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New Year Resolutions and the Twelve Step

New Year Resolutions can be risky for those recovering from addiction.

At this time of year everyone thinks about making New Year Resolutions. We plan new starts, fresh beginnings, it’s “out with the old and in with the new!” Gym membership numbers increase, smokers reach for the nicotine patches and diet classes are packed after New Year.

But what of those struggling with addiction, do they really see the New Year as a good time to make resolutions?

For some people, it seems a natural time to make big changes, perhaps cutting down on the drink, or even acknowledging for the first time that they actually have a drink or drugs problem. It can also be a mentally invigorating time for addicts and those families and friends of addicts, with raised expectations about positive changes all round.

However, it is essentially out of step with the Twelve Step philosophy of taking ‘One Day at a Time’.  

Making New Year resolutions and then breaking them is the norm for many people, and they can usually handle the disappointment of not attaining them. However, for those in recovery, expectations which are not met can make them lose confidence, diminish their sense of worth and sometimes bring on depression. All of these can sometimes lead them back to the addiction which they are struggling to get free from.

Many people who make resolutions at New Year will see them crumble like pie crust within a few weeks. We all like to think we can draw a line under the past year and make that fresh, new start but essentially it’s just another day in the calendar. We have to get into the mindset that we can start to make changes any day and that recovery is an ongoing process. You do not want to set yourself up to fail with unattainable New Year Resolutions. No one wants false starts and stops.

That is not to say we should not all strive to do better and be better in many areas of our life, there is always scope for improvement in everyone. It is how we go about it that is crucial. Should you decide to make a New Year Resolution, these are five simple steps that will help in your overall recovery strategy:

  1. Stick to achievable goals, don’t overstretch yourself

  2. Small steps in the right direction will always get you there

  3. Change can be difficult but it is the idea of change that can be more frightening than the change itself

  4. Be patient, Rome was not built in a day

  5. And don’t ever give up on yourself, you’re worth it!

I won’t be making any New Year Resolutions this year. I am happy to try and live each day as best I can with the help of the Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

As regards my diet, that can wait! 

Page published: December 29, 2014. Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked December 29, 2014