Thinking About Making a New Year’s Resolution? – You Might Want to Think Again!January 17, 2017
Mary R., DLC Volunteer Recovery Blogger
Resolutions didn’t work for me. Not on New Year’s, not ever.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and threw all the [fill in substance of choice] down the drain. I swore I was done. But by [fill in time] the next day, I was back at the [fill in location] for more.”
Does the above “resolution scenario” sound familiar? If you’re an addict like me, you probably can. And I did it over and over. And over. And over. We all know Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and hoping for different results. That’s what a New Year’s Resolution about sobriety, or really anything for that matter, is to me: insanity. To “not do something” or “do something” forever? It’s so overwhelming, I can’t stick to that. So I choose to give up, pretty fast. In fact, I’m in good company. Even among “normal folks” (non-addicts), only 8% can say they kept a resolution at the end of one year. Add to that the siren call of drugs and alcohol to the tortured sufferer; the physical addiction and mental obsession that plagues us ….it’s no wonder our resolutions to get sober can last scarcely a day or a week, let alone a year or a lifetime.
BUT THERE IS HOPE! People DO change. They get sober; they achieve emotional balance; they live happier more purposeful lives. If making resolutions, oaths and promises to ourselves and others isn’t the answer, what is? Here are a few tactics that really work.
TRY A 24-HOUR PLAN
Forever is a REALLY long time, especially when I’m struggling in today. But a single day isn’t nearly as overwhelming as a year or forever. So don’t pick up, just for today. If today is too much, break the day up into manageable segments. Hours or even minutes at a time if necessary. Get to a meeting, then get to another. And don’t drink or use in between. I’ve even heard it said that all I have to do is stay sober “pillow to pillow”. If I stay sober for just one day, I can worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes. And if I just stay sober today, I have a chance at a better tomorrow. “One day at a time.” There’s a reason we hear that a lot in the rooms of recovery programs. It works!
ASK FOR HELP
I can’t do this whole recovery thing all by myself, and that’s OK! Making a New Year’s Resolution implies that we have the power to change our bad habits all on our own. It’s right there in the definition of “resolute”: purposeful, determined, unwavering. We might make statements like “I am going to get sober this year.” “I’m going on the wagon and I mean it this time.” If it was just a matter of making a firm determination to put down the drink or the drug, there’d be a much higher rate of success in achieving long-term sobriety. But that clearly isn’t the case. Sobriety is a “we” thing. We’ve got to admit that we’re powerless on our own, ask for help, and be willing to accept it. Asking for and getting help isn’t weakness – it’s ultimately the strength that can restore us to sanity and bring us purpose and happiness.
Practicing gratitude is another thing we can do in 24-hour segments. When we go to bed at night, a simple “thank you” for another day without drugs or alcohol is a peaceful way to end the day. When we wake up in the morning, we can sit down and make a gratitude list for what we have instead of wallowing in worry, remorse or self-pity. Gratitude keeps us in the day. (There’s that 24 hour thing again!) Yesterday is gone and we can’t change it. Tomorrow isn’t here yet so why worry about it? Let’s just stay in today, do the best we can, and be grateful for what is.
STAY MINDFUL, BE PRESENT
The happiest people learn how to simply “be”. They take pleasure in surrounding themselves with friends and family. They forgive easily. They practice acts of kindness. They don’t worry about what other people think of them. They know the feeling of contentment with what “is”.
These are not things we “resolve” to be or do. But we can practice being present each day, each moment. In early sobriety, I learned a trick about staying mindful and I find myself practicing it today in times of overwhelming stress or anxiety. As I go about my daily tasks, even the simplest ones, I talk myself through them by saying: “The only thing I have to do right now is __________.” Put the groceries in the car. Tie my shoes. Brush my teeth. Open the door. Set the table. It keeps me mindful and present. It keeps my head clear and my feet on the ground.
Before you make another solemn vow or pledge to stop unhealthy behaviors forever, try incorporating a few of these baby steps toward positive change. The pressures of New Year’s Resolutions might work for 8% of the people. Since the odds are not very good, I’m going to resolve NOT to resolve and just try to stay in today.
About the Author:
Mary R. is a wife, mother, daughter, retired business owner and recovering alcoholic who relocated to southwest Florida from Ohio. As a person in recovery, she writes from the heart and shares her strength, hope and experience with others so that they too may recover from the prison of addiction. Her sobriety is strongly engrained in the belief that “you can’t keep it unless you give it away.” When not volunteering for David Lawrence Center or actively participating in 12-step meetings, you can find her living her life in recovery to its fullest potential playing tennis, traveling, or trying out a new recipe with family and friends.