We’re drawing close to the end of 2018 – and with that comes the inevitability of 2019. For some, especially those prone to counting their days while sober, the passage of time is something of a blessing. Because with each passing minute, hour, day and week, you put more and more distance between yourself and the last time you drink.
It’s not easy. Most people struggle with it. It’s common for someone to relapse within their first year after a recovery program, and the theory that addiction is chronic has grown in merit over the last few years. But that doesn’t mean addiction can’t be vanquished. You just have to adjust your understanding of what that might mean.
You can live an entirely sober life, and never have another drop of booze or announce of any drug. But there’s no such thing as achieving victory over addiction, or completely eliminating the urge to use again. You can suppress it when it comes back up or spend so much time sober that you no longer really care for your addiction, except for the moments when things get really tough, and you involuntarily think about it.
But we need goals and victories. That is precisely why New Year’s resolutions are so important. You can’t spend forever on a one-way road, endlessly spinning your wheels for no reason. But you can stay on that road if you’re getting things done on the way. Accomplishments are how you’re really going to place walls between yourself and your past as an addict. If your goal is to kick the addiction, you’ll have to redefine said goal.
Sobriety Isn’t A Goal
Sobriety is not drinking, and that’s a goal anyone in any drug-free sober living environment or rehab facility completes within the first day or so of arriving. It doesn’t take long for a high to wear off, and by the drugs are completely out of the bloodstream and you’re fighting off withdrawal symptoms, your goal is technically complete. Meanwhile, you can’t erase what you’ve done or what you’ve experienced, and your addiction will always be a part of who you are, in the sense that you’ll remember what it felt like, and some part of you will miss it.
These realities don’t in any way contradict the goal of living a sober life. But even that goal is difficult to set, because it’s a lifelong goal. It’s hard for us really motivate ourselves by goals that are only really achieved in death. We need smaller goals to define our lifelong journey, centered around or to do with our newfound sobriety – but not the sobriety itself.
To start kicking your addiction to the curb, you have to consider this: what can you do this 2019 to set it apart from every other year you’ve spent in this world? How can you tell yourself and everyone you know by 2020 that you’ve turned your life around? What would it take to convince yourself that, despite months or years of drug use, you really don’t need to be high or drunk ever again? That’s what you start with.
Set Up Your Realistic Goals
New Year’s resolutions need to be realistic and achievable, otherwise we find ourselves staring at a list filled with hopelessness by the end of January, before throwing it out by March at the latest. Being vague or not having any sense of direction is also useless, because goals are meant to be precise. It should be something you can picture yourself achieving, not in an abstract way, but in a tangible way.
Don’t write about “making it” or “finding success” or “being a better person”. Challenge yourself to land a job that you can hold for more than a year, or to lose a very specific amount of weight, or finish a project you’ve been trying to work on for years now – or anything else that allows you to commit to something for the whole year.
Then, pick smaller goals that you can knock off along the way. Whether that means making it to one of your kid’s plays or fixing a relationship or learning how to do something you’ve never done before, pick things that you can do within a timeframe of less than a year.
Pick One, Set a Date
Deadlines are important. Deadlines and schedules help us add structure to our day-to-day, while maintaining a general sense of what’s ahead for us in the coming weeks, months, or years. Regardless of whether it’s you or a sober living community who is doing the scheduling, having deadlines gives you a very tangible timeframe of when you’re supposed to do something, which is important in recovery.
People in recovery tend to have a lot of time on their hands early on, and that can lead to boredom, which is not a good idea for a recovering addict. Keeping yourself busy is one of the best ways to stop yourself from using again. But it isn’t just about idle hands – it’s primarily about idle minds. Giving yourself a vision for the day, the week, the month, and the year also gives you concrete goals and moments to look forward to, instead of something like “stay sober for a year”. Rather than ask yourself “how?”, you can focus on doing things within said year that make you feel accomplished, rewarding you for the newfound time management and focus you can only achieve thanks to staying clean.
Being sober becomes a reward in and of itself, because it offered you the opportunity to get things done over the months and years during which you’ve been drug-free. And that should be the theme of your 2019 – making your sobriety mean something.
This is why the New Year is always an inspiring time for people facing the challenge of long-term sobriety. Don’t just make it your goal not to do drugs – make it your goal to do other things, and enjoy the feeling of being an accomplished, productive person thanks to the fact that you’re completely sober, and committed to it.