How to Overcome the Shared Challenge of New Year’s Resolutions and Recovery

Every year around this time we see a lot written about the reason(s) it is difficult for people to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. Individuals considering recovery and/or who are in recovery have reasons why they either do not start or do not remain in recovery. What many people do not realize is how their thoughts are interfering with their progress towards achieving their goals.

Our behaviors are the result of our thoughts. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” If you only think about reasons you won’t be successful and/or if you only focus on times in the past when you didn’t achieve your goals it would not be surprising if you felt discouraged and/or, unwittingly, sabotaged your progress. Counterproductive thoughts have the power to prevent you from accomplishing your best intentions.

Some examples of counterproductive thoughts are “I never finish what I start”, “I have never stayed in recovery so what makes me think I can do it now”, “I have never accomplished my New Year’s resolutions so I probably will not be able to remain in recovery, so I am not going to start”. Some examples of productive thoughts are “I have finished some of the things I have started in the past”, I have accomplished some of my past New Year’s resolutions so I should be able to remain in recovery”.

Rather than thinking about the times you did not achieve your recovery goal(s) focusing on what you want to accomplish and identifying small steps that will help you maintain your progress is the strategy that will give you the best chance of initiating and maintaining your momentum. Your first step might be to decrease your substance use and/or counterproductive behavior (e.g., gambling) rather than planning to do it all at one time. Or your first step might be to attend self-help meetings (e.g., A.A, N.A, G.A., Smart Recovery). Attempting to make too big of a change at one time can interfere with ongoing progress.

Believing in yourself, having productive thoughts, using helpful strategies, and implementing small steps to accomplish your overall goal will give you the best chance to maintain your momentum towards achieving them. Remember to be patient with yourself because it usually takes some time to change our behaviors. It is also important to keep in mind that not maintaining perfect forward momentum does not translate into failure. Rather it is an experience that you can learn from and use to continue progressing towards accomplishing your overall goal.

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Alan Simberg 08 15 Revised

Alan Simberg Ph.D.

Alan Simberg, Ph.D. has been trained as a Life Mastery Consultant through Mary Morrissey’s Life Mastery Institute. He is certified in Applied Clinical Nutrition and is also a certified NET (Neuro Emotional Technique) practitioner. This background in combination with his being trained and licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist and Chemical Dependency Counselor and his 50 plus years of clinical experience have provided him with a wealth of knowledge and understanding.