Why do we put so much pressure on the New Year ahead of us? It’s just another day, so what’s up with the lofty goals and expectations we put on January 1st every year? Throughout my 20s and into my 30s, every New Year’s, I would proclaim, “This is going to be the year…my year!” Forget about last year—all the mistakes and misery, self-destruction, chaos, drama and self-will run riot. Come January 1st, my life was going to turn around!
It was a running joke with my friends. My “New Year, New Me” Pinterest boards knew exactly what life was supposed to be like for me in the coming year. A new year was sure to change me. That’s what a new year is all about, right? Well, that didn’t work out for me so well. I didn’t lose weight. I didn’t get my dream job, or my dream boyfriend. I didn’t take that class to learn to sew or learn a different language. I didn’t volunteer at the local animal shelter. I didn’t start practicing yoga, start juicing or eating clean. I didn’t find a new outlook on life, and I most certainly did not stop drinking. Why, you ask? Because I was never willing to make changes or actually put in the work that was needed to make the changes.
I was under the impression that January 1st had some sort of special and magical power—like it was the only day of the year that could provide me with new hopes, new dreams, a new outlook and new and endless possibilities. Guess what, guys? That’s complete and utter bullshit.
I would set goals and make resolutions, only to be disappointed when I would soon break them. And well, if I broke one resolution, I might as well break them all. If I’m not going to practice yoga, there is no need to eat clean or juice green, right? That is really how my mind worked. So, year after year of broken resolutions and unfulfilled goals, I finally gave up making them entirely. Still, I continued to believe that the universe would have mercy on me and eventually give me a good year. How could my years possibly get any worse?
I was convinced that 2012 was going to be my year. But it didn’t start out that way. No, in fact, it started out as the worst year of my life. I lost my younger brother in April of that year. He was 29 years old and addicted to prescription opiates. His death gave me every reason I had ever wanted to drink like I wanted to. And so I did. For 49 days around the clock, I drank with no apologies.
I was doing exactly what the Serenity Prayer tells us not to do. I had accepted things that I could change and was trying like hell to change those that I had no control over.
On June 11, 2012, I woke up with a willingness to make a change that I had been missing at the start of every New Year. As soon as I told my parents I needed to go to rehab, it was a like a New Year’s celebration in my head. I mean, not really—there was no toasting of champagne glasses or confetti being tossed, but I had a feeling of hope and possibility that my future was going to get better. I had relief from admitting I needed help similar to the ease and comfort I would always feel with the first drink. For that day, I stayed sober—and for the past 935 days I have remained that way.
Looking back, it is clear to see that my New Year’s resolutions and goals failed because I always looked at them in terms of forever. Forever is impossible to me. Forever is overwhelming and daunting and of course I am going to disappoint myself with expectations of forever. But what I could wrap my head around was doing something for just today. The One Day at a Time idea is an attractive and manageable concept. It’s a tool that I use on a daily basis in my recovery and with anything else that seems overwhelming to think of in terms of forever (which is pretty much anything).
I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of girl, and today, I give it my all for 24 hours—not forever. I gave up artificial sweeteners this past April (my addiction to Diet Coke), which is something I would have usually saved for a New Year’s resolution, but today I can say “Nope, not today” and then I will deal with tomorrow when it arrives. Plus, when you set your goal for 24 hours, you end up accomplishing a lot.
January 1st is a great day to make a change, but so are the other 364 days of the year. You don’t need a new year; you just need a new day. And it’s really all we have. So, pick a day, any day; give it all you got for 24 hours, and then do it again the next day. I think you will be pretty pleased when you look back in a year and see how far you have come.
And Happy New Year—all 365 days of them!