by Gabriella Pinto-Coelho
For those struggling with an addiction to alcohol or another substance, the end of the year can be a challenging time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can bring up old temptations and triggers that can make your goal for sobriety seem out of reach. But now that the overindulgent holidays are past us, we can focus on the possibilities of the New Year that lies ahead.
Approximately 40% of Americans make resolutions, viewing the New Year as a fresh start, a symbolic transition. While setting resolutions can be a great way to get clear and motivated about your goals, only 40% of those who make resolutions actually go on to keep them. This 60% failure to keep a resolution can stem from a variety of things - unrealistic expectations, lack of discipline, loss of motivation, or something else. I personally think that some of the trouble with keeping resolutions lies in our cultural “all-or-nothing” attitude when it comes to resolutions. For example, say you have a friend who has made a resolution to eat healthier. But on a snow day in February, she eats 10 cookies.
Sadly, many people would throw in the towel at this point, thinking, “Today I went completely against my resolution, so I guess it’s over now.” In reality, keeping a resolution involves a less-than-perfect path. You might have days when you slip-up and others when you feel on top of the world. Doesn’t that sound a lot like the road to recovery? The point is, don’t give up on your resolutions when the going gets tough or when you take a few steps back. That’s life.
There are some other excellent ways to help yourself keep your resolution for sobriety in the New Year.
1. Focus on what you are gaining from sobriety. When you frame your resolution as simply “not drinking,” you are making a negative statement. Instead, think and talk about your resolution as something like “freeing yourself from addiction.” Reframing your decision in a positive statement allows you to focus on the benefits that you get out of keeping your resolution.
2. Forgive yourself for past mistakes and focus on making decisions you are proud of. Beating yourself up over what you did in the past will only create more pain and suffering in the present. Offering yourself some compassion and forgiveness will go a long way toward creating the life that you deserve.
3. Let your friends and family know about your decision so you can develop a strong support system. Gathering the support of trusted loved ones allows you to get the encouragement that that you need as you navigate the road to recovery. It also holds you accountable to your resolution because the force of positive peer pressure can help keep you in check when you feel your motivation waning. Invest in relationships with the people that can be the helping hands you need.
4. Do something altruistic. Volunteering not only helps those in need, but it can also give you a boost of self-esteem. When you feel good about yourself, you are more likely to take the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
5. Face your demons in a healthy way. Many people start using alcohol and drugs as a way to escape their troubles. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, past trauma, insecurity, or something else, everyone has their demons. Rather than self-medicating, make an appointment with a therapist and work through your issues. While therapy can be emotionally challenging, if you can attack the root cause of your addiction, you will set yourself up for long-term sobriety.
6. Find clarity and meaning. Without drugs and alcohol clouding your outlook on life, you can start focusing on things that give you joy and meaning. Whether you decide to explore your faith, take up a hobby, learn a new language, travel, or something else, find something that gives you a sense of purpose. Living with intention will give you the attitude that you need to accomplish your resolution for sobriety.