The holidays can bring up lots of old stuff for people in recovery. Not only does it mean being in close quarters with family, friends, and loved ones multiple times before the year is over, but it also means trying to pretend things are okay for the sake of ‘holding it together.’ For some people in recovery, that is too tall an order to request because of their history with addiction. For everyone involved, it strained relationships and put pressure on them to come around the person with addiction while, perhaps, forsaking their own self-care. In recovery, it helps to think about some things that will bring more peace, lower anxiety, and help create more holiday cheer as the new year closes down.
No Rush to Resolution
Friends and family may put pressure on people in recovery to make resolutions. This means putting something on paper, creating action statements, maybe even doing goal setting with a recovery coach, therapist, or other sobriety support people. Resolutions are good, to some extent, but are not the bigger picture for people in recovery. Many people fail to follow through on their resolutions the first month, let alone three to six months in. Resolutions can bring more anxiety than peace, especially for people already struggling with anxious thoughts and feelings. Many people spend hours every day thinking about how they feel, how they should feel, what they should be doing, and how to do better at recovery. Picking apart every inadequacy is no way to build up a positive mindset in recovery. Don’t give in to the panic-laden last-minute attempt to make resolutions. Work hard at writing down goals, but remember it only works one day at a time. Every day is one day sober or clean but there are days ahead that will get more challenging. Life has a way of testing people, so be prepared to be thrown off course and organize some goals that are measurable and conceivable for this season of life but allow breathing room, as well.
Let Go of the Past
New Year’s is the time everyone reflects back to look ahead. For people in recovery, that can take them down a long, winding road. Analyzing the past can be difficult to do because so much of it can trigger memories of drug use, being with people who used drugs, trauma, conflict, and negative influences. There may be happy memories in there, too, but going back too far can trigger a relapse if it sends a person down the rabbit hole. One of the more dangerous things is to look at shortcomings and forget to think about all the ways recovery has rebuilt that person’s life to where it is now. To find more peace, it helps to focus on the here and now. Don’t dwell on past mistakes, look ahead to what can be done to make amends, apologize, make good on promises, and step forward with positive momentum by walking the walk every day.
Change is Good
It may be hard to think of change as being positive because it seems so much shifted to land a person in recovery right now. Uncertainty can either drive worry and anxiety or a person can choose to make peace with it. The knowledge things will change and get better really helps. When things change, it takes a long time to adjust. A New Year is a guarantee something will shift. Regardless of the situation, change causes anxiety. Don’t fear too much, just let go. Let change happen as it happens and do smaller things first. Don’t leap too far ahead of the capacity to make changes early on. Make those goals but remember to set smaller goals first and continue striving towards bigger change down the road.
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the New Year. Kick it off in style but remember there are good things on the horizon. The new year can be hard for people in recovery, especially partnered with anxiety or mood disorders. A qualified mental health and addiction specialist can be of great support while moving ahead in recovery. Whether it is medication, changes to medication, changes to the diet that impact mood, or other things, it helps to evaluate everything in light of healing and growth in recovery. Don’t get stuck in a negative mindset. Focus on what is positive and it will feel like a fun endeavor as opposed to a stressful experience. Anxiety is not just a mindset, it is a mood disorder that should be taken seriously. Finding the right support and mental health team will create space to heal and find hope for meeting recovery goals in the future.
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