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Recovery will always be characterized by ups and downs, but the good news is that the challenges that cause you to stumble will never be as bad as those difficulties that arose in active addiction. Each time you feel the pull of cravings and worry that relapse is around the corner, you have an opportunity to make changes, improve your connection to recovery, and learn how to fend off these cravings in the future.
If you feel that 2017 was particularly hard on your recovery, you can take the time today to do an honest and thorough investigation into what made it challenging, how much you learned, and what you can do in the new year to make 2018 your best year in recovery yet.
1. Give yourself some space, quiet, and time. Block off a half-hour to do nothing but focus on the process of going back over 2017. Turn off your phone, pick up a pen and paper, and give your attention to your project.
2. Make a list of the qualities you developed over the last year. While your first inclination may be to focus on all that went wrong last year, it is important to note that you became stronger in some ways as well. What are your greatest strengths in recovery? How has your ability to be honest, supportive of others, patient, or calm improved since you stopped using substances?
3. Name one thing you accomplished in every area of your life. Were you able to find a safe and sober home last year or move out of a home that was toxic? Were you able to make any positive new friendships or end friendships that were not supportive of your recovery? Did you find a job, pay back a debt, or make a budget last year? If you are having a hard time, find an objective person to help you with this, someone who has been there with you throughout your process of recovery, like a therapist or other substance abuse treatment professional.
4. Make a list of your assets. It is a good idea to continually notice all you have going for you in recovery so you can make good use of these things and practice gratitude as well. Do you have a couple of good friends or a strong support system? Do you have an amazing therapist or life coach to assist you? Note all the things you have to help you as you set a plan to make 2018 a strong year in recovery.
5. Go over 2017 month by month. Was it challenging to stay sober on New Year’s Day last year? Did you struggle with feelings of loneliness on Valentine’s Day? Did summer barbeques make you want to grab a beer? Did the holidays cause stress that triggered cravings for drugs or alcohol? Jot down the different events or situations that made recovery difficult for you last year.
6. Plan 2018 month by month. Go through the months that are coming and compare what happened last year to what you would like to happen this year. If you found Valentine’s Day challenging, make a plan to spend the day with good friends. If summer barbecues were a challenge, devise a way to minimize exposure, bring along a sober friend, or find more sober events to attend. Take each challenge you noted during 2017 and make a plan that ensures its effects will be minimized in the new year.
7. Enlist help. You may determine that some foundational parts of your life contributed significantly to your difficulties in recovery in 2017. If you consider the issue from every angle and come to the conclusion that major change is needed, it can be helpful to reach out for assistance. For example, if you need to change jobs, go back to school, move, or start the divorce process, connect with professionals who apply to your need and make sure you have emotional support in place to do it safely and effectively.
No matter how tough 2017 was for you and your recovery, great progress and change can come out of the most heartrending adversity. To make 2018 the best it can possibly be in recovery, all you have to do is learn from the past to forge a strong path into the future.