This time of year is all about change, a fresh start, setting goals, and the big word: resolutions. It makes sense that for some of us, this would be a time where we are thinking about making changes of some sort with our use of substances. The problem can come when, much like with other resolutions we try to make, we get very all or nothing with our thinking, set goals that are too big and broad, and bottom line, set goals that just aren’t realistic. Think about some of the statements we make around our new year related goals. We say things like, “New year, new me”, “I’m going to crush my goals this year”, and make big, broad goals like “I want to lose weight”, “I never want to drink again”. Anyone else notice how “hardcore” and almost violent our expressions around working towards our new year goals (and goals in general) tend to be?
How likely is accomplishing any substance use related goal (our any other goal we may have going into the new year), going to be if we look at it with this hardcore I’ve got to do it all right now, or work towards goals that aren’t even clearly defined? Not very. We may last a little while, but are we likely to go into the following year feeling like we have truly accomplished the goals we’ve set? Probably not. In fact, ask most people what the resolutions for last year were and I’m will to bet many of them couldn’t even tell you.
So what does this mean for us? What if we want to use this time of year to set some goals that we really can be successful in accomplishing? It helps to make sure the goals we set are clear, specific, measurable, and realistic. Say we want to cut down on our alcohol use, instead of “I’m not going to drink as much” maybe our goal looks more like “I’m going to allow myself three drinks per week”. This gives us clarity around what exactly we want to accomplish, what success would look like, and hopefully, feels like something we can realistically see ourselves accomplishing.