“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” — Hal Borland For many people who struggle with addiction, the threshold from one year to the next has a metaphorical lion guarding the gates whether it’s their substance of choice and subsequent addiction, challenging family dynamics, soul-searing memories of loss, or the ball and chain of not-so-good choices made in the previous 12 months. But a new year can also present an opportunity to begin anew. In preparation for New Year’s Eve festivities, consider conscious ways of leaving behind attitudes, behaviors and actions that serve no positive purpose and would be better tucked away in a box labeled “the past.” While the idea of a “dry” party isn’t appealing to someone who may be accustomed to gatherings where spirits and other substances flow, this could be an ideal time to make a knowing decision to start a new tradition that includes sober activities and co-celebrants. Try these five experiential “revelation” exercises to guide you as you make this coming year one in which you can claim a new way of living:
1. Open your own “door.” Imagine a doorway through which you will be stepping. Describe the size, shape, color and design of the door. Reach out and touch its surface and determine if it’s hot or cold, rough or smooth.
Do you hear a sound as you walk through the door? Is there music playing or voices speaking or singing? You can breathe in the air and notice if there’s an aroma wafting about. Perhaps there’s something delicious and healthy to sample. As you taste the food and alcohol-free beverage, savor the experience without rushing to gobble it down or drink it up.
Are you alone or are others there with you? Interact with those who may show up in the rooms through which you curiously wander. Remember that this is your “door” to walk through — your life to design as you so choose. No one else has created this space and only the experiences and people you invite will show up there. Take time to explore and if something isn’t to your liking, change it. As you experience this exercise, remember that your history isn’t your destiny.
2. Take inventory of the past year. Take out a piece of paper and pen and think back to January 1st of the current year. If you can recall where you were on that day, jot that down. Perhaps the memory is pleasant and one you want to relish. If it’s something you would rather forget, remind yourself that you survived it and use it as a springboard for leaping into a rewarding new year. Either way, give yourself credit for getting to the point where you are today, determined to make positive changes.
Now do an inventory of the people you didn’t know when the year began and how they’ve impacted your life. Hopefully they’ve enhanced your life and didn’t detract from your well-being. Even if they contributed to challenging lessons, their presence could act as a teaching tool that tells you as much about what you don’t want as what you do want. Maybe you met them in rehab, a faith community, at school, via volunteering or in self-help meetings. Perhaps they’re co-workers. Sadly, you may have said goodbye to others, whether through death or relationship shifts. Honor these as rites of passage, too.
Think about the places to which you’ve traveled or the beyond-your-wildest-dreams experiences you’ve had. Maybe you launched a new career or had a profound wake-up call. Perhaps you attracted a new partner or welcomed a family member into your life. You may also have come to the revelation once and for all that it’s time to get the proverbial “monkey off your back,” whatever that may be.
Consider if any of these people or experiences were in your life when the year began. Bless their showing up and taking their leave, because transitions are part of the human journey.
3. Make room for what you want. Make a list of what it is you want to release from this year. It could be limited beliefs, fierce fears, oppressively perseverative thoughts or worn-out baggage that you’ve been carrying around way too long. Don’t edit or censor as you write. Once you have your list made, read it out loud. Feel the power these things may once have had over you and from which you’re now prepared to free yourself from. If you have a fireplace, outdoor pit or grill, toss the list into the flames and literally watch them go up in smoke.
Now it’s time to consciously choose what you wish to put in their place. Let your imagination roam freely as you consider what you intend to bring into your life during the coming year. Most people create resolutions that ultimately fail, in part because they attempt to tackle too much at one time.
4. “WRAP” it up. A fascinating and effective practice that can be used to assist in realizing goals and intentions is known as WRAP, which stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan. Pioneered by Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, to serve those with mental health diagnoses by way of a focus on wellness not pathology, WRAP incorporates ideas and items that communicate to families and professionals the daily needs of the person. It involves what they do to sustain their own well-being and not exacerbate their problems.
Janet Berkowitz, a graphic and performance artist as well as a person in long-term recovery, trained in WRAP and took it a step further, creating what she calls WRAP Scrap. Here she designs collages that signal her own strengths and challenges in addition to what she wishes to call into her life, and she teaches this to others.
5. Take inspired action. When you take inspired action, you’re far more likely to see what you wish for to come to fruition. This might be keeping a daily journal of goals that are broken down into manageable steps. It may involve having “accountability” partners, whether they’re family, friends or sponsors with whom you check in regularly. If you have a spiritual practice, it could include prayer, meditation or chanting your plans. You might create a success dance that has you moving about as if you’d already achieved your goals. Use whatever inspires you to take positive action in your life.
As the end of the year approaches, make a point to be fully aware of what it feels like to be living a healthy drug- and alcohol-free life. As you enter into the New Year, realize that you have 365 new days to change and create your very own dreams and desires all over again.
By Edie Weinstein, LSW Follow Edie on Twitter @EdieWeinstein1