Many of us take an inventory of our lives at the year’s end and consider changes we want to make in the new year.
Many of us in addiction recovery have already received the “gift of desperation.” Maybe your addiction forced you to make some big changes in the past. Or maybe 2021 is the year that you start your path towards recovery.
Whether you are new to recovery or an old-timer, it’s never a bad thing to take an inventory. What will make your recovery stronger in 2021? What habits aren’t serving you any longer?
We’ve put together five steps for your 2021 “resolutions.”
1. Start with the good stuff. List 10 achievements
Before tackling areas for improvement, start with your victories. What did you accomplish this past year? Are you currently sober? Are you working towards sobriety? Have you mended some damaged relationships? What areas of your life are going well?
Even if it seems small and insignificant, write it down. Make a list of everything that brought you pride in 2019. Perhaps you went to treatment for the first time or decided to take the leap in the new year. Maybe you found a new group of sober friends. Or maybe you reconnected with family members hurt by addiction. This is your list, so celebrate what you consider victories.
If you received a promotion, made some new friends, started therapy, asked for help with your depression, forced yourself to get out and have some fun — all of these count as victories. Write down at least 10 victories before moving to the next step.
2. Write down your stressors
Make a list of the top five stressors impacting your life right now. Put them in order of importance. If your health is your biggest stress, put this one at the top.
We all know stress jeopardizes our sobriety and serenity. Get honest about what stressors are influencing your sobriety right now.
Are your finances in disorder? Do you want to get healthy? Are you working too much? Eating too much? Spending too much time on the Internet?
Get honest without beating yourself over the head. When you start to feel discouraged, go back to your victories as a reminder that you are not a failure just because there are some changes you’d like to make.
3. Go over the list of stressors and try to envision making positive change
For example, if you’d like to lose 20 pounds this year, close your eyes and imagine how you want to achieve this goal. Do you see yourself at a gym? Running? Taking a yoga class? What solution brings you joy?
Write down what you envision. Be specific. If you can’t come up with anything, don’t worry. Maybe your stressor is a difficult workplace. Don’t force it. Instead, just try to imagine yourself sitting at a desk and feeling content. Write down any clues you may receive about rectifying this pressure. It could be as simple as bringing flowers to place on your desk each week, or as difficult as having that tough conversation with your boss.
If your top stressors are related to your addiction, reach out for help before going any further. Serious, potentially life-threatening stressors like addiction and substance use disorders require serious attention. Call addiction recovery professionals like those at Into Action Recovery Centers 24/7 to get support for your situation.
4. Pick your top stressor and share with a trusted friend, therapist, doctor, sponsor, or family member
If you know someone who has tackled this problem themselves, all the better. Take a risk and ask how they made changes. Together, come up with three small actions you can take each week. If you’d like to lose 20 pounds but haven’t exercised in years, then a doctor’s appointment is a great first step.
Don’t make more than three actions to start. Keep it simple. Create three manageable actions so you can build your victories. A walk around the block three times in one week may be a good starting point for you. Whatever works in your life is fine. Get calm and really consider what small step you can manage to complete. It can be as small as, ‘I will put on my sneakers and walk to the mailbox.”
For more inspiration, read this Mayo Clinic article from October 2019, titled, “Change an unhealthy habit? Yes, you can! Here’s how.”
5. Build in accountability
Each action, no matter how small, needs accountability. For instance, if your top stressor is a job you don’t like, reach out to someone who is fulfilled in their job. After you’ve accomplished a few actions on your list, commit to texting, calling, or emailing this person with an update.
You know yourself better than anyone. If you worry you won’t follow through, build in some safeguards. Maybe you need to update your resume for the new year. In that case, ask a friend to sit with you while you open your computer and spend five minutes on your resume. If your goal is uncluttering your closet, find a close friend who will sit nearby and read a magazine while you work. Consider what you need to be successful, then put it in place.
Once you have your actions and accountability partners in place, set a target for one week at a time. Track three actions per week. With each new week, come up with three more actions. If you miss an action, it’s not the end of the world. Stop and think about why this one didn’t work. Was the action unrealistic? Do you need to find a new accountability partner?
This year, get clear about your changes, enlist support, and do what works for you to make 2021 a terrific year for positive life changes.