Many aspire, few attain – but it’s never too late to change
Most people give up their new year’s resolution within the first month of the year. This is not a surprise for us in 2022, given the rocky start we’ve had and how painfully similar to our last two years it has been. Life is already full of surprises even without a pandemic.
As good as our intentions may be, our goals and resolutions can turn against us if we align them too close to our own self-worth. Unfortunately failure and relapse are often viewed as negative. And when our first attempt to make positive change in our life is met with a defeat, our tendencies are often to give in to alcohol and give up our goals completely.
Before throwing in the towel to sobriety, why not give your goals a second chance? Perhaps changing your mindset on failure and relapses, or coming up with new strategies and learning to forgive yourself, will help you get back on track.
Changing your perspective on failure
According to Amy C. Edmondson at Harvard Business Review on Strategies for learning from failures, from a young age, we are conditioned to believe that admitting failure means to take the blame. Amy believes that the link between fail and fault is closely related in most business and culture. Of course a project failure and a relapse are two different things. We could see, however, that the mindset of seeing failure and dealing with our slip-ups are similar, when it comes to changing our relationship with alcohol.
Certain words can have a stigma around them and ‘fail’ is no doubt one of them. It might take a while for our society and culture to shift their negative projection around failure, but we can start viewing it as it is: a learning curve.
Make good use of our learning curve
As uncomfortable as it is, revisiting our relapses can give us a lot of insight around our drinking habits that we would overlook if we hadn’t experienced the slip-up. So take some time to revisit your journey so far, even if it was only a few sober days in a row. Write down things that work and don’t work. Where possible, doing it with someone with whom you feel safe, and trust, could help give a fair perspective in both giving honest feedback on areas to improve and in exposing some unhelpful self-critics.
Let’s get back into the saddle
Once reflection on recent lapses is done, you can now move towards getting back on track with your New Year’s resolutions. Here are some ways to get back up and running again:
- Acknowledge that changing is hard Any type of change towards a positive shift is difficult. To borrow Fauja Singh’s quote: ‘Anything worth doing is going to be difficult’. Take a deep breath and acknowledge the difficulties that come with changing, but also commend yourself for taking a brave step into a healthier lifestyle. If you find quitting drinking is challenging, you are not alone. Join a sobriety group on Facebook or an anonymous platform such as our Daybreak app.
- Revisit your commitment and resolution It’s time to be honest with your own resolution. Reassess your commitment and your readiness to change, is your goal unrealistic? Is the time frame reasonable? Some helpful approaches for re-setting goals are: S.M.A.R.T (to keep you accountable), Reach goal (goal that moves and motivates you) and H.A.R.D goal (mindset focus)
- Dedicate time Most goals fail because there is not enough time dedicated to them. Set up a schedule to do whatever is needed in making sure your goal is on track – whether taking some time to plan the weekends without alcohol, journaling progresses and key learnings, researching for replacement behaviours or simply celebrating little wins.
- Be prepared for what you will lose along the way When you decide to give up alcohol, there will be experiences and connections you will miss out on as a result of that – like the annual wine tasting trip traditions with friends, or the invites to check out the latest hip underground clubs and bars. When these are expected and you come to terms with it, the loss – although it is still hard, won’t catch you by surprise. After you’ve considered the cost and made peace, shift your focus toward what you will gain from changing your relationship with alcohol. Read more about sitting with the grief of change.
- Be patient with yourself Osher Günsberg reflected on his sobriety journey, ‘I haven’t had a drink since March, 14th 2010. And this is what I would tell anybody; it truly, really is: a day at a time. Sometimes, half a day at a time. Sometimes, an hour at a time, and sometimes, five minutes at a time.’ Changing your relationship with alcohol will take time, but you are making the right steps already. Be patient with your progress.
- Plan for a rainy day Here is where you can apply those key learnings from setbacks. Understanding your weaknesses through the recent relapse and applying the learnings will help you prepare for some difficult days ahead.
‘Today is not over yet ’ – Alexandra Franzen
No matter how bad or messy the start is, it’s never too late to change how the rest of our day will be like. What we love about this quote by Alexandra Franzen is that it works for any time of the day. Whether it is 10 am or at 11.59 pm, today is not over and it’s not too late to make that change.
And this year is certainly far from over!
At Hello Sunday morning, we recognise there are many layers of complexity when it comes to alcohol dependency. If you have been drinking alcohol heavily for a long period of time, you should contact your GP to speak about your plan to quit drinking. You should also seek immediate medical attention if you are already experiencing any of the following symptoms.