The Year-Round Promise

It seems like every year around this time, people are angling for new beginnings, looking to be reborn and wash themselves clean of their mistakes from the previous year. Something about the New Year gives people the notion that they can just leave it all behind them…and a great many people buy into this notion right alongside them. The problem is that the bigger your mistakes and transgressions are, the harder it is to put them behind you. Sooner or later the hurt feelings, the destroyed relationships and the legal troubles carry over from year to year, no matter how many promises you make to yourself to be a better person.

As someone who has battled alcohol addiction for the better part of a decade, I consider myself more familiar with false starts and failure than your average Joe. I can’t tell you how many times I woke up and told myself I wasn’t going to drink only to order three mimosas (and nothing else)at brunch four hours later. Two divorces, thousands of dollars’ worth of squandered savings and a strained relationship with the rest of my family are all I have to show for the times I tried to quit alcohol for other people. That’s the thing about promises you make to yourself: you have to want to keep them or sooner later they will break.

The last time I entered treatment, I knew I would be saying goodbye to alcohol forever. It wasn’t like my previous attempts, where they were either out of legal obligation or personal obligation to someone else. The whole experience just felt different. I’m not sure if I ever actually hit rock-bottom (I shudder to think what that actually looks like); but I just said enough was enough and it was time to live the rest of my life on my own terms. There were times when I didn’t think could even keep the promise to myself, no matter how bad I wanted to.

After I left treatment, I knew I was (for lack of a better term) a sitting duck. Alcohol was everywhere, just waiting to ensnare me into relapse and send me right back to square one; however, each time I felt vulnerable, I would either contact my sponsor or just remember the lessons that I learned in treatment. I started setting small goals for myself: going an hour, a day, a week without a drink. Eventually whenever I felt the urge to drink, I just told myself that I could do this because I’ve already done it. Once you reconcile that this is a lifelong endeavor and don’t put any unrealistic expectations on yourself, it gets a bit easier.

Three years ago I made my most solemn and profound New Year’s resolution: get addiction help. I’m happy to say that each year’s resolution since has been to maintain my sobriety. I have a built-in resolution and no illusions about the strength it takes to keep it. Happy New Year, everyone. Best of luck to all those people trying to make it in recovery. You can do this.  

Contact the National Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Information Center (NASAIC) anytime toll-free at (800) 784-6776 or through our online form, and we will recommend the leading drug and alcohol rehab centers for you or your loved one.