Expert advice on how to stick to your Dry January resolution

Whether we’re ready or not, 2021 is here, and for many this represents a clean slate or chance to start afresh after the challenging year that was 2020. With positive intent and unblemished motivation, some of us may be ready to implement self-imposed pledges to better ourselves in some way during the upcoming year. Following a difficult few months of seemingly endless days spent working from home, many are ready to motivate themselves with a more enthusiastic outlook on life this year., a leading provider of alcohol and drug addiction treatment resources found that just under half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to implement positive lifestyle changes. However, with resolutions comes the feeling of temptation that many are familiar with. It can be incredibly hard to stick to these pledges, especially during the first few weeks or months. For example, if you’ve decided to abstain from alcohol as a resolution, sometimes all it takes is a friend or family member drinking in your company for the cravings to set in. Common stressors like a stressful week at work can intensify the craving for alcohol and before you realize it, you may have given into temptation.


Of those who create resolutions, studies indicate that around a quarter (25%) drop them within the very first week. In fact, only about 8% are seen through to completion. While these statistics might feel disheartening at first, there are a number of ways that can help you manage things like cravings, triggers in relation to your goals in a healthy, long-term way.


Set Smaller Goals identifies one of the main pitfalls of failed New Year’s resolutions as individuals setting unrealistic, unachievable personal goals. With the hope of a better year, many tend to go overboard, making exaggerated promises with the desire to turn our lives around. However, it is extremely important to note that setting such high expectations of ourselves can actually backfire as they may require us to stretch beyond our capacity. Instead of aiming to do a complete 180 in terms of your lifestyle, try setting smaller, more pragmatic goals that are within your individual means – both physically and mentally.


Avoid an ‘All or Nothing’ Approach


Another reason behind an inability to commit to long-term resolutions is the ‘all or nothing’ mentality, which can be just as counterproductive as setting unrealistic goals. Many of us are disheartened and abandon hope at the first hint of failure when it comes to our resolutions. That is, rather than seeing a lapse in resolution as a temporary hurdle or setback, many choose to jump ship and forgo the entire goal. For example, you may have given in and had a drink on a whim with a friend, or perhaps you forgot about your resolution. This doesn’t mean that you are unable to renew your commitment to the cause. If you link your self-esteem to the success of your resolution, it leaves little space for when things are thrown a little off course – especially if out of your control. It may be difficult to admit and accept that you have made a mistake, but not impossible to get back on track afterwards.


An Accountability Partner


If you struggle with sticking to your resolutions, it could be helpful to have the help of an accountability partner – a friend or family member who might have goals similar to yours in the upcoming year. Of course, your goals may be individual, but joining forces with another can help in terms of encouragement and accountability should you slip up. For those in recovery, this person may be a sponsor or sober buddy. Having this kind of support structure can be the key to success, especially if you are someone who lives alone and/or is working from home without others around.


Be Mindful of Common Relapse Triggers


If you are on a journey to sobriety, it may also be helpful to equip yourself with knowledge of common relapse triggers in order to try and avoid them and reduce the risk. A trigger frequently discussed in recovery meetings is H.A.L.T, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Experiencing these feelings may leave you craving a drink or substance, therefore, by fulfilling one or more, it may be easier to resist the urge. Stress is another feeling that can greatly influence a craving, which can be helped by mindful meditation or gentle exercise.


The 24-hour Rule


Maybe one day you are feeling particularly vulnerable and staying away from people and things that are closely tied to your addiction is vital. This source could be friends, an ex-partner, someone you’ve drank with, or a specific restaurant where you used to drink. It doesn’t necessarily have to be forever, but staying away from these kinds of triggers can help increase your odds of maintaining sobriety. In fact, the 24-hour rule can be helpful in these instances, which highlights the significance of being concerned with the current 24 hours or day ahead. This one-day-at-a-time technique may help you stay grounded when you are living in the present, rather than worrying about the past or what is to come.


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