The reality of resolutions – and how to get them right
It is a standing joke that despite the best intentions New Year’s resolutions are seldom kept – but the lure to make them can be overwhelming; especially for anyone who is struggling with alcoholism or a drug addiction. With a sparkling new year ahead of us and the unpleasant effects of Holiday time excess still all too vivid, we jump upon January as the time to change – to end that addictive behavior that is causing us so much grief.
However, few addicts (and their loved ones) realise that it takes more than just will power and flushing their substance of choice down the toilet to cure an addiction. And when they slip up, which they inevitably do very soon after making that resolution, the failure and shame drives the addiction even further.
Addiction is a disease that requires professional help and commitment to overcome that is why it is so important to distinguish between the type of resolution which involves merely making a minor adjustment and the sort requiring a radical change of lifestyle.
If someone wants to drop a dress size or to consume 15 units of alcohol a week instead of 20 then the new year can provide them with the perfect excuse to do it but if someone is struggling with say a cocaine addiction or a serious drinking problem the idea that they will be able to stop just because it is January is a bit ridiculous – it is a long and sometimes difficult process.
So if you are planning on using January 1st as a catalyst to put an end to a problematic lifestyle be realistic about your resolution. You are probably not going to be able to give up without professional help and a coherent strategy.
Ideally, I would suggest inpatient rehab simply because you are ensconced in a clean, safe and monitored environment where there is nothing to do except work on your recovery. Of course, this is not an option for everybody so outpatient treatment exists – either as one-on-one therapy sessions or in a group setting and this is where your personal strategy comes into play.
Firstly – change your friends. Treatment will never work if, after your therapy session, you drop by to hang out with your using friends or those who trigger you to use. If those happen to be people you can’t avoid, such as family or colleagues, find a coping tool.
My personal favourite is meditation or Mindfulness Meditation to be more specific. And it is for the same reasons that numerous studies are now touting it as an effective tool in aiding addiction recovery. One: it improves our rationalising process while slowing down our reactive or impulse centres. Two: it can actually neutralise cravings and negative emotions. Since this ancient Eastern philosophy has now become the new rage globally – you can probably find a place that teaches it closeby – enroll!
Another thing you should definitely do is tell those that care for you about your resolve to get clean – it’ll keep you accountable. Also try and join a support group like AA or NA, they are available now in practically every city and town – empathy is invaluable.
Alter your routine. Active addicts always have a routine or pattern that ultimately leads to using. Identify what point that is for you during a normal day, then ensure you are doing something else at that point. For example, hit the gym or go for a long brisk walk or jog straight after work if your usual habit is to go straight to the pub.
Lastly and most importantly, beware of relapse! One drink or using episode will most likely wind up in a full blown relapse so just don’t take that first drink – no matter how tempting. But if you do, get right back to your 12 Step meeting or recovery coach immediately. I relapsed dozens of times but ultimately kept coming back. Eventually I took it seriously and did the things my sponsors and mentors were telling me. My recovery began to work when I began to work. Keep it simple.
Remember, there is no specific time to give up your addiction. It doesn’t matter whether you make the decision in January or July – what does matter – as with all life-changing decisions – is that you come up with a plan and stick to it.
A Happy New Year to All Alastair M