New Year’s resolutions — we love to hate them or hate to love them. Either way, most of us understand that the best intentions don’t always survive far into the new year; a totally unscientific assumption would be more than three-fourths of all New Year’s resolutions are defeated or forgotten by the time February rolls around.
So, how can we help? There is no universal solution to the habit of breaking habits – which defines most New Year’s resolutions – but maybe one of these hints will hit home. If they work, it could be a game changer.
Don’t quit on quitting
Many of the New Year’s resolutions we make sound pretty easy, but fall into the distinct category of ‘easy to say, not so easy to implement.’ In that case, give yourself a break. If you relapse, remember that you’re not alone and you shouldn’t quit on breaking a bad habit just because you’ve had a slip. Instead of being hard on yourself, remind yourself that each attempt to quit is part of a learning curve, rather than a sign that you can’t succeed.
Don’t just rush in
If it’s five minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s probably not a good idea to blurt out in front of all our friends that you’ve decided – in your inebriated state – to lose 40 pounds or learn to speak Icelandic next year.
On the other hand, while if you suddenly arrive at the conclusion that you actually need to get a new job in the next year, you might really be onto something. Your subconscious may be trying to reach the surface and maybe plant the seed for an actual goal for yourself.
The big decisions
If you find that it’s been 365 days since you last decided to quit drinking and you’ve made that same resolution year after year, then you might want to take it one step further and actually seek out professional help. Alcohol treatment centers can certainly provide you with a clinical assessment of your drinking habits and make recommendations.
You might want to step up your approach to quitting cigarettes, too. Maybe this is the 10th time you’ve vowed on New Year’s Eve never to smoke again – and you have this thought while lighting up another butt. It might be time to resolve not to quit but to actually see a doctor and find a solution before it’s too late.
Have a plan
Many New Year’s resolutions are spur of the moment, which is precisely why they fail. Losing weight or just getting in shape usually requires a plan, not just good intentions. Quitting smoking is very possible, but only a few smokers quit by just throwing their cigarettes away and going at it cold turkey. And how many vowing to lose weight end up regaining those pounds after their diet is over?
There are some products (tobacco and some drugs) that lend themselves well to the concept of weaning yourself gradually from using them. But quitting other items, like alcohol and some other hard drugs, doesn’t work that way because your addiction threshold is too low. If it just requires one small drink for you to get into a hellbent drinking binge, then weaning yourself from alcohol won’t be possible. You have to re-assess ideas like non-alcoholic beer, too, because sometimes drinking something that’s almost what you really crave just increases the craving, rather than mitigating it.
The hidden land mine
So you’ve decided to quit drinking or taking drugs and, lo and behold, you rely simply on willpower and it works! Your friends and family members are quick to congratulate you on your amazing decision and your success.
But you leave it right there and don’t seek counseling; this is the hidden danger of quitting. Some fall into the trap called being a “dry drunk.” In that case, all your unfortunate personality issues don’t change. You remain angry, moody, volatile, demanding, depressed or whatever it was that you were trying to medicate with your using drugs or alcohol. The beast within has not been treated, even if you have succeeded in not using that substance anymore.
The other danger is the one in which, gliding along in your sobriety, you find yourself several years down the road, toying with, then slipping into, a completely new addiction. Untreated alcoholics who quit on their own suddenly find themselves addicted to painkillers or the other way around. Untreated drug users find themselves drinking heavily. Do you really want to trade in one addiction for another or do you want to change your life for the better? If so, don’t neglect the therapy part of the equation. It’s one thing to be sober and another to be actually rid of those inner demons.