The start of a new year is the perfect time to build on the solid foundation of your recovery. Everyone discusses New Year’s resolutions, but for an addict in recovery, the idea of resolving to do something and then sticking to it carries even greater significance.
The perceived stress of New Year’s expectations is an illusion. We live day by day, enjoying the success of each moment. The turn of the year merely gives us an opportunity to continue on the right path. It provides us a new chance to bring joyful tears and welcome smiles to the faces of our loved ones as we repair relationships and make amends.
Now that the New Year is here, it’s time to chart the course that will take us through a successful year in recovery and personal growth. Let’s take a look at how to do just that.
How to Stay on Track in the New Year
It’s easy to say to ourselves that we’re going to do something. Most of us were used to a life that included a lot of talk with little action. The real work begins when we actively set plans into motion in order to reach our goals.
Research has shown that only 8 percent of those who make a New Year’s resolution stick to it. As recovering addicts, we know that the stakes are higher for us.
Here are some methods to help ensure successful New Year’s resolutions:
- Short term goals. Reaching for the moon is one of the biggest mistakes people make in setting New Year’s resolutions. Rather than saying “I will be sober all year” try saying “I will be sober today.” When we reach goals, we give ourselves a psychological boost. Setting that mental payoff a year out does nothing for us now.
- The journey. We’ve all heard it before; it’s about the journey and not the destination. The fact that it’s a cliché makes it no less true for the recovering addict. Part of the journey is realizing our short-term goals. Again, we should set ourselves up to be rewarded for today’s success, not tomorrow’s.
- The buddy system. One of the best ways to stay on the right path in recovery is to utilize the help of a buddy. We were never good at holding ourselves accountable for our actions, so finding a sober friend who we can talk and share goals with greatly increases the chances of success.
- The reassessment. It’s important to schedule times to reassess our progress. We may have discovered that certain things work and certain things don’t. Pausing for reflection allows us to choose what we need to build upon and what should be discarded.
Perhaps the most important aspect of staying on track is not giving up. No one is perfect. We will all make mistakes from time to time and miss our personal deadlines. This doesn’t mean it’s time to throw in the towel and give up on everything.
If everything were easy, we’d have everything finished by now. We can’t let small slip-ups distract us from the bigger goals. It should always be two steps forward, even if there was one step back.
Part of creating and meeting goals is determining what area of our lives we intend to improve. Let’s examine a few ways we can ring in the New Year with positive personal growth and continued sobriety.
Being spiritual isn’t the same as being religious. Of course, there is nothing wrong with being religious, but spirituality is more about the connection that we have with our inner selves, the power of our own energy and our connection with a higher power.
Here are some ways to ensure spiritual growth is part of your 2015 plan:
- Pray or meditate. Whether we believe in God or not, a simple prayer or meditation is more about a closer connection to our own mind. Closing our eyes and giving grace to the joy of recovery as we start our day is extremely powerful and motivating. Meditation and breathing exercises help to calm a mind that may often feel restless.
- Self-reflect. There is a big difference between regression and reflection. When we calmly reflect upon ourselves, we focus our thoughts on what is going on within us. We should dedicate at least 10 to 20 minutes every day to exploring our inner selves. While one can do this through prayer or meditation, it could also be accomplished through journaling or self-talk.
- Give back. There is nothing more rewarding than giving joy to others. Of course, spending time volunteering for a food pantry or local charity is great, but if time or resources are limited, there are other ways to show appreciation. Even a few simple words of kindness or acknowledgement can brighten someone’s day, and therefore is a form of giving back. However we do it, generosity in our actions and behaviors only serves to further our spiritual growth.
A large part of setting ourselves up for proper spiritual growth and success in recovery is ensuring our environment supports such things. Making sure our environment is conducive to staying on track can be accomplished in simple and inexpensive ways.
Since cave people drew on rock walls and made beds of leaves, humans have had an innate desire to ensure a comfortable environment for themselves and their loved ones. Today, we too spend a lot of time in one place, whether sleeping or awake. Is our personal space taking proper care of our daily physical and emotional needs?
Consider the following when evaluating your environment:
- Pets. Though not every situation supports having a pet, the comfort of an animal can offer excellent emotional support to the recovering addict. Taking care of a pet adds to our sense of responsibility and gives us a sense of pride.
- Plants. When pets aren’t an option, why not a plant? Whether big or small, a plant in your personal space not only creates better air quality, but it nurtures your spiritual self as well. The new growth of a plant can be just as comforting as the growth of a pet.
- Pampering. We spent enough time pampering our addictions; it’s time to now pamper our sobriety. How well we sleep, eat and present ourselves suddenly take center stage once the true nature of our potential shifts back into focus. Take some time to enjoy a new pillow, pair of shoes or hot fudge sundae on a warm summer day.
A change in our environment is a positive change as long as it assists in maintaining recovery and emotional growth. Of course, our environment includes more than a pet, plant or pillow. Our lives were once filled with people who weren’t exactly helping us start every new year on the right track. How might we go about finding those who will?
Maintaining a network of friends who assist in our recovery is just as important as properly aligning our spirit and environment. With a new year comes a new set of friendships, or people who empower us and help us progress to the next level in our sobriety.
How do we go out there and find these people when past social skills included drug use? Luckily, it isn’t as daunting as it seems. Here are a few suggestions:
- Find hobbies. The best way to meet like-minded people is to indulge in healthy activities. Whether it be a sport, scrapbooking or a pottery lesson, finding a healthy outlet for our energy is a great way to develop natural talents and make new friends.
- Get local. Engaging in healthy activities within the local area is more than an educational experience. It also provides us with previously unknown ways to spend our time. As addicts, we may not have paid much attention to the history of our surroundings. Our local environment can represent a true discovery within our recovery.
- Experience the outdoors. It can’t be said enough how much Mother Nature can heal the soul. The first thing our addiction compelled us to do was hole ourselves up behind a closed door. The light of the outside world is both soothing and necessary. Whether it be a hike, bike ride, or walk in the woods, getting out is an incredibly therapeutic way to help ourselves stay on track in the New Year.
Perhaps the most intimate social circle of all is that of our close friends and family. Mending our spirit, improving our environment and replacing our social circle may seem like a cake-walk compared to apologizing to those we’ve harmed in the course of our addiction.
Fortunately, with the proper assistance and careful consideration, that too can be successfully accomplished.
How to Apologize and Make Amends
Many addicts and alcoholics who have used the twelve steps to maintain recovery will tell you that step nine is the most difficult. Making direct amends to those who may have been harmed in the course of our addiction is not easy, but it is incredibly rewarding.
As one user said in a recovery blog:
“It’s hard to make amends, especially when you’re not sure how someone is going to respond. But once you make it, once you make it right, to the best of your ability, you’re free. You’re not carrying around a debt. You don’t have it on your conscience. You can forgive yourself. The slate is clean.”
Some say that making amends and apologizing are two different things. While this is true, it doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive. In fact, a meaningful apology is part of making amends. Indeed, it’s usually the first step in that process.
There are two excellent reasons why a sincere apology should kick start making amends:
- It demonstrates remorse over our actions.
- It acknowledges that those actions have hurt the person we are making amends to.
As an addict, the last thing on our minds was how we may have hurt others. Now that we are making amends, it must be one of the first things on our minds.
While we make amends, it’s important to show that we fully understand the hurt we caused and express our regret for it, and regret isn’t a bad thing. Regret doesn’t have to be a blow to our ego. Acknowledging our mistakes and expressing genuine regret is a form of personal growth.
If at first we are concerned that the words may not come out right, writing down what we want to say will help. Obviously, we don’t want to sound mechanical or rehearsed, but making amends is a difficult thing. Our loved ones will understand if we need to write a few things down to get our thoughts in order.
In fact, writing things down is going to be a huge part of the process, and it is the first step in plotting our strategy:
- Make a list. The first step in making amends is determining who we need to make amends to. Ensuring we know who we wronged – and what we did wrong – will help as we evaluate how to go about it. We may have harmed some more than others, so we must be discerning in our approach.
- Make no excuses. It’s also important to remember that making excuses for past behavior is not part of the amends process. When offering apologies or making amends, we may be tempted to explain our actions. When we make an excuse for what we have done, we are merely shifting the blame and not truly acknowledging our actions. We must take full responsibility and not allow excuses to cloud our relationship repair work.
- Make no demands. Gathering the courage to approach someone is something to be proud of. If people don’t immediately forgive us, the last thing we should do is demand forgiveness. Respond graciously and avoid aggression or self-righteousness when coping with the reactions to your apologies. We can only hope that when the time comes, those who we ask forgiveness of will eventually forgive us. Expressing your remorse and the act of apologizing are your responsibilities, but you do not have control over whether or not your apologies are accepted.
- Make the commitment. Part of making amends is showing that we are committed to not repeating the destructive action or behavior. This is what helps to rebuild trust.
The relationships with the people we interact with the most must be properly nurtured. Here are some things to consider as we set out to rebuild healthy relationships with those we love:
- Be sincere. Sincerity in our actions is the most important part in making amends. Intent and attitude are methods of nonverbal communication that will clearly display the sincerity of our remorse. Apologies that are given as obligations or forced gestures come off as empty and meaningless.
- Be mindful. In some cases, we must be careful to consider the circumstances before making direct amends. If the mistakes we made in our addiction include extremely sensitive matters, we must be cognizant of that as we determine the best way to approach a loved one.
- Be realistic. To be realistic is to understand that the harm we have done to those closest to us may vary. Not everyone will respond the same way, nor will we respond the same way to everyone. It is important not to delude ourselves with unreal expectations or opportunistic motives.
- Be patient. Ensuring we have patience throughout the process is a part of recovery. That patience should be extended to those who we love. We can’t expect instant forgiveness. If we have done great harm to someone, he or she may not be ready to immediately forgive. The best thing we can do in those situations is to stay on the right track. Over time, our success in recovery will erode the foundation of their anger or disappointment.
- Be forgiving. There are two sides to forgiveness. Part of our addiction included allowing resentment to fester within ourselves. Whether or not we had proper cause to develop that resentment isn’t as important as dispelling it. We too must forgive those who forgive us, whether we feel they deserve it or not.
As author Sara Paddison once said:
“Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations… don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time.”
Loading our lives up with expectations is never helpful, whether we are making amends or simply living a normal, sober life. Too many expectations increases the chances of disappointment if we fail to meet them. Once we have started making amends, we must let go and let the process play itself out.
Planning our path through the New Year need not be a stressful endeavor. We have the tools we need to ensure 2015 is a fun, sober, and motivational year – one that is full of new beginnings and joyful moments. If you or someone you love needs assistance in making sure the New Year is one to be proud of, contact 12 Keys Rehab today.