According to current research, up to fifty percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, although the success rate for keeping them declines progressively over the next few months. Resolutions are especially problematic for people new in (or needing) addiction recovery, as addiction by its very nature defies strategies of commitment, willpower or self-determination. Complicating matters further, when in the grip of addiction, it’s incredibly difficult to modify secondary behaviors like smoking, poor eating habits, and failing to exercise don’t avail themselves to improvement while the primary challenge is just coping.
A lot of addicts will periodically try to fix their lives, hoping that a few patches will magically transform everything, or at least make things bearable, without meeting the problem of addiction head-on. Resolutions other people take on, like paying attention to diet and exercise, quitting smoking, or saving money, become—for addicts—desperate attempts to set their lives straight. In recovery circles, this is referred to as “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
The fact is, most addicts will not be able to change their behavior without help. A resolution to stop shooting heroin, smoking meth or swallowing pain meds will only last until the discomfort begins. Then the motivation behind the resolution simply fades in the presence of an obsession to use.
According to the American Psychological Association, overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions can result in increased stress as people start to slide back throughout the year. The recommendation is to make realistic goals with a clear idea on how to attain and maintain them. For example, saying “I’m going to stop using drugs this year” is not only overly ambitious; it’s clearly a postponement of something that should happen right away.
Here’s a simple analogy: You can’t stop getting wet while you’re outside in the rain. No commitment or self-promise or monumental effort will help you. You can, however, simply step indoors, and as long as you stay there, you won’t get rained on. Addiction is like being outdoors in the rain. Any time the desire to use pops up—like a spring-loaded switch that you haven’t got a handle on—you’re going to get and stay high. Step into recovery and the switch stays in the “off” position as long as you do the things consistent with sobriety. A resolution to take these actions, starting with treatment, offers the best chance for you to beat addiction and become open to the possibility of improvements in all other areas of your life, one goal at a time.