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Getting Clean and Sober With a Reverse New Year’s Resolution

If you’ve thought about making a pledge to clean up your act by using the New Year’s resolution template as your inspiration, you might want to think again. Your sobriety is too important to rely on a discredited formula for personal transformation. With all due respect to that small percentage who manage to keep them, New Year’s resolutions have an air of frivolity about them. But your battle to overcome the devastating effects of alcoholism or drug addiction is deadly serious—with a special emphasis on the “deadly.”

 Still, the New Year does provide an obvious benchmark for new beginnings, a logical starting point from which to launch your campaign of recovery, survival and personal growth. And there is a way to initiate a program of self-improvement that just might work. With the right strategy you can make New Year’s Day the first day of the rest of your life, including everything good that phrase implies. It won’t be easy (recovery from a substance abuse problem never is) but it will be doable.

So what is this wonderful alternative to the New Year’s resolution for the alcoholic or drug addict who aspires to start anew? Plainly put, it is the opposite: the reverse New Year’s resolution.

A Reverse New Year’s Resolution?

How does it work, you ask? In a way that is brilliant in its simplicity: rather than looking forward to what you are planning to accomplish starting on Jan. 1, 2015, you will instead look back with pride and a sense of achievement on what you have already accomplished—starting on Dec. 31, 2015.

At the start of the year you won’t have any long-term goals. But when New Year’s Eve 2015 rolls around, you will begin to reflect, and when you do, you will realize that over the past 12 months you accomplished something wonderful—you maintained your sobriety for the entire calendar year.

This may sound like satire, or just downright confusing. But here is the reality: no one has ever defeated substance abuse because she made it her long-term goal to do so. Overcoming alcohol or drug dependency requires a daily commitment to living in an entirely different way, and it is a commitment that must be repeated over and over again for as long as the recovering addict draws breath.

As a recovering substance abuser, from sunup to bedtime you must make a series of conscious choices that will support your intention to stay clean and sober. That will, of course, include not drinking or using drugs. But you will undoubtedly have places to go and people to see (therapy sessions with counselors, follow-up medical exams, peer group meetings, etc.). You will have responsibilities to your employers, your friends and your family members that you must do your best to fulfill. You will have new, healthier hobbies and activities to occupy your time and to fill in the spaces formerly occupied by drugs or alcohol. And as each day unfolds, you must try to tackle all of your obligations with effort, energy and consistency. Maintaining your sobriety must become your lifestyle, and you must do it without reservation or restraint.

Today. And tomorrow. And then the day after that, ad infinitum.

Looking Back With Pride

This may sound like a tall task. But if you approach it on a moment-to-moment basis, with head down and vision focused on the here and now, lasting sobriety can be achieved, one tiny piece at a time. Only at the end of the year, after you have been treading a righteous, safe and unimpaired path for so long that you can’t imagine doing anything else, then and only then should you take time out to look back and reflect on the astounding thing you have accomplished.

And as you do so, you will realize what you did was exactly what you would have promised to do 365 days earlier, if New Year’s resolutions actually worked and you had decided to make one.

You can call this a reverse New Year’s resolution if you like. Or you can just abandon the whole New Year’s resolution concept and say you turned your life around by taking it one step—one day—at a time, by living each day to its fullest and refusing to backslide into madness.

In the end, the terminology doesn’t matter; it is the accomplishment that will matter, and when you wake up on Jan. 1, 2016 you will be ready to begin your journey of recovery from addiction all over again, as you must each and every day for the rest of your life.

Posted on December 29th, 2014

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