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Things That Have Never Been: Setting Goals for Sobriety in the New Year


“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been,” wrote Rainer Maria Rilke.

Soon 2016 it will come to an end, with the calendar flipped to its final weeks.

Whether celebratory or nostalgic, the last days of December are full of reflection. Time—that sneaky, mysterious force—marches on, and we bid adieu to a year that contained within it over five hundred thousand minutes.

Five hundred thousand minutes that will fade, transformed by the reality of right now.

And we ask ourselves, what has this year brought into our lives?

What have those minutes meant to us?

This time of reflection offers the opportunity to reevaluate personal goals in sobriety, or to simply approach previous goals with a fresh outlook and perspective. The holidays may present challenging emotions or associations in early recovery, though the challenging nature of the season also creates renewed possibilities for success.

Particularly in the realm of recovery, one year transitioning into the next is significant. It can mark new milestones, including a sober holiday season. It can also bring painful memories of the past year’s events to the surface.

This emotional series of events leaves us with room to re-center ambitions. While New Year’s Resolutions may seem cheesy or overdone, think of them solely as another opportunity for growth—one that gifts us with the capability to let go of mistakes, and to acknowledge the power we each possess to cultivate positivity, empathy, and forgiveness not only on New Year’s Day—but always.

Read on to discover five approaches to refocus your goals in sobriety for the New Year.

Tips for Goal-Setting in the New Year

1) Break down bigger goals into smaller steps.

Abstract goals can seem daunting before they are broken down. In order to combat this, try separating one large goal into several smaller goals. This can ease the process and make your aspiration—and the path to get there—less overwhelming. For example, cultivating habits of self-care (meditating, writing, exercising) can contribute to a larger goal—remaining accountable for your actions in sobriety.

2) Check in with your progress.

Write down your goals and check in on them often. Through keeping track of our progress in writing, we give ourselves an incredible tool: a living, breathing dialogue with past versions of ourselves and our thoughts in relation to our ambitions.

3) Talk to someone.

The holiday season presents a unique set of stressors, which are often coupled with the emotional complications of spending the holidays away from family or friends. Use this time to rely on your sober supports, including friends in recovery or your therapist.

4) Get specific.

If you have a specific goal in mind, go with it. The more specific you make your goals, the more likely you are to follow through and succeed.

5) Be patient with yourself.

Recovery is full of challenging moments. Remaining patient with yourself is key. Welcome the New Year as one of potential—a book with 365 pages that are yours to illustrate and write. Transformation does not occur overnight—but progress most certainly does.


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