Five New Years Resolutions for Early Recovery
New Year’s resolutions can be tricky.
Yes, we want to grow. Of course we do! Why else would we be on the recovery path if not to better ourselves and our lives? We want to grow, and yet, sometimes making a list of all the things we should be doing better can turn into a form of self-aggression, especially in early addiction recovery. The temptation to make a huge list of all the ways in which we should be different is usually a set-up for failure. Addiction Recovery needs to be manageable, and we need to give ourselves credit for the huge amount of growth we are doing, whether it is noticeable to the outside world or not. So when it comes to New Years resolutions, it’s ok to start small (or pass up the ritual entirely if it doesn’t call to you). Early recovery from addiction is already a full-time job! Making a very short list that stops and starts at “go to treatment” and/or “stay sober” is more than enough!
Behind the allure of New Year’s resolutions is the desire to reinvent ourselves. While some believe that addiction recovery is all about reinvention, I would like to challenge you to relate to it a different way. One of the cornerstones of our philosophy at Flatirons Recovery is a Buddhist principle called “Basic Goodness.” Possessing basic goodness as humans means we are already innately, unchangeably good, whole, and sane. Our struggles and suffering may cloud our connection to ourselves in this way, but they don’t change it. True recovery therefore is not a reinvention of yourself. You don’t need to be reinvented! It is instead an uncovering and reconnecting to your true self.
If making New Year’s Resolutions is something that is meaningful and helpful to you in your addiction recovery process, here are a few ideas that focus on reconnection to your best self and best life. They are not about changing yourself. Rather, they intend to offer guidance in rediscovering what is already deep within you. They are about coming home to the amazing person you already are.
Start each day with an intention.
An intention is different from a goal. We set a goal to do something. Intentions are not so much about doing, but are rather about being. How do you want to be different? How would you like to feel at the end of the day? How will the world look differently to you if you are deeply satisfied?
Each morning, consider taking a moment to set an intention for your day. This aligns you with your power and helps connect to purpose. Note that an intention may be highly personal—a change only you can see.
For example, if yesterday didn’t go so well, you could say “I intend to allow the disappointment I feel to flow through me in its natural course,” or “I intend to catch myself wallowing on yesterday’s disappointments, and remind myself that today is a new day.”
If you are hoping to feel more present, some intentions may be, “I intend to pause in gratitude and appreciate the people and circumstances around me,” or “I intend to be fully honest with my emotions today, whatever they may be, and refrain from trying to change them.”
Revisit your intention throughout the day, continuing to align yourself to it.
Get to know what joy and serenity feel like in your body.
If you’ve been introduced to mindfulness, you have most likely been asked to notice and make friends with difficult experiences, such as anxiety, grief, shame, or fear. This is hugely helpful in recovery and in life in general. But while you’re doing all that hard work facing your demons, don’t forget to direct that mindfulness that you’ve worked so hard on towards the good feelings as well. You’ve earned it!
There are times in both our work and in our relationships when it feels as though we are kicking against the current, and other times when we enjoy riding the waves. Take note of the moments you are truly enjoying what you do—whether it is in your career, in a conversation, exercise, even mundane tasks such as cleaning and cooking—look for those moments when your effort somehow paradoxically feels effortless. When you find yourself energized rather than depleted.
Pay attention to what this feels like in your body. Do you feel a fullness in your chest? A sense of weightlessness? Make friends with these sensations, and let them help to be your compass, alerting you to your alignment with your own happiness.
Absorb something inspiring each day.
In the midst of hard work and struggle, take the time to open yourself to the inspiring life swirling about and enjoy soaking it in. Some days, this could mean reading a poem or admiring a work of art. Others, it could include noticing something you love about someone or even closing your eyes and enjoying your favorite song to the fullest.
There will be times when you feel exhausted, closed off, and only able to open your windows to the world the slightest crack. On these days, your inspiration may come from a short walk, where you notice one beautiful thing, perhaps a bird’s stamina to survive the snow, or the empathetic gaze of a stranger walking by. It may come from within—a simple acknowledgement of the strength it has taken you to get through this day. Believe that you, too, are inspiring.
Make a bucket list, even if it’s for another chapter of your life, somewhere down the road.
Adventures large and small are like yoga for your conception of what is possible in this precious life. When you expand your comfort zone, you are stretching the limits of what your life can be.
Consider adding adventures of all sizes to this list, from visiting Patagonia to ice skating for the first time in your adult life.
What are things you have always wanted to do in your town? How about in the state? The country? And even abroad? It’s ok to plan big and let your imagination run wild. It is also ok if you don’t get to many of the things on your list. The point is that you are dreaming up all that is possible. You are opening to the reality that there is an infinity of experiences that the next year can hold.
Just as it is important to soak in the world around you, it is just as vital to give of yourself. One of the most profound ways to share yourself is to create—to express an outward manifestation of what is inside that passionate soul of yours.
Look for ways to be creative in your work and in your relationships. Do something at the suggestion of your inner child. Journal your experience or photograph bites and pieces of your journey. Try a new form of art if you have the time and energy: painting, poetry, woodworking, dance… whatever you’ve always been curious about.
Create anything, even if it is only five words, scribbled into your notebook. Cook a meal. Write a thoughtful letter to a friend. Create connection through a deep conversation. Incorporate some decorative accents to your home. Add some little bit of yourself to the world each day, the beautiful, sober you who may just be emerging from years of dormancy.
Here’s to a wonderful, fresh 2021!