People recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) and dual diagnosis often benefit from having concrete goals to work toward. According to the Journal of Substance Use and Addiction Treatment, “Goal setting and monitoring are a collaborative means of mapping and tracking a course of mutually accountable treatment.” Clients at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab use a “life contract” to hold themselves accountable and help them achieve recovery goals.

What Is a Life Contract?

A “life contract” is something people use to motivate long-term recovery. The contract is an informal agreement and pledge to remain committed to recovery.

Life contracts often include a deep commitment to the following:

  • Self-accountability
  • Admitting the harmful effects of substance abuse
  • Accepting responsibility for choices and actions
  • Actively engaging in treatment and recovery
  • Making healthy lifestyle changes
  • Attending support group meetings

Recovery is a journey and comes with unexpected challenges. People in treatment are encouraged to treat themselves with grace and compassion. A life contract reflects a person’s values, goals, and circumstances. The contract is flexible and can accommodate changes as people grow and heal.

How Does a Life Contract Impact Recovery?

A life contract provides people with a direction to focus their energy. In addition, the contract gives people a “big picture” view of their recovery and puts various challenges they encounter into perspective. By choosing to focus on a life of healthy choices, people often feel less stressed by unexpected detours in their recovery. A life contract gives people a reason to continue developing skills and growing.

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Setting Realistic Goals for Recovery

People recovering from SUD benefit from setting SMART goals. According to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, “The SMART . . . acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed.” Clients use SMART to set practical goals for their long-term recovery.

Some common goals people choose to focus on when creating their life contract include:

  • Remaining sober for a specific length of time (e.g., staying sober for six months)
  • Increasing physical health through activity and exercise
  • Strengthening bonds and repairing damaged relationships
  • Achieving academic or career goals

A life contract can be established and maintained using skill development and other tools, including:

  • Therapy
  • Peer engagement
  • Taking prescription medications
  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Discovering healthy hobbies
  • Regularly checking in with the care team
  • Developing a healthy support system
  • Sharing goals with peers and loved ones
  • Journaling or using other methods to reveal progress in recovery

Setting realistic goals and using support resources allows people to make lifelong positive changes. Clinicians help clients identify values and goals to motivate long-term recovery while providing essential resources and education. People who fully understand their disorder and how it affects their mental and physical health have an easier time addressing underlying issues and coping with everyday stressors.

When Is a Life Contract Over?

A life contract is not a formal contract and has no end date. People use the contract for as long as it remains helpful and relevant to their recovery. Many individuals find it comforting and helpful to use a life contract during the first several months or years of recovery to increase accountability and motivation. However, a life contract does not have to end and can continue for as long as the person finds it useful.

A life contract does the following:

  • Reduces the risk of relapse
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Encourages mindfulness
  • Increases accountability

People continue to benefit from life contracts even after they complete treatment. Some people choose to remain committed to them and hold themselves accountable by speaking about the life contract with sponsors, mentors, friends, family, or other members of their support system. Everyone has a different recovery journey, and there is no time limit on using a life contract.

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Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Maintaining Positive Changes After Treatment

People in recovery need things to look forward to and feel enthusiastic about during long-term recovery. Maintaining positive lifestyle changes after completing treatment is easier when people feel engaged and excited about meeting recovery goals. Clients who create a well-thought-out life contract find it easier to focus on the objective goal of maintaining sobriety and continuing to make progress in recovery.

A few ways people make positive changes after treatment using a life contract include:

  • Adjusting the contract to involve reconciling with loved ones
  • Focusing on the contract commitment to overcome challenges in recovery
  • Adding additional commitments to the contract to meet personal goals

Every person has a different experience, and a life contract is unique to each client’s specific needs. A life contract is optional and only used as an additional level of support and comfort to individuals in treatment.

Who to Talk to About Your Life Contract

A contract is generally between two or more people. A life contract is only helpful if it keeps people motivated and accountable. Reaching an agreement or making a commitment to others increases the effectiveness of a life contract. No one is required to disclose their life contract with another person. However, clients generally make an informal contract agreement with the care team to facilitate more effective treatment.

Some of the people clients tell about their life contract may include:

  • Loved ones
  • Peers
  • Clinicians
  • Counselors

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provides clients with a safe space and people to support their recovery through positive interactions. The care team helps people set up a life contract if they find the idea helpful.