For many, the new year is a time to start fresh and develop healthy habits. Countless people are kicking off 2021 with a New Year’s resolution of getting sober and beginning the road to recovery. One of the healthiest things a person can do is free themselves from the grips of addiction. It can improve nearly every aspect of your life by boosting your health, enriching your relationships and providing you with a new sense of meaning and purpose.

While the new year can be an exciting and motivating time to begin recovery, it’s important to recognize that recovery isn’t just a one-time decision. According to the American Psychological Association, making big, life-changing resolutions without planning realistic ways to achieve them could set you up for failure. You may become stressed or discouraged if you find yourself straying from your goal, leading you to give up on it altogether eventually. This might be relatively harmless when it comes to goals like going to more concerts or eating less sugar, but the stakes of addressing addiction are much higher.

Because your well-being — and perhaps even your life — depends on it, staying in recovery is just as important as deciding to stop abusing drugs or alcohol. However, maintaining recovery isn’t always easy.

Here are six essential tips that can help you keep your New Year’s resolution to remain in recovery:

1. Take It One Day at a Time

Simply deciding that you’re going to commit to sobriety once isn’t enough. If you truly want to make a lasting change in your life and abstain from substances, you have to recommit to recovery every day. Focusing on staying sober for a single day instead of for the entire year (and beyond) can make your goal seem less daunting. Sobriety isn’t a sweeping decision — it’s a daily choice.

Don’t take life too seriously & live in the present! – Megan Powell, Community Outreach Associate, The Recovery Village Columbus

You can’t change your past, and you can’t yet create change in the future — the present moment is the only thing you truly have control over. Wake up every morning and reaffirm that you want to live a better, healthier life without alcohol or drugs, just for today. Before you know it, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you’ve made as all of your “todays” add up.

2. Find Activities You Enjoy

If you’ve been using drugs or alcohol for a long time, it’s likely that many of your relationships and hobbies involve them. Because of this, choosing to remain in recovery also means fundamentally changing the way you think about and spend your free time.

Though the idea of ending toxic friendships and finding new hobbies can seem unnerving, it opens up the potential for incredible personal growth and fulfillment. Now that you’re not using drugs and alcohol, you have more time to explore untapped passions and rewarding hobbies. Ever wanted to paint? Try it. Always been curious about rock climbing? Do it! Recovery is easier when you’re replacing your former, damaging habits with healthy and fulfilling ones. Participating in these new activities can also connect you with new friends who will support your choice to recover.

I’ve been creative throughout my journey and tapping into my inner child. I turned my whole backyard into a tropical oasis. – Heather Ann Adams, Community Outreach Coordinator, The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health

Related: Creative Ways to Help Families Heal Through Recovery (Webinar)

3. Make Time for Yourself

The hustle and bustle of daily life can be overwhelming. Between completing work duties, fostering friendships and raising a family, it can feel like there isn’t any time left over to focus on your own needs. When you add AA or NA meetings, support groups and therapy into the mix, it’s easy to become stressed, exhausted and unable to appreciate any progress you’re making in your newfound recovery. The added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t make it easier. When you feel discouraged, you may be tempted to turn back to old habits.

To avoid these feelings, it’s vital to block out at least a little bit of time every day just for you. During these designated times, reflect on how you’re feeling. Take a moment to be grateful for the good things you’ve done during the day or over the past week. Meditating, journaling or practicing yoga can help calm your mind and set the stage for rejuvenating moments of reflection. Whether it’s five minutes or two hours, taking time for yourself to rest and relax is enormously healing.

4. Forgive Yourself for Slipping Up

The worst thing you can do when you stumble is to let it break you down and allow yourself to give up altogether. A lapse in judgment is no reason to give up entirely ⁠— instead, you can use these moments as a way to learn and grow. Recognizing the mistake, addressing it head-on and forgiving yourself for allowing it to happen are critical steps in moving past speed bumps in your resolution.

Regardless of whether you’re in active recovery or not, coping with new changes isn’t always easy. We all stumble, but it’s important to prevent these obstacles from putting us back into the same old habits. How you choose to react the first time you stumble in your resolution can help you come back from a New Year’s resolution setback. When you can forgive yourself for a mistake, you help ensure that you stay committed and continue changing your life for the better.

Related: Relapse Does Not Mean Failure

5. Attend Local NA or AA Meetings

The first days after you stop using drugs or alcohol are likely some of the hardest you’ll experience. During this trying time, having a support system of people who understand what you’re going through can make the difference between sobriety and relapse. Thousands of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings are held every day in most cities across the country and online during the pandemic. At these meetings, you’ll find resources to lean on, people who understand your struggle and a method of recovery that has worked for countless men and women. The supportive nature of these groups is proven to help provide a powerful basis for lifelong recovery.

A big part of my story early on and still today is sponsorship and 12-step meetings. – Erick Giunta, Community Outreach Coordinator, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper

6. Enroll in a Treatment Program

While some can abstain from drugs and alcohol solely with NA or AA, professional rehabilitation is an essential part of many people’s path to recovery. Without treatment, it can be easy to fall back into old habits. In some cases, ending substance use can even be life-threatening. If you’ve been using drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, you’ll likely experience withdrawal symptoms once you make the decision to get sober. These symptoms can range from uncomfortable to deadly. Even if you’re able to overcome these symptoms safely and successfully, it can be difficult to stay committed to recovery without learning necessary coping skills from a qualified professional.

During professional treatment at a center like The Recovery Village, you’ll undergo a full continuum of care that allows you to work through the beginning challenges of sobriety. Medical supervision during detox helps ensure you withdraw safely, while evidence-based care provides insight into the roots of your addiction. Support groups and individualized therapy can help you foster the coping skills you need to make recovery a lasting lifestyle.

Recovery can be challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. If you’re considering starting the new year with the resolution to stop using drugs and alcohol once and for all, do it with support systems that set you up for success. With innovative therapies, healing amenities and individualized care plans, we can help you overcome addiction and start 2021 right. Contact us today to learn more about treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

More tips shared in our Recovery Panel, where our staff share their stories about addiction, recovery and handling day-to-day life in the midst of a pandemic.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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