January 1st, 2020, wasn’t an ordinary New Year’s Day. We didn’t simply start a new year with the event of it. Depending on how you look at it, one can say we’ve begun the journey of a whole, new, decade. We have entered another phase of our lives, and with this new beginning comes the chance to reinvent our reality.
As most of us have figured out, it is much easier to do something than it is to do nothing. Rather than telling yourself that you are going to stop drinking or using drugs during this next phase of life, tell yourself what it is that you will start doing. Developing positive habits to replace the negative behaviors is one of the surest ways to turn your sobriety into a lifestyle that will last clear into the next decade. The following are some of the items to put on your agenda toward developing a stronger, wiser, more peaceful – and totally sober – you.
Consciously Reject Fear
Most of us are familiar with the famous phrase, uttered by President Roosevelt, admonishing that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear, itself.” That saying is more than just clever. It gets at the root of what it is that holds us back from becoming our best version of self. Fear is directly related to what it is that we think might happen. It has no real basis in reality, at all. Fear tells us what we can’t do and can’t experience, but it has no basis of the reality of our situation in this current moment of time.
Experts have suggested that there are three, primary, forms of fear. There is the fear of being rejected by others, the fear of being physically harmed, and the fear of feeling anxious. That latter form is equivalent to being afraid of being afraid, as anxiety can be defined as experiencing a fear about what will happen in the future.
For many who decide to persist in drug and alcohol abuse, fear is at the root of their motivation. They are afraid that life is too hard, that too many mistakes have been made, or that there is no hope for the future. Rather than giving into these fear-based excuses, learn to shut fear down for the illusion that it is.
Learn to Practice Mindfulness
Our western society is one that is continually geared toward the future. We are taught that, to be happy, we always need more than what we have, currently. The constant desire for more money, more friends, and more property can create a sense of anxiety and despair within us. We are prone to compare ourselves to what others have, and then to drive ourselves toward reaching whatever standard we think we need to also obtain.
What if, for a moment, all of that future worry disappeared? What if, instead of stressing about bills and deadlines and obligations, you were free to take a minute to observe the clouds in the sky, or to enjoy the sound of your baby’s laughter? Mindfulness is the ability to put all the worries and what-ifs aside, and to simply focus on what is immediately available to your mind, emotions, and physical senses. It removes the heavy bonds of our past, and dismisses the concerns of the future. It frees us to simply be.
When we are not depressed or worried, our minds become more clear. While practicing mindfulness, you are likely to find that solutions to your problems come much more easily, and that your relationship with yourself becomes more meaningful. You will also be better equipped to resist any temptations to sabotage your progress through returning to the escapism of drugs or alcohol. The best part about practicing mindfulness is that it can be done anywhere, and at any time. With practice, the state of mindfulness can become your new normal.
Heal Your Wounded Relationships
Many who have struggled with alcohol and drug addiction have left a trail of broken hearts behind them. While repairing those relationships won’t happen overnight, a lot of progress can be made in a year. Those who truly love us don’t ever give up all hope, and that small spark that remains can be rekindled into a strong and lasting bond.
The first step to repairing relationships is to remove the behaviors which damage it. It is likely that any substance abuse has played a large role in causing the negative feelings, so staying sober will lay the groundwork for any further relationship building. After a period of time, your loved ones will begin to trust that you sincerely have devoted yourself to your sobriety, which will pave the way to healing wounds that have existed in addition.
The concept of attachment theory teaches us that providing those we care about with a corrective emotional experience can repair countless years of negative interactions. As humans, we can be quite animal-like in our reactions to situations. Similarly to how a dog who has been beaten with a broom will run out of the room at the sight of one, people in our lives who have been hurt by our past behaviors can learn that it is better to avoid us. They can also learn that we are prone to express any number of undesirable characteristics, such as being critical, angry, or unreasonable. The more we are able to practice a better version of ourselves around them, the more their impressions of us will be reshaped.
Being surrounded by positive relationships is one of the best hallmarks of a successful life. When you look back on your time from your deathbed, you won’t be thinking about all of the opportunities to get high or drunk that you missed out on. It will be the efforts that you have made toward sharing time and love with those nearest to you which will be on that list of life review. Spend this gift of a new decade on making sure that your time is invested in sharing your life with others, and not thrown away into the abyss of addiction.