If you had a great year in 2014 – experienced real breakthroughs in therapy and recovery, connected with positive people, and made progress on goals that are important to you – congratulations! You’re about to make 2015 even better. If 2014 was a horrible year for you – you relapsed repeatedly, you hit rock bottom, and you lost people you love dearly – don’t spend another minute in the past. The new year starts right now for you, and you have the power to make it everything you want it to be.
What is going to make 2015 different from 2014? Intentionality. Being aware of the choices you are making as you’re making them, trying to think through the consequences of your actions before you make a move, and not only noticing where you are mentally and emotionally but also honoring that in how you decide to proceed.
Being intentional is what is going to make this year more fluid, more memorable, and give you access to the best possible version of you – starting now.
What are a couple of big things that you would like to see change in your recovery and in your life in the year 2015? Since we’re starting big, these can be very general, like:
- I would like to improve my relationship with my children/spouse/other family members or friends.
- I would like to find a new job.
- I would like to lose weight this year.
- I would like to learn something new. (e.g., photography, Portuguese, car mechanics, etc.)
These goals can also be specific to your recovery, like:
- I would like to start volunteering more at 12-step meetings.
- I would like to start a new kind of therapy.
- I would like to focus on working on a specific issue from my past.
- I would like to go to family counseling with (someone specific).
What kind of life do you envision yourself living by the end of the year, and how is that different from how you are living today?
It’s great to be excited about change, but you’ll be more effective in accomplishing what you want to do if you narrow down the list of things you’d like to accomplish this year and then place them in order of priority.
For example, working on your family relationships or addressing a traumatic event from your past will take priority over almost everything else. These changes will impact you positively on several levels and improve your ability to be stronger in your recovery and a more balanced person overall. The more balanced your moods, the higher your energy, the better you will be able to focus on other areas of your life, and the more likely it is that you will be successful in all your endeavors. You can be intentional in how you move forward in these areas by:
- Discussing the option of therapy with the friend or family member with whom you would like to go to treatment, if applicable
- Finding the right therapist – not just any therapist, but interviewing different therapists to determine which one would be the best fit
- Working with your therapist to create a treatment plan so you can determine how much of your schedule you will need to devote to this endeavor
- Journaling your way through from the beginning to help you identify areas that need greater attention and the progress that you’re making
Physical health-related goals are important as well and should take priority. If you envision yourself as a nonsmoker, for example, that alone can create great improvements in your quality of life and should be at the top of your priority list. The better your overall health, the better your mood, and the better able you will be to avoid relapse. You can be intentional in these long-term goals just as if they were mental health goals by meeting with a doctor, creating a treatment plan, and journaling about your progress. Our Buffalo, NY drug and alcohol treatment resources are there to help.
Create a Plan
For all the changes that you envision for yourself in 2015, you will need to create a specific and actionable plan. A written plan helps you to be intentional in your choices and focused in how you spend your time. You can look back on what you’ve done and, if it’s not working, make changes, and if it is working, you can see your progress.
Let’s say, for example, that your goal for 2015 is to be more intentional with your money. This is a great goal for people in recovery because it is easy to see progress and there are actionable steps you can take. However, because “being more intentional with money” is a vague goal, you will want to start by making it specific. If you have debt, your first goal may be to pay that down. If you don’t have debt, you may want to start saving for something specific like retirement, a big trip, or a car. Once you identify more specific mini goals, you can create a specific plan, like:
- Track expenses for 30 days.
- Create a budget based on the information.
- If you are living beyond your means or if there is not enough of your income left over each month to make progress on your goals, decide what can be cut from the budget (e.g., cable, magazine subscriptions, eating out, etc.).
- If you need to pay off debt first, make a list of all the debts you owe from smallest to largest.
- Adjust the budget so you are making all your minimum payments and then assign all of your “extra” money to paying off the smallest debt bill.
- When that bill is paid off, take the amount of its minimum payment plus any extra money you have each month and put that toward paying down the next largest debt. Continue to do this until all debts are paid off.
- When all debt is paid off, start an emergency fund.
- When you have enough money to cover your expenses for three to six months in the event that you lose your job or experience a financial emergency, adjust your budget to start saving regularly for retirement and any other big savings goals you have.
Each step is specific and actionable. You can chart your progress along the way in any number of creative ways to keep you motivated. By the end of the year, it will be very clear to you how much debt you’ve paid off or how much you’ve saved by being intentional with how you use your money.
Intentionality Every Day
Not sure you want to make any big goals for the new year? Not a problem. You can still improve your life in 2015 by being intentional every day. Be intentional about what you eat and whom you spend time with. Actively listen to the people you interact with, spend quality time with your loved ones, and give your best effort to even the most mundane tasks at work or at home.
Every choice you make impacts your experience. If you are more intentional with your life, you are more in control of your impulses and will better be able to manage any urges to relapse that you may experience in the new year.