We’re entering the end of this year, and preparing for the new year – but what does that mean? Everyone has their own goals, aspirations and reflections. Figuring out a single meaning for anyone’s upcoming new year would be senseless. But for those of us celebrating another year sober or looking forward into the near future with sobriety on our mind, one of the central themes around this new year would be to stay clean.
Depending on where you are in your recovery, this could be a continued goal or a brand-new challenge. Either way, having the right mindset is important. If you’re serious about making changes this upcoming new year, you need to be realistic about your resolutions – and that means approaching them in the right way.
What’s Your Goal?
Any new year’s resolution needs an effective overarching goal. To most people, it’s something vague, nonspecific, perhaps even something formulaic like “being a better person”, or even more unspecific, “being my best self”. If your goal is anything like that, heavily reconsider your idea of what a resolution should actually be. Goals shouldn’t be vague and undefined – they should be bulleted, refreshingly sharp, visible off in the distance as clearly as the bullseye on a target.
Let’s rethink. What’s your goal for the upcoming year? Is it to travel once around the world? Find and nurture a stable relationship? Hold a job you actually enjoy for a whole year? Stay clean and watch your kid graduate school? It could be anything that requires a commitment of at least a year – not something you’re getting done in the early weeks of January, but something you’ll have to stay focused on for at least the whole year.
A specific, achievable goal that would completely or at least significantly affect your life and signal that you’ve made major changes to who you are and what you stand for. A goal that mirrors your newfound principles and represents not just a year of hard work, but countless hours spent defying temptation and staying true to your most earnest, inner wishes. That must be the backbone of your new year.
Describing the “Sober Mindset”
Sobriety is as simple as not doing something. But that something is something you really want to do. At first, at least. That requires patience, dedication, discipline, and accountability. To hold yourself back and not give in to your inner wants at the behest of your own betterment and, possibly, the wellbeing of those you care about and love the most. Sobriety is about putting yourself out there, knowing full well the beginning will be hard and at times miserable, and that there might be stumbles along the way, but that you’re willing to change – and that you still have hope you can change.
That mindset is integral to your new year. You need to stay optimistic, hopeful, and strong. But you also need to understand that you won’t always be those things. Part of the sober mindset is realism, the ability to take off anything that might skew your image of reality, and know that, because things are going to be really hard, you’re going to need help.
Hope that you’re going to make it, and the knowledge that you won’t make it alone. That’s your sober mindset of the new year, and it accompanies your overarching goal.
Make More Sober Goals
Having sobriety as a goal is folly. There’s nothing to achieve. No mountain to climb. You can call in at any facility, move into a drug-free space, stay away from drugs just long enough to make it through the detoxification and withdrawal, and you’ll be clean – but that’s not all recovery is about. Sobriety is a lifestyle, a decision you commit to for the rest of your life. But you need a reason to commit. Not doing something isn’t enough – you need to do something else.
That’s where sober goals become critical. To make sobriety something lasting and long-term, you need to make it worth your time. This new year could be your chance to turn your sobriety into something beautiful.
Start with a list of goals that you can complete within shorter amounts of time than a year. Something like visiting an entirely new country, making a new friend, learning a new skill, losing some weight, or finishing a project. Make it something personal – and better yet, make it something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t, because of one reason or another.
No one quits drugs or alcohol, goes into a rehab facility, and comes out the other end cured of the need for drugs and alcohol. Instead, you get given the tools to help further bring you to the point where you really don’t need drugs and alcohol. But that takes anywhere from a few months to several years. Accomplishing these goals, one step at a time, and completely changing your life is key to setting apart this chapter of your life from every other: making sobriety the greatest thing you ever attempted.
Why Don’t You Drink?
With addiction, the brain wants something that it’s gotten used to, and it sends signals to you to go get it – despite the fact that it’s a destructive behavior that can lead not only to death, but to the end of the things you love. By all logic, drug use and alcoholism aren’t worth it. But people who struggle with addiction either accept that and feel that they don’t care, or they can’t see it.
Recovery programs and communities help open your eyes to the possibility of staying sober, and the benefits that come from it, both for yourself and for those you care about. But that doesn’t change the fact that the brain still wants what it wants, and denying it is hard.
So, you have to find reasons to deny it what it wants and find other things it might like. If addiction is a coping mechanism, then it’s a short-term coping mechanism with maladaptive properties. That means it might make you happy for a while, but it doesn’t change your situation or help you move past your problems. We all need coping mechanisms, but some are healthier than others. Use this year to explore what coping mechanisms would be most effective for you.