It is probably not surprising that so many people decide to pursue sobriety around the winter holidays, mainly because this time of year signals both an ending an a new beginning. Nothing is more indicative of a fresh start than New Year’s, so making a resolution to quit drinking, using drugs, and/or engaging in addictive behaviors (gambling, sex, eating, video gaming, shopping, etc.) makes perfect sense. Usually, though, simply making a resolution is not enough. This is true even with non-addicts, many of whom resolve to drop 20 pounds every year but never manage it. Of course, a bit of extra belly fat is not usually as life-threatening as a full-blown addiction. The good news, if you’ve resolved to stay sober in the New Year, is that there are a few additional New Year’s resolutions you can make that can help you to maintain that big one.
- Resolve to tell friends and family about your addiction and desire for sobriety. If nothing else, being accountable to others makes it much harder to slip up and return to your old, addictive patterns of behavior.
- Resolve to seek professional help, if you haven’t sought it already. The easiest way to do this is to find a local therapist who specializes in addiction. Usually they offer both individual and group sessions focused on combating addiction. You might also consider – or your therapist may recommend – a period of inpatient or intensive outpatient treatment as a way to jump-start your recovery. These concentrated programs separate you from the people, places, and things that drive your addiction, while also grounding you in sobriety and reducing your risk of relapse.
- Resolve to participate in a 12-step recovery group. Whatever your addiction, there is a group designed to help you. Attending meetings regularly is a great way to meet and interact with others who share your problem and speak your language. Many recovering addicts attend meetings daily. After all, they engaged in their addictive behaviors daily, didn’t they? Typically, people in recovery find that having sober friends to hang out with is a key element of maintaining sobriety over the long-haul.
- Resolve to change your routine. Active addicts always have a routine or pattern that eventually leads to using. Take a look at your regular day, and figure out where the path veers off toward addiction. At that point, you must do something different. Instead of driving home down the street with all the bars, take a different route. Instead of turning on the TV and eventually smoking pot, go for a walk in a nearby park. It doesn’t really matter what you do that’s different, as long as it breaks the pattern that leads to using.
- Resolve to improve your physical health. Getting sober is not just about stopping with the drinking, using, and other compulsive behaviors. It’s a complete lifestyle change. Healthy eating and regular exercise help you in numerous respects. Most obviously, you feel better, which makes it easier to not “self-medicate.”
- Resolve to try new things and to make new friends. Taking a cooking class (maybe as part of eating healthier meals), starting a new hobby or resuming and old hobby, healthy dating, redecorating the house, joining a social club, and just about any other new activity will put you in contact with lots of new people, some of whom may become friends. These activities also can invigorate an otherwise stalled life. If you can find another recovering addict to enjoy these activities with, that’s even better.
Remember, there is no better time to begin or improve your sobriety than the holidays. Giving yourself and those around you the gift of you not drinking or using anymore is a present you and they will cherish for the rest of your life. Of course, maintaining your New Year’s resolution of sobriety does not guarantee that you will have a perfect year. Life happens no matter what, and there’s not much that any of us can do about that. That said, life in sobriety is always better than life in active addiction. Sure, getting sober and staying sober takes a lot of hard work and effort, but it’s worth it.