Ask most people and they’ll tell you that New Year’s resolutions aren’t worth talking about. It’s almost a cliché that they’re bound to fall away. Nonetheless, gyms are packed every January. Shelters and charities overflow with volunteers. People clearly believe in the power of a new year. Which is why many alcoholics decide to get sober on January 1st.
The problem is that, by February, gyms are back to normal capacity. Shelters are looking for new volunteers and funding. After the initial burst of inspiration, people return to their old habits. If you made a New Year’s resolution to get sober, you may be wondering if it’s worth the bother.
Personally, I hold two seemingly conflicting beliefs:
Your New Year’s resolution won’t get you sober
Your New Year’s resolution is an excellent start
Here’s my reasoning.
Sobriety is maintenance
Any recovering addict knows that inspiration can only get you so far. You might feel pumped to get sober in the new year, but that sense of inspiration won’t last. It may take hours, days, or weeks, but eventually the urge to drink will overpower your weakening resolve.
This is because sobriety relies on maintenance, and maintenance is neither exciting nor inspirational. In rehab, recovering addicts learn to do the work day in and day out to stay sober. They grow their sobriety muscles by slogging, learning how to maintain those muscles even when they don’t see the point.
New Year’s resolutions work for January because they’re exciting. Once that excitement wears off, you’ll require incredible resolve to keep going. Even if you make it through without suffering from terrible withdrawals, the cravings will eventually bring you right back down to earth.
So why do I believe New Year’s resolutions are an excellent idea?
Just for today
One of the fundamental principles of recovery, no matter which program you follow, is that you need to take recovery one day at a time. You do it “just for today” – a mantra espoused by but not unique to the 12 Step Fellowship.
In this spirit, a New Year’s resolution to get sober is a good idea because every day of sobriety matters on that day. Even if you are going to relapse tomorrow, today can be meaningful. What happens afterwards doesn’t negate that. In the fresh light of a new year, you may be inspired towards a truly fulfilling day or two.
But even beyond “today,” New Year’s resolutions can be helpful. If you use the inspiration of the start of the year to commit to a program or enter rehab, you will have the opportunity to learn how to get and stay sober. January’s resolve alone won’t get you through, but it can begin your process of recovery. Eventually, a whole new set of tools will be keeping you going, rather than just the power of your will.
New Year’s resolutions cannot magically get you sober, but this is the perfect time to begin your journey!