At the end of a year, or the beginning of a new one, many of us become reflective. We’ve entered the final seasonal cycle. The holidays, the family, the crowds, and the obligatory gifting has come to an end. We did the best we could! Maybe during the holidays you had a moment of clarity. Maybe you had a moment where you realized the drinking, drug use, or other behavior that brings you comfort was actually out of control. Maybe it’s been out of control for a really long time. Maybe you thought to yourself, WHAT HAPPENED TO ME? HOW IS THIS MY LIFE? Moments like these are frequently followed by a commitment, or re-commitment, to stop engaging in a destructive behavior, a resolution for the new year!
Resolving to Change
For someone dealing with an addiction, making resolutions may be common, but many find it difficult to make good on resolutions to end addictive behaviors. One of the reasons for this could be that the resolution is not being followed by a change in the way they live! Addiction is an all-consuming thing. The substance or behavior hijacks a person’s life, takes center stage, and everything revolves around it’s consumption or acquisition. A person may make a mental resolution to stop drinking, using, or engaging in a behavior, and another year could pass with no change. They might find themselves, a year later, bringing in 2021 with the same resolution they had in 2020. This may sound harsh and bleak, but for many who struggle with an addiction issue, it’s true.
So how does someone change a behavior that is out of control? Reaching out for help is key. Asking a colleague, a social worker, a friend, a family member, or even an employer for help is a great beginning! Asking for help allows an objective party into the situation who may be able to offer a clearer perspective.
Abstaining is Just the Beginning
It might also be beneficial to look at your motivations for trying to live life sober. Many find that the impact an addiction issue is having on their health, finances, family, or legal troubles they are in are primary motivating factors. These can be great motivations initially, but most of the time they are grounded in the fear of losing someone/something, or avoiding the threat of some future situation such as divorce or incarceration. Again, these are great reasons to make a positive change at first, but a lasting lifestyle change is based on fear may not be lasting. What happens when the threat is gone, when the storm passes? Many people find that they are likely to fall back into an old way of living when there is no threat.
If someone is interested in making a longer lasting change, then it is not just about abstaining; it must become about opening ourselves up to discovery and change. It must become about growth. It must become a personal thing that we begin to live, a way of life! Living a sober life is less about quitting old behaviors than it is about beginning new behaviors. It is mostly about what you do, not what you don’t do. It can be a transformative experience. Many who are looking to let go of a substance or behavior find that they finally get to know themselves. For the first time in their lives they may discover who they really are, and what they really want. This is not an uncommon experience. Many of us find that the role we played in the world for so long no longer feels comfortable or genuine.
A Change That Lasts
For the person who wants to start a new way of living, let’s look at one of the key pieces of life that we may not have thought much about, our intentions. For those who want to let go of addiction issues, discovering the intentions we carry into life situations, and trying to change some of the more destructive intentions can make a huge difference in the way they experience life. For example, if we look at everything we do, as an opportunity to contribute, however small the contribution may be, we may feel we are more satisfied with the results. To walk away from a situation feeling more satisfied by seeking to give than looking to get may seem contradictory, but this is what many sober people have found to be true. Looking at our entire life as an act of service may be a bit dramatic, but it’s just an example how reframing the way we perceive the world and our role in it can change the experience we have.
So what can we change in this coming year? Well, we have no ability to change others. An individual can only control what they do. We can change ourselves. The idea of taking contrary action may sound cliche, but it’s kind of true. Consider the actions you took that led to worsening life circumstances. Consider the actions you took once a substance or behavior had its grip on you. What does the opposite of all that look like? This is much easier said than done, but through sustained effort change is definitely possible! If it were easy we would all be effortlessly be living different lives, and the idea of resolving to change would mean little.
For something that is this difficult, help is usually needed. Help can come in the form of a therapist/psychologist, a self help program of some sort, or reaching out to a trusted friend/family member. In some cases an employer could be the best source of assistance. Having someone else involved who is not dealing with active addiction makes a big difference because it brings an objective voice and set of eyes into the situation. Many people have also found that seeking help from a residential treatment center was a life changing experience. This is not usually the thing we want to do, but it may be one of the first actions you take that propels you into a completely new way of living this year.