By Ken Wells - 01/08/2021


New Year’s Eve is infamous for announcing New Years’ resolutions. This tradition goes all the way back to the Babylonians some 4000 years ago when they first began celebrating a New Year. Traditionally, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a time for thinking about one’s past mistakes and resolving to do and be better in the future. Many scoff at the idea of turning over a new leaf at the end of the year and determining to do things differently. My suspicion is that this triggered response is due to the experience that before the month of January is over, most resolutions have been broken and long forgotten. Yet, most people who make long-term life-affirming changes broke their resolution in the early stages many times. Failure is not a reason to give up on resolving to make constructive change. New Year’s Eve is a great time to consider transformative change from addictive behavior. Consider the following changes:

1. Reframe your life experience and tell yourself something different.

You do what you do from what you tell yourself about who you are. When told early on, life-long negative messages about who you are stick and decrease the possibility of fulfilling your destiny. The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves. The work is difficult but transforming. Simply commit to consistently telling yourself something different from the mistaken beliefs that have consumed you in the past. Practice interrupting the pattern, by telling yourself something you want and choose to believe about yourself. 

2.  Live within the context of your limits.

If you can’t afford it don’t buy it. If what you are considering doing puts you at high risk to relapse, don’t try to talk yourself into living with high risk. Just don’t do it. Boundaries are to protect you. None of us get to do it all. There are things I can do that you cannot and things you can do that I cannot. The secret to boundaries is to go deep when you cannot go wide. When you live inside your limits you learn that you can go as deep within yourself as you choose to go. Make this year a year that you choose to go deep and live within your limits.  

3. Bring yourself back to center.

Anyone can resolve to be perfect. It’s easy. As soon as you screw up and fail, you don’t have to try to be perfect because it is already impossible. Getting clear about bottom lines and resolute about outer circle behaviors is helpful. Yet, more important is the capacity to bring yourself back to center when you screw up or drift from the intensity and focus of sobriety. A good guide who doesn’t get lost when hiking in the woods is great. However, having a compass and being able to read it is better just in case your good guide has an off day. Let this be the year you practice taking right steps to bring you back to center, overcoming shameful attack in the presence of mistake by doing the next right thing while being gentle with yourself. 

4. Circle back:

This describes a commitment to addressing shortcomings. When you commit to doing something specific in your sobriety program, your personal nutrition or exercise program or in your relationship life, simply commit to circle back and make amends to yourself and others involved. It’s not rocket science and is more valuable than being perfect. The practice of circling back entails owning your misstep, making amends, repositioning your focus, and following through with your desired behavior by doing the next right thing. Addicts who practice circle back are most likely to succeed with New Year’s resolutions in their recovery program. 

5. Struggle for something that is more important than you.

Typically, addicts are self-absorbed. They take up all the space in the room. This can be true even when addicts are in recovery. Shift your focus away from what’s in it for you and determine to build a legacy that those that follow after you can follow and benefit from. Resolve the past trauma that follows you so that those in your legacy can be free of the shame that binds you. 

 A reference attributed to Native American tradition suggests that you must teach your children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers, so that they will respect the land, and tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves.  Determine that your recovery will benefit those who build their lives on the shoulders of your recovery resolution. Happy New Year. 

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