When you leave rehab, there is not magic spell cast upon you that guarantees you a better life. No magic ferry dust is going to swoop down and say, “poof” you are now a sober and functioning member of society. Recovery takes work! When you find sobriety, you have to work to maintain it. Getting yourself off of drugs is not the hardest part of the battle, staying clean and sober is where the real work takes place.
Those of you who have been working the steps and who are staying strong in recovery understand that it takes effort. With the New Year approaching, you need to keep your end goal—a lifetime of sobriety—in perspective. In order to do that, you have to remember the saying, “One day at a time.” Don’t go making lofty resolutions that you are not ready to keep. There are some great New Year’s resolutions that you can make to help you manage and maintain your recovery without setting yourself up for failure. There are four goals you should focus on:
- Staying selfish
- Taking baby steps
- Finding a hobby
- Looking for easy ways to give back
New Year Recovery Goal #1-Stay Selfish
You are probably scratching your head at that goal. Did you just think to yourself, “Wait a second, did you just suggest that I stay selfish?”
Sobriety and recovery are about selfishness—you have to focus on you. As you voyage through the year and you start to let your guard down a bit, you might find yourself compelled to go to a party so that your spouse doesn’t get upset. Or, you may be sick of the guilt trip from the guys about missing happy hour. I am sure you’ve heard, “Just come and have a Coke.” You might feel guilty for missing your child’s baseball game because you have to go to a meeting. Just remember, you have to be selfish when you are in recovery. Until you are 100% secure in your ability to handle yourself in a situation, stay selfish and don’t go.
Keep things in perspective. If you skip a meeting and go to a baseball game, could that lead to missing more baseball games because you relapse? Is your child, spouse, or significant other going to be more upset if you miss an event or relapse? The focus on you is important at first so that you can permanently switch your focus later. So, stay selfish as long as you need to.
New Year Recovery Goal #2-Take Baby Steps
After you’ve been sober for a while, you will feel the need to test your sobriety. This is a great thing; however, don’t go all in. The saying, “Go big or go home,” is the last piece of advice you should listen to. If you do feel the need to test how far you’ve come, start slowly. Go to dinner with someone who will order one glass of wine, don’t go to see a band at the local bar. If you know you have to put yourself in a situation that used to trigger you to use, make sure you do it right before a scheduled meeting so you have somewhere safe to go afterwards.
Eventually, you will develop the skills to cope with all of your triggers, but you don’t have to take them all in at once. To speak metaphorically, put one foot into the cold water and enter slowly. If you dive in and try to get used to the discomfort you are feeling, odds are, you will seek out your old behaviors because they are easier. You are not seeking quick comfort; you want a long term tolerance to the cold.
New Year Recovery Goal #3–Find a Hobby
Boredom for someone in recovery is dangerous! It is important to find a hobby so that you do not get board. Boredom can lead your mind to wonder, which can lead you to seek entertainment in the wrong places.
Finding a hobby is not an easy task. You have to actually find something you enjoy doing; otherwise, the frustration of attending something you dislike may lead you right back to your substance of choice. Finding a hobby requires a commitment. Don’t just find something to do for the sake of doing it; that will not stimulate your mind the way it needs to be stimulated. Find something you enjoy. You should expect to try a few things and not like them. You need to find your niche, and you have to explore options to do that. Remember goal number 1—you are allowed to stay selfish, so if you don’t like something you tried, don’t do it!
New Year Recovery Goal #4-Take Advantage of Easy Ways to Give Back
Giving back is a great recovery goal. You just have to make sure you don’t consume yourself with it at first. Giving back shouldn’t be a stressful chore. If it is, it’s too soon (see goal #1). Find easy ways to give back—ways that are a natural fit in your life. Giving back can be something as simple as sharing your story at a meeting. You never know how some people might relate to what you have to say.
Recovery goals are a great way to start the New Year, just make sure you have manageable goals that set you up for success, not lofty goals that set you up for failure.