New Year, new you, right? January is the most common time for people to try to embark on a fresh start. That’s why even before December is over, people’s thoughts turn to what New Year’s Resolutions they’ll set themselves.
People do this for a number of reasons. They may have reflected on the past year and seen how they’ve fallen short of the expectations they have of themselves. They may not have lost that extra weight they acquired or met that business milestone they hoped they would.
The New Year, therefore, presents an opportunity to reset and refocus your goals.
That said, many people find resolutions difficult to keep – and failing to do so can be very demoralising, especially for recovering addicts.
It’s worth noting that resolutions related to substance abuse are doubly difficult to maintain. This is because, unlike normal resolutions, recovering addicts must also work to manage their feelings and their body’s physical reactions in order to achieve their goals.
Why do New Year’s Resolutions often fail to work out?
Many of us will make New Year’s Resolutions, but the majority won’t stick to them. In fact, we’ll most likely have lost sight of them even before January is out. But why is that?
The problem is that our goals are often too idealistic or unrealistic. In fact, they were probably never attainable in the first place.
Likewise, if you know that you generally lack self-discipline, having no support system in place can be detrimental. Many people fail in their resolutions because they don’t have anyone to share their achievements with, nor anyone they can count on for support and encouragement to stay accountable.
Self-doubt is also a major reason why New Year’s Resolutions fail. In the case of addiction recovery, in particular, past struggles often increase the feeling of pessimism and doubt that this will be the time you prevail.
Be SMART with your resolutions
To avoid falling into the trap of breaking your New Year’s Resolutions and to give yourself the best chance of success, your resolutions require good planning and structure.
The so-called SMART method is often used to maximise the chances of success when setting targets. Your targets have to be:
- Specific. What exactly do I want to accomplish?
- Measurable. By what criteria can I track my achievements?
- Achievable. Is this actually possible?
- Realistic. Can I really do this based on past experience?
- Timebound. When must I achieve this by?
Firstly, be specific. Set yourself clearly defined goals. For example, choosing ‘being sober’ as your goal is not precise enough. You have to have it clear in your mind what being sober looks like to you. Does it mean going completely without? Or does it mean reducing your consumption to a daily/weekly/monthly level that’s acceptable to you?
Creating a resolution with trackable milestones is also essential to successfully achieving any long-term goals. Finding ways to measure any progress, like noting the number of days you’ve done a 30-minute workout, for example, is a good way not only to motivate you but also to let you observe any forward steps. Doing so will give you a clear idea of how far you’ve come.
You also have to be confident that your resolution is achievable. Shooting for the stars is admirable, but the person who knows you best is yourself. It’s important to come up with resolutions grounded in reality and with your past experience in mind. For example, if you’ve tried to go ‘cold turkey’ in the past and it had disastrous consequences, it would be unwise to set any sobriety goals for the short term.
Patience is key to achieving your goals too. Once you’re tracking your progress, you may notice that progress is slow or non-existent – which can be demoralising. That’s why it’s important to understand that your path will be unique and that you see the bigger picture. Some people make quick, easy progress and then plateau later on; others start slow but see steady progress later.
In fact, experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality.
That said, you still need to ensure that your resolutions are timebound and that you’ve decided by when you want to have achieved your resolution. This, therefore, creates a sense of urgency with your resolutions – otherwise, you may never achieve them.
Draw up an achievable timeline
One way to do this is to set yourself a timeline for smaller, specific goals. This can be an excellent way to ground your resolutions in reality and start seeing progress early on.
In the short term, this could be something like making sure you attend a certain number of meetings each week or establishing regular contact with your support network.
In the longer term, this could be maintaining sobriety for a number of months, finding stability at work, or building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Exploring achievable goals and taking things one step at a time will drive progress over time and keep you grounded.
Realistic New Year’s Resolutions for recovering addicts
Letting go of the ‘all or nothing’ mindset is challenging. As with most things in life, it’s often better to walk before you can run. If targeting sobriety for 2023 feels impossible, there are a number of smaller, perhaps more realistic, New Year’s Resolutions that can help get you on the right track.
One could be to get in better physical shape. Being more active, getting outdoors more often or improving your diet can all be massively beneficial in your quest to get clean. That’s because having a clearer head, more energy, and an improved mood can all help you on the road to sobriety.
Likewise, discovering a new hobby (ideally one that removes you from your regular setting) could be the distraction you need. Sometimes simply breaking your usual routines can disrupt your triggers and remove any temptation as you have something new and different to focus on.
Even for the busiest of people, resolving to attend a weekly or fortnightly AA meeting is an achievable goal. Similarly, scheduling regular, quality, sober time with friends and/or family should be manageable too. In both cases, they can provide positive settings for you to celebrate your successes but also to provide support and hold you accountable when you need it most.
Practising daily gratitude is another New Year’s Resolution that can be realistically achieved. There are many ways to do this and, as it helps you to frame your situation in a different, more positive light, it has been proven to improve physical, emotional and mental health.
Many recovering addicts find that keeping a journal is a great help too. In fact, like practising gratitude, journaling is a method frequently used in therapy. Starting one as a New Year’s Resolution can be a great way to track progress, but also to identify triggers. And once identified, it becomes much easier to avoid relapse.
Give yourself the best chance of keeping your resolutions
Getting clean is an enormous undertaking – especially if you’re doing it on your own. That’s why it’s important that you take it one day at a time and focus on doing the best you can. Be compassionate and gentle with yourself, and always be prepared to ask for help if you need it.
Perhaps the best resolution you can make this year is to seek the help of professionals who understand the struggles you’re experiencing.
At White River Manor, our dedicated team of expert psychotherapists can help you to get to the root of your problems and equip you with strategies and life skills to free yourself from dependency and experience deep transformational healing.
We also offer family therapy to our guests because involving those closest to you gives you the best chance of a lasting recovery. Not only can you heal old wounds, but your relatives can also get a clearer understanding of your needs and how they can better support you.
If you’d like to find out more about our personalised treatment plans, please get in touch.