The Resolution

A FEW WORDS ABOUT NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FROM RECOVERY UNPLUGGED NATIONAL OUTREACH MANAGER BLAKE COHEN. 

Have you ever wondered what percentage of New Year’s resolutions are actually realized? Now, I’m no scientist, but I’d bet my left pinky-toe that the ratio of pledged to accomplished resolutions is quite low.

According to my friends at Google, the term “resolution” is defined as the firm decision to do or not do something; yet there is very little firmness in most people’s decision when creating a New Year’s resolution. If anything, we should change the phrase to ‘New Year’s wishful thinking with little chance of follow-through.’

Now, I don’t mean to sound cynical or negative about people wanting to change their lives, and I understand the concept of using the New Year as a great jumping-off point for a fresh start. You’re probably also saying to yourself “why does he even care if people follow through with their resolutions or not?” Typically, I don’t. It makes no difference to me that you decided to sign up for 14 personal training sessions and never use them, or if you’ve purchased an organizer that is still empty one year later and has only added to the clutter.

The reason I, personally, care about the topic of resolutions is because my job revolves around those plagued with the deadly disease of addiction. A disease where procrastination, denial, and rationalization dance together like the Berlin Ballet to form a beautifully orchestrated tragic drama.

Procrastination, denial, and rationalization…the same three reasons that New Year’s resolutions usually fail.

“I missed my workouts this week so next week will be the perfect time to start my new routine.”

“My system for finding things was actually better when my desk was a mess. Cleaning it up was a mistake.”

“I was less angry and irritable when I was a smoker and my job requires me to be cheerful. I’ll just smoke one a day and I’ll be able to control it.”

The Firm Decision to Quit

The first day of 2019 has now come and gone. Thousands of people struggling with substance use disorder (SUD), just a few days ago, made the promise to themselves or their loved ones that it was time to quit poisoning themselves. January 1st was the goal start-date. It was to be their New Year’s resolution and they were doing it for their family, their job, their health, or all three.

The good news is that some people are doing well with these resolutions. The bad news, as we mentioned earlier, most resolutions don’t work out. Before you jump down my throat, I recognize that there are always exceptions to the rules which can be considered outliers in this case. My sober date is New Year’s Eve. I am not an exception to the rule, though. There was no resolution made by me. I never exclaimed that I’d be making such a change for the New Year. That is my date because that was the day my family held an intervention for me and after realizing the devastating effect I was having on my loved ones, I made the firm decision to quit.

Whatever it Takes

Any firm decision to do anything is typically triggered by pain and turmoil, and then must be followed by consistent  effort. The decision to stop using drugs and alcohol, for any SUD survivor, is simply not enough. A major lifestyle change must occur to succeed in this venture, just as the decision to lose weight or save money. You can’t just say “I’m going to lose 60 lbs” and then your spare tire just vanishes, as if Thanos snapped his fingers again. It takes vigorous exercise and massive diet changes to attain that goal.

Once my decision was made, the story of my recovery began with 90 days of intensive inpatient treatment followed by a full year of continued therapy, as well as continued community support group meetings for an indefinite amount of time–the decision was followed with vigorous action.

I have no doubt that people have great intentions when making their New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure they want to be skinnier, smoke-free, or more organized; but their actions rarely match their desires. A New Year’s resolution is typically just spoken words to appease the tradition of bringing in the New Year with a positive thought and wiping the slate clean; it’s an ideal.

My suggestion, if you are currently in the grips of an addiction of any sort, is to forget about New Year’s Day. Forget about wiping the slate clean with the rest of the world on that day. Any of the 365 days in 2019 are the perfect day for a new, healthier, sober version of yourself. You just have to recognize the reality of your situation; understand the effort it’s going to take and then act on it.

The journey toward recovery will not be easy; in fact, it will be one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do to. It will take time, tears, and trust. Trust that the results will be beautiful and that the pain you are experiencing now doesn’t have to last forever. Your loved ones can be part of your life and you can be part of theirs. You can travel without worrying about where your next fix will come from. You can chase your passions. You can get the job you’ve always wanted, the partner you’ve been longing for, and live the life you’ve always wanted. You can find the real you.

So now ask yourself: when you say you want to stop, are you making a New Year’s resolution or the firm decision to change?