“Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come. Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level. Goals give our life direction.”
~ Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations on Codependency
The New Year is almost upon us, and whatever your 2015 was like, 2016 can be whatever you want it to be. Personal rebirth and second chances are great themes that people recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction can focus upon.
If you are new to recovery, you obviously have one major goal of all others – maintaining your sobriety. But now would be a good time to start thinking about how you might best support that goal and make your journey of recovery both more productive and fulfilling.
Here are some suggestions that can help a person new to recovery make 2016 the best year of their life :
#1 Continue Learning, All the Time
They say that Knowledge Is Power, and if addiction is characterized by powerlessness, then there must be no better weapon against the disease than a mind that is actively engaged in acquiring new, positive information.
- Commit to reading inspirational books – There are any number of “self-help” books out there. Go to the local bookstore or library and browse until you find some that resonate with you. Actively try to put into practice what you read. Take as much time as you need, but when you finish one, pick up another. Some suggestions –
- Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption, by William Cope Moyers
- Breathing Underwater: Spirituality and the 12 Steps, by Richard Rohr
- The Miracle Morning: the Not-so-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (before 8 A.M.), by Hal Elrod
- Take a class – This doesn’t have to be for anything structured (like a degree), unless that’s something that you really want. Have you ever thought about learning something just for fun? Your local community college or vocational school will offer a plethora of interesting short courses with something for every taste – cooking, art, crafts, music, etc. Keeping yourself positively occupied like this will help you avoid that dreaded enemy of sobriety – boredom.
#2 Get Healthy, JUST FOR YOU
This is not the typical “lose weight and join a gym” resolutions made by most people – only 8% of those types of resolutions are kept, anyway. When you were in active addiction, your lifestyle was undoubtedly unhealthy, and if you’re new to sobriety, you are probably still regaining your health. Focusing on those things that will help you repair the physical, mental, and emotional damage done by the drugs, and at the same time help you avoid relapse.
- Commit to better nutrition – An addict’s diet can usually be summed up in one of two ways – not enough food (stimulants) or too much fast food/junk food (almost everything else). Eating the right foods can replenish the vitamins and essential minerals that were lost during addiction. Even better, eating regularly can help reduce the risk of relapse, because newly-sober people often have trouble distinguishing between the now-unfamiliar sensation of hunger and the all-to-unfamiliar craving for drugs.
- Release the burden of stress with exercise – This is the time of year that many people overreach and promise too much, too soon – going to the gym every day, running five miles each morning, etc. Taking baby steps in setting realistic, achievable goals can help you build self-esteem when you prove yourself that you can reach them. Find a routine that works for you.
A rigorous exercise program may be overwhelming at this early stage of recovery, but there is a healthy alternative that can prove very beneficial – yoga. There is growing evidence indicated by several studies that the calming techniques, meditation, improved quality of sleep, and non-aggressive movements all have particular benefits for recovering addicts.
#3 Be Grateful and Give Back
12-Step fellowship recovery programs emphasize that recovery cannot be complete until you “carry the message to others”. This can be done in both word and deed, and when you give of yourself, you strengthen your own resolve and commitment to sobriety.
Service is also an expression of gratitude. When you remember to be grateful for everything that you have gained/regained, you become less willing to risk it all for that next high.
- Find a cause you are passionate about and then volunteer – When you were actively addicted, you almost certainly caused pain to other people because of your behaviors. As you have probably learned as part of your recovery, it is not always possible to make direct amends.
When that is the case, spread good out to the world at large by helping a worthy cause – help clean up your neighborhood, work at a homeless shelter, help out a disabled neighbor – the possibilities are endless.
One excellent way for a newly-clean addict to give back is to serve at 12-Step fellowship meetings in tangible ways such as cleaning up after meetings, passing out literature, or greeting newcomers. By getting involved, you are not only helping, but also becoming more committed to the group.
- Practice gratitude mindfulness every day – Recovery is filled with many challenges, and it is easy to get caught up in the negatives – the struggle of rebuilding what you lost, dealing with consequences for past missteps, constantly trying to keep up with what’s coming next – it can be overwhelming. In your own mind, it sometimes seems as if addiction was easier.
However, when you take a little bit of time every day to actually be mindful of everything you have and everything you can be grateful for, it can remind you of how far you have, on this positive journey of recovery. Things you might be grateful for include –
- renewed relationships with loved ones
- a better employment situation than you had when you were addicted
- a safe place to live
- improved health
- a clearer mind
- life itself, because addiction is a progressive and fatal disease
Each of these suggestions can have a positive, supportive influence on your overall main goal of continued sobriety. Use these as a jumping-off point to come up with your own ideas. Recovery does not have to be drudgery – it can be interesting to rediscover the joy that can be found around every unexpected corner. It is a New Year and it is a New You, so make the best of both.