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Should You Make New Year’s Resolutions in Recovery?

January is the start of a brand-new year, and many people view it as a “clean slate” of sorts. It’s an opportunity to bring about change and try new things. Sticking with tradition, people often make New Year’s resolutions detailing what they want to accomplish in the year to come.  While having a goal to work toward can be motivating and inspiring, setting your sights too high can also lead to disappointment. For those in recovery, this can be a tricky time. Whether or not you choose to make a few resolutions is up to you and what you feel you are up to. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

The Downfall of Resolutions

Not all resolutions are bad. Some people do very well at setting a goal and sticking to it. They are able to follow through with whatever they have set their mind to and flourish in the opportunity to celebrate their progress. However, one common downfall with resolutions is that people often make them too ambitious or lofty; they want to take off running before they’ve learned to crawl.

This can be risky for someone in recovery because it can lead to disappointment and feelings of failure. When they fall short of their intended goal, they may give up or be overly hard on themselves. The pressure of trying to uphold resolutions can also add unnecessary stress and the temptation to compare their progress to someone else’s. This can unravel the hard work that individuals have achieved in recovery and set them back, increasing risk of relapse.

Making Resolutions that Make Sense

If you do want to make resolutions this year, make sure they’re appropriate for you and your recovery. One of the most important things to remember is that resolutions aren’t set in stone. They’re goals, and they can be adjusted. Also, they’re goals for the year – not for the next month. Don’t try to cram everything into the first month and then be disappointed when you fall short. Spread things out and remember that even the smallest steps forward are still progress. Some other thoughts to consider:

Make sure your goals are meaningful to you: Oftentimes people fall into the trap of doing what they think will please others, or what everyone else is doing. If your resolution isn’t an issue you’re passionate about or committed to, you’re less likely to follow through. Whether you want to find a new job, reduce the clutter in your house, or get in better shape, pick a goal that makes sense for you.

Through rehab, Northbound supports clients in learning how to balance their recovery with work, school, and other commitments. These types of strategies can be applied to resolutions too to make them an extension of your recovery and continue building on what you’ve already learned. As you rediscover what’s important to you in rehab, use that to help shape your goals.

Break resolutions down into manageable pieces: Instead of aiming for the end goal from the start, begin with smaller steps. For instance, if you ultimately want to be physically active five days a week, start by committing yourself to one or two days, then increase from there. Explore different types of activities so you don’t burn yourself out or become bored. Mix it up and do weights at the gym, ride your bike around the neighborhood, go for a hike, run around the yard playing soccer with your kids, or spend some time doing Pilates.

Remember that being active doesn’t have to mean tying yourself down to the gym. There are plenty of ways to engage in physical activity. And if you miss a day, don’t stress out. Pick up with your routine the next day. Northbound encourages clients to get involved in different types of activities throughout addiction treatment so that they can explore their interests, make physical activity a part of their routine, and see how it benefits recovery. A New Year’s resolution could build upon what they’re already doing.

Celebrate progress: Even small accomplishments are steps in the right direction. If your goal is to land a new job, celebrate the fact that you applied for four new jobs over the past week or scored an interview. If you want to eat healthier, congratulate yourself for trying a new food or sticking with servings sizes at a family party. Just like you celebrate your progress in recovery, do the same with your resolutions. This can also help to you to stay motivated and realize that you’re moving closer to your goals.

Have a plan to overcome setbacks: Life is unpredictable. It is not unrealistic to think that you might slipup with your resolution. However, don’t let that get you down and make you feel defeated. Call up a friend who will help you to stay accountable and encourage you to keep pushing forward. Figure out a way to overcome whatever is standing in your way. Forgive yourself and pick up where you left off, refocusing your efforts.

Many people start slacking after the first few weeks, but that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Know yourself and what you need to do to stay on track. That may mean readjusting your resolution, but that’s okay. Remember – nothing is set in stone. Goals are flexible.

Northbound helps clients to develop healthy coping strategies and ways of dealing with disappointment or setback. Part of treatment is learning to live life on life’s terms. These same techniques can be beneficial in all aspects of your life. Take what you have learned and figure out how it applies to the challenge you’re facing. You can be successful.

Just like recovery is a personal journey, so are resolutions. Figure out what works best for you and don’t be afraid to ask for help or seek support in reaching your goals. Northbound helps clients to feel more prepared to tackle whatever the future holds and to thrive in recovery by developing skills that support sobriety as well as a healthy, enriching lifestyle.

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Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.

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