for your trust.