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Happy New Year!

Well, it is that time of year again.  Time to make promises or commitments to ourselves and others about changes that we wish to carry out in the coming year.  We have all made these resolutions, haven't we?  Unfortunately most of the time we fall far short of our goals, and may even end up in worse shape than when we started.  Worse?  How?

This is a common experience that many of us have.  We make a plan or commitment, stumble, and then engage in a harsh internal criticism of ourselves.  This is something experienced by many addicts and alcoholics trying to stay clean and sober.  Let's say that a person has a goal of sobriety, has been going to AA and making changes in his life, and has been sober for some number of weeks.  Somehow he ends up in a bar (usually from some sort of relapse trigger...and we'll talk more about this later), and perhaps during his 3rd or 4th drink he realizes what he is doing.  What are the options at this point?

Too often the alcoholic will begin to beat himself up, telling himself he has once again failed, will always fail, and might as well drink himself into oblivion.  This negative attitude is quite self-destructive.  The other option is this: acknowledge the mistake, see this event as an isolated stumble in the process of recovery, and learn from it.  This approach is much more positive, making an effort to understand how this "slip" happened and stop it from turning into a full blown relapse.

In my practice, I try to look at a relapase as an opportunity for learning.  Although the goal for a person struggling with addiction is total abstinance on a daily basis, a relapse can be a postive thing IF it leads to growth in recovery.  As long as one can honestly examine what happens and take responsibility for needed changes, good things happen.  So what about New Year's resolutions?

Change is an ongoing process, it occurs over time, and often progesses in an uneven fashion.  We need to set reasonable goals (hmmm...goal setting...sounds like a topic for another post!) and make daily effort.  If your resolution starts to slip away, reflect on whether or not you are committed to this change.  If you are, restart immediately!  Declare a fresh 'new year' even if it is the third week in January.  Don't be afraid to reset and begin again.  Hopefully a resolution or commitment to change is worth  making that daily effort, even if you hit the occasional 'speed bump'.

Have a great New Year and thanks for reading.

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