Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: August 22, 2021

Every time January is the same. The gyms fill up with people determined to get in shape. Planners sell out at the store because everyone insists they’re going to stay on schedule. People write long-winded captions about their plans to make the most of the upcoming year. And some decide this is the year they’re finally going to quit drinking or using drugs.

The New Year comes with seemingly endless possibilities. A fresh calendar comes with open-ended chances for new experiences. Admittedly, there’s a bit less excitement this year looking back at the unsettling year that 2020 was. Last year put every single person through their paces. It was a collective challenge for people around the world. 

Resolutions are difficult to keep even during a normal year. No matter how driven someone feels at the beginning of January, most lose steam by the third or fourth week. About one-third of people start the year with a New Year’s resolution. Only 7% report fulfilling all their resolutions but 19% said they stuck with at least one of them.

Setting your sights on sobriety is a great resolution for the New Year. Whether you’re planning on a month-long reset with Dry January or you’re hoping for long-term recovery, cutting alcohol and drugs from your life is always a good idea. Even casual use can lead to a lifelong impact. 

No matter how well-intentioned you are, though, there are slim odds of staying sober for the long run. Slim odds don’t mean that sobriety is impossible, though. Even if you’ve tried to stop drinking and using before, that doesn’t mean you can’t try again. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your fifth time getting sober; there’s never a better time to start than today. 

There are many things you can do to set yourself up for success in recovery. What’s the best way to set out on your New Year’s recovery resolution?

Begin your sober 2021

Finding the Hope to Start

The most important thing you need to start your New Year’s recovery resolution is finding the hope to start. You might feel discouraged about setting any goals or making any plans this year. Maybe you were one of the millions who grappled with the widespread job loss. Perhaps you lost a family member or friend last year. 

Alcohol and drugs offer an easy way to escape from reality for a few hours. There were endless jokes about drinking the stress away when the shelter-in-place order started last year. Then the normalization of heavy alcohol consumption makes it feel like everyone’s doing it. Why shouldn’t you be able to partake, too?

After drinking and using for a long time it seems impossible to face life without these coping mechanisms. Learning to live without alcohol and drugs is hard to do during a normal year. It’s even more challenging now that it feels like everything is up in the air. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

It might be hard to find the hope to get sober during a time like this, especially if you lack any other coping mechanisms. Leaving alcohol and drugs behind in 2020 is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. There’s another way of life outside of addiction and alcoholism just waiting for you to start. But how can you ensure your sobriety?

Addiction recovery new years resolution

Big Changes Happen Over Time

Why do programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous focus so much on the phrase, “One day at a time”? Because that’s the only way big changes happen. Addicts and alcoholics, along with many other resolution-setters, often resort to all or nothing thinking. The problem with this black and white thinking is that it sets you up to fail.

Millions of people fall into the trap of believing everything will change the moment they put down the substances. The wreckage they caused will suddenly be reversed. They’ll rebuild trust with their family and friends. Their legal troubles will dissolve and things will go back to normal. Then they lose hope when these things don’t happen right away.

It doesn’t mean your life won’t change completely when you get sober. That’s not the case either. But it does take time for change to happen. It took months or years for you to reach the place you’re at today. Expecting things to suddenly shift back to normal after years of drinking or using is unrealistic.

Understand that big changes happen slowly over time, not all at once. Heading into a New Year’s recovery resolution with unrealistic expectations only sets you up for failure. You’ll feel discouraged and unappreciated and then feel tempted to turn back to alcohol or drugs. If you head into the year realizing that your life will shift as time passes, though, you can succeed.

Addiction rehab resolutions

Progress Not Perfection

Another important phrase is “Progress not perfection.” It’s crucial that you allow yourself to make mistakes in recovery. Quitting alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean you’re going to become a perfect person. It doesn’t mean you’ll never make another mistake again in your life.

Nor does “Progress not perfection” provide you with an excuse to relapse. You can’t slip on your sobriety and point to the phrase for justification. It also doesn’t mean you’re supposed to aim low or settle for “good enough”.

Progress not perfection means you’re not only focused on getting through the day without alcohol and drugs. It means that you’re also focused on becoming a better person at the same time. You’re learning to let go of old habits and behaviors and replacing them with positive, healthy alternatives.

The phrase endorses you being kinder to yourself during this new period of your life. You’re not going to understand how to live sober immediately. Instead, you’ll maintain your New Year’s recovery resolution with the help of a “progress not perfection” mindset, one day at a time.

Surround Yourself With Support

The third most important thing to remember when setting a New Year’s recovery resolution is to surround yourself with support. Addiction and alcoholism are isolating conditions. They tend to separate you from family, friends, and other loved ones as your problem gets worse. It’s easier to avoid criticism and hide the extent of your drug and alcohol use when you’re alone.

A challenging aspect of sobriety is shedding this old habit of isolation. You might be so used to being alone that you reject help or support from people who care about you. Trying to stay sober on your own will make the process much harder, though. You’re going to need support if you want to maintain long-term sobriety.

Support comes from many different avenues. It can include things like an addiction treatment program, friends, family, or recovery support meetings. Having other people in recovery in your corner is a great idea, too. The more support you surround yourself with the better. 

Learning to live a drug- and alcohol-free life requires everything you have in you. You want a support system you can reach out to when you need help. Surround yourself with support if you want to be successful in your New Year’s recovery resolution this year!

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