It’s New Year’s Eve, a day which has become symbolic as a time for putting the past to rest and ringing in a year of change and personal evolution. As we ring in the New Year, we are meant to look back and reflect as we assess the highs and lows of the year that is now behind us. If we are honest in doing so, then we may find that there is much for which we should have some gratitude. We will also, however, come to realize that there are many changes we would like to make as we move forward. This is what we must bear in mind while making our New Year’s resolutions.
Your New Year’s resolution does not have to be anything particularly significant. Addicts and alcoholics need not make a resolution to stay sober, because they should already be resolved toward this goal. The families of addicts and alcoholics need not make a resolution to forgive themselves, because this too is something that they should already be learning to do. That is not to say that these resolutions are unacceptable. The beauty of a New Year’s resolution is that it can be literally anything you want.
Making a New Year’s resolution is not something that we are required to do, but many attach great superstition to the practice. As such, it is common for us to give great thought as to what our resolution may be for the coming year. Some may simply resolve themselves to lose weight, to get a new job, or to improve some other aspect of their life with which they have been unhappy. For the addict and the addict’s family, this practice is especially important. We have spent a great deal of time in unhappiness; there is no reason for us to continue doing so.
The following few steps should help you to make a New Year’s resolution that will keep you happy in the coming months. We have also included tips on ensuring that you keep your resolution, which is naturally the hardest part. This is generally lighter fare, not unlike our guide to staying sober over the holidays. But we hope that you enjoy it. And above all, we hope that you have a happy and healthy New Year’s. Try to avoid any huge parties, spend some time with friends and family, and congratulate yourself on making it through another calendar year. It may have been a rough one at times, but you’re still here. You are nothing if not resolute.
Try to Keep It Simple
It may be tempting to make a broad New Year’s resolution to simply improve your life, but this is a pretty complicated goal. You want to keep your goal simple, so that you can actually achieve what it is that you set out to do. For this reason, you must make only a single, relatively specific resolution.
The nature of this resolution is up to you, but there are essentially two ways to go about it. The first is to focus your New Year’s resolution on improving one of your major character defects. The other is to take a look at the circumstances of your life and decide which ones need to change the most. While these are goals we set multiple times throughout the year, your New Year’s resolution will focus upon the defect or situation that has caused you the most grief over the past twelve months.
Character defects are a bit tricky to keep simple. The addict or alcoholic often has a great many of them, and it is generally one of our tasks in recovery to work on our character defects as dutifully as possible. Still, you may occasionally find one that stands above the rest. You do not have to make a resolution to remove this defect completely (for few of our defects are ever completely removed), but you still may choose to set a goal to improve. For instance, if one of your defects is judging others, then you might make a New Year’s resolution to make friends with a few people who you know but generally avoid. This is a simple task that’s easy to accomplish and just may change the quality of your entire year.
Situations that may be bothering you can sometimes be harder to fix. If your New Year’s resolution is to advance your career, start small. If you resolve to get a promotion or a new job, you may set yourself up for failure. That does not mean that you cannot set out to do these things. But for now, your resolution should be simply to do the things necessary to make your goal a reality. Resolve to work harder, or to send your résumé out to more places. If your goal is to lose weight, then resolve to go to the gym more. If you focus your New Year’s resolution on the journey rather than on the destination, then you can never fail as long as you try.
Keep It Realistic
Even when focusing on the journey, it is still possible to set your sights a little higher than is necessary, or even reasonable. If you resolve to go to the gym twice a day every day, or to send out your résumé to ten businesses a week, then you will put yourself at risk of not meeting your goal. And when you start to feel as if you have not been keeping up properly, it can be all too tempting to simply give up entirely.
This is why you must strive for a sense of realism when formulating your New Year’s resolutions. Don’t set out to do anything more than could normally be expected of any other person. You want to be better this year, and that’s fine. Actually, it’s pretty great. You’d be surprised at how many people are content with never improving themselves at all. But if you expect too much of yourself, if you push yourself harder to reach a limit that nobody human could possibly reach, then you’re going to risk having a pretty rough year as you consistently fail to meet your own impossible expectations.
Why not simply save yourself the grief? As children, we’re told to shoot for the stars and follow our dreams. The problem is that it’s hard to reach the stars while keeping our feet on the ground. Keep a level head and aim for what you know is possible. Not only will you save yourself the risk of disappointment, but you’ll feel ten times as accomplished if you manage to rise above the goals you’ve set. Remember the dictum of “one day at a time.” It is far more reasonable to focus on small improvements that you can make daily than to set a New Year’s resolution to accomplish major lifelong dreams.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t dream big. Just go easy on yourself. If you have faith, stay sober, and keep doing what you’re supposed to do, then your life will move in the right direction. It may not move as quickly as you want it to, but applying just a little bit of elbow grease will help. Just don’t work yourself to the bone. If you can learn to be happy without the things you want, imagine how great you’ll feel when you get them.
Have a Plan for Success
If you want to succeed in fulfilling your New Year’s resolution, you should have a plan in place to do so. Taking the above advice and focusing on smaller actions rather than long-term and possibly unattainable goals will go a long way toward this pursuit. That said, those who are determined to make a broader resolution will need to plan twice as much in order to ensure that their goals are reached.
You don’t necessarily need to plan every day of the following year, but you should at least have a rough idea regarding how your goals are to be carried out. Those who are trying to lose weight might try to set realistic loss goals for each month. Those who wish to raise their income should figure out a budget and decide how much more they would like to make, as well as whether or not they can get there with a simple promotion or a new position at another location. If your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, then you may consider cutting back (assuming that you don’t want to go cold turkey) a little bit at a time. People who smoke two packs a day may try to get down to one within a week, then down to half a pack within a week after that, little by little until they’ve kicked the habit completely.
Many people in recovery advise against “future tripping,” so we should acknowledge that this is not what we’re asking you to do. Future tripping generally entails looking into the future and worrying about what could happen, instead of focusing on what we can do to improve our lives today. Make no mistake that future tripping is dangerous, and does not facilitate proper relapse prevention. There is no shortage of alcoholics who have relapsed over their fears and worries for the future. Don’t become one of them. Simply set a plan in motion and continue to live by the credo that life can get better if you have the willingness to do what you can and the acceptance not to struggle too hard against the results. You can’t always get what you want, but you can always try your hardest to carve out your own place in the world.
Remember: Nobody’s Perfect
Even if you follow the advice, your New Year’s resolution may not come to pass for any number of reasons. Perhaps you still aimed for more than one person can naturally accomplish in a year, or perhaps you didn’t meet your daily quote of goals, tasks, or accomplishments. You may have tried and simply couldn’t make it, or you may have even forgotten all about it and left your resolution by the wayside. It can be easy to get down on yourself, but you really shouldn’t. None of us is perfect.
It can be hard to accept our imperfections, but we all have them. And in many ways, they are what make the human race a beautiful thing. Some of the greatest accomplishments of mankind have been performed by imperfect people. Great painters often struggled with depression, and great politicians have often had questionable morals. At least a few of our best scientists likely struggled with a habit of judging others, and there have been great men and women in all of the above fields who were absolutely daffy. Perhaps their present-day admirers would like to think of the great inventors, innovators, artists and authorities as perfect, but think of things a different way:
If they were anybody other than who they were, warts and all, would they still have accomplished the things that they did?
They probably wouldn’t. Some of the best artwork has been created by people who struggled with deeply negative emotions. Some of the greatest advances in science and medicine have been performed in defense of someone’s ego. And at least some laws have been passed by people who had only their own interests at heart.
You may not do any of the above things this year, but that doesn’t mean that this year cannot be a good one. It will be what you make of it, so simply endeavor to make sure that you are happy with your choices. While some things may not go according to plan, the best you can do at the end of the day is take solace in the knowledge that you are still valuable in your own way. Nobody can take that away from you.
So if you’re still stuck for a resolution, try simply resolving yourself to be as loving toward others and comfortable in your own skin as you can be. And if you already have a resolution, resolve to do these things anyway. You owe yourself a good year. For now, treat yourself to a nice, relaxing holiday weekend. Because on Monday, it’s time to work on ourselves.
Happy New Year’s. Be blessed, and drive safe.