We have entered not only a new year but an entirely new decade. Naturally, when we enter January each year, we begin to reflect on the past year and how we want this next year to be different. For us in recovery, it usually is a good experience. Whether you are new in recovery and survived your first ‘hurricane season’ (Thanksgiving/Xmas/NYE) or have been sober for years, you can appreciate the fact that you are still sober. If you’re finding yourself unhappy with your 2019, it’s now the perfect time to start over. We are our own harshest critics in recovery. Before anyone criticizes us we are the first to criticize ourselves.
So when we start dressing ourselves down we have two options, we can either do something about it or pity ourselves. Pity has never done anything redeeming for anybody. Since it’s the new year, let’s talk about resolutions that are beneficial for those in recovery, new or long time.
Before we go over suggestions on what to change, here are some key principles to successfully fulfilling these resolutions:
- Make them realistic
- Talk about it with friends and family, let them hold you accountable
- Don’t beat yourself up if you fall short, try harder the next day
- Work on one thing at a time
- Just do your best
If you’re anything like me, you think about yourself a lot. I spend a lot of my day worrying about everything in my life, most of those things trivial and don’t have enough concern for others. It’s a trait of being afflicted with addiction, we are inherently self-centered.
Volunteer work is an incredible experience to behold. Working with the homeless, helping at a charity for a disease or cancer, or even just helping out a senior citizen at a retirement home. All of these things can put things in perspective, undeniably. Watching others realities and seeing how graceful they handle it when things are not going well always lifts me off my feet. It makes you realize worrying about every fine detail of your sober life is really unnecessary.
If you’re thinking you aren’t sure where there are volunteer opportunities by you, I assure you there are. There are great resources available that can link you up with those looking for help in a variety of ways. In my experience, I would sign up to volunteer for something and be excited about it, then the day would come and I honestly would be thinking I’d rather not do it, again, selfishness. Once I would arrive though, that emotion vanished and i’d always have an extremely fulfilling and terrific experience.
If you want something more recovery-related, look up local inpatient treatment centers and inquire about going in to help with a group and share your story or see if you can meet with new-comers who want to sit down and talk.
There is always an opportunity out there.
Exercise and Nutrition
This is always a common one come January. Ever been to a gym in January? It is packed. With good reason, treating your body better has an incredible impact on your mental health and happiness. For us in recovery, studies have proven that regular exercise and eating well, significantly reduces your risk of relapse. It makes perfect sense, exercise produces endorphins that naturally make you feel better, when we feel good we aren’t sitting down and thinking of substances that can make us feel better.
Where to start though? I found it is best to first focus on eating better before we hit the gym. There are tons of different healthy eating lifestyles out there, I don’t like the word diet because you want a permanent change, not a gimmick that will help you lose weight quickly. Do some research and try different ways of eating. Between your eating habits, what you like and what you respond well to, you will find something. Everybody reacts to methods of eating very differently, find what works for you.
Are you intimidated by the gym? That’s perfectly okay, I was too. Before I started going back to the gym I simply would walk a few miles every day outdoors. It was amazing to me how much just walking really improved my mood and elevated the rest of my day.
Some benefits to eating well and exercise include:
- Better sleep
- Stress relief
- Weight loss
- Stable energy
- Improvement in mood
- A sharper mind
Relationships are a huge part of recovery from drugs and alcohol. The biggest mistake I made for years was that I tried to get sober alone. I was told to meet people and form new friendships and I wanted no part of it. I would only stay sober for maybe a couple of months until heading back out into the wild.
The best gift I have received in recovery are fulfilling new relationships. I am only here nearly 5 years sober because of the friendships I have built and who I surround myself with. If you are new in recovery or have been around for years, there is always a way to build stronger and new relationships. Are there people you used to be close with who you haven’t reached out to in a while? Reach out to them, arrange a day with them, just call them and ask how they have been. Is there a newcomer you see at meetings recently who seems to be isolating himself? Stretch out your hand and welcome them, have a conversation with him/her and see where it goes.
Perhaps you want to get closer to your family members. Many of us had severely strained family relations when entering recovery and it is very possible some of those relationships with family members are still weak. Now that you have your integrity reach out to them and talk about life, yours and theirs. You can never have enough strong relationships.
Keep It Simple
The running theme in all of these resolutions are that they are simple but extremely necessary needs for a good life. Building a solid infrastructure out of taking care of yourself, relationships and helping others will allow you to expand your life and do things you never thought possible. In recovery, we want to become a complete person with a fulfilling life. Focusing on the aforementioned areas will leave you looking back at 2020 with a feeling of success.