Should Addiction Recovery be a New Year’s Resolution?

hand holding sparklers
hand holding sparklers - New Year

As 2018 starts, many of us focus on how we want to improve our lives compared to last year. The start of a new year means a fresh start and new opportunities for growth and change in our lives. There’s no shortage of magazine articles and feature stories on news broadcasts and online sharing tips on self-improvement. What if the goal is addiction recovery? Should it be a New Year’s resolution?

New Year, Fresh Start

It’s tempting to tie goal-setting to the start of a new year. The idea of making positive changes that coincide with the turn of the calendar gives us a tangible start date. It also follows the end of a traditional holiday season that is full of the indulgences that people may want to give up as part of their New Year’s resolutions: eating rich foot, spending more money than usual (on gifts, entertaining and travel) and sitting indoors.

We tell ourselves we can enjoy the holidays to the max, knowing that we have a date in the future when we have to start eating healthy, saving money or exercising regularly. Until that point, we feel free to indulge ourselves.

Should Addiction Recovery be a New Year’s Resolution?

If someone you love is living with an addiction, should going to treatment be put off until the New Year? The answer is no, and here are some reasons why.

The Stakes are Much Higher

Addiction is defined as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

“Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.” (American Society of Addiction Medicine)

If someone with a substance abuse problem doesn’t seek help, there is a real possibility they could lose their life. While other New Year’s resolutions may be health-related (lose weight or improve one’s eating habits), the same level of urgency is generally not present. Drug use also carries risks, which means each time someone consumes their drug of choice, they are putting their health (and possibly their life) at risk.

Seeking Addiction Treatment Shouldn’t Link to an Outside Event

The idea of linking going to treatment to a future time or event is a non-productive one. Some people living with an addiction will promise family members or friends that they will seek help when a certain event happens or by a specific date. When that future time comes, they come up with another reason why they can’t go to treatment “right now.”

Most New Year’s Resolutions Aren’t Successful

Most people don’t succeed in keeping their New Year’s resolutions. U.S News reports that about 80 percent of resolutions fail within six weeks.

In order to make a major change in one’s life and stick to it, proper support is necessary. Since addiction is a brain disease, willpower alone will not be enough to help someone successfully move into recovery and learn how to manage cravings. Professional treatment is needed to help an addict develop the tools needed to learn how to live a sober lifestyle.

The Best Time to Enter Treatment is Today

There is no better time for someone with a substance abuse issue to seek help than now. Waiting for them to decide that they feel ready only allows the addiction grow stronger and more challenging to treat. Don’t wait for another New Year’s Day to come along before helping your loved one to get the help they need. English Mountain Recovery offers residential treatment programs to help clients with drug and alcohol addictions.

By Jodee Redmond