This time of year, we are bombarded with articles, ads, and conversations about New Year’s resolutions. I too see the new year as a time to both set intentions for the coming year and reflect on the previous one. But I don’t like to think of them as resolutions.
The word “resolution” means the act of solving or, as a noun, something that is resolved. This sets it up as a quick fix rather than as step-by-step process towards improvement. The former is the way many popular new year’s resolutions—for instance, losing a certain number of pounds by a specific time—are organized; the latter is closer to how humans actually work.
The words we use affect the way we think; just look at the concept of cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps people change their thought patterns to improve mental health. Our thought patterns all start with the language we use.
When we go for the quick fix, we set resolutions up as all-or-nothing; we either “solve” the problem, or we’ve failed. This is why so many people end up burning out on their resolutions before winter is even over.
How Can I Set Reasonable Goals in Recovery?
Being sober allows us to set reasonable—but meaningful—long-term goals. Start by thinking about what you’re working towards rather than what you’re trying not to do. Positive reinforcement works better than punishment. For instance, an alternative to “I need to lose 10 pounds by February” is setting a goal to find the type of exercise you like, so you might be intrinsically motivated to do it.
It’s also helpful to break larger goals into smaller ones. For instance, rather than say “I’m going to learn to play the guitar this year,” create goals for how you’ll do so with reasonable timelines. You might make it your first goal to learn a few chords or to watch a certain amount of tutorial videos. In recovery, there’s a popular saying “take it one day at a time.” It applies to working towards goals just as it does towards staying sober.
Of course, you can set goals any time of year. But things like soberversaries, birthdays, and New Year’s provide opportunities for reflection. They are a good time to take inventory of where you’ve been, feel proud of what you’ve already accomplished, and recognize areas where you can grow. The more you build towards self-awareness in sobriety—through things like therapy and meditation—the more you will be able to take an honest inventory.
There’s an idea that when you get sober, emotionally you’re still the age you were when you started drinking or using, and you need to progress from there. Addiction stunts your emotional, mental, and psychological growth. Many people find that in recovery, they develop as a person in ways they couldn’t have imagined. Sobriety is an opportunity to work towards that growth with intention; New Year’s is a great time to start.
If you want 2021 to be the year you get sober, there is help and hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you work towards small and large sobriety goals so that you can build a life in long-term recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.