What Did You Learn?

What Did You Learn?

A new year is dawning! People around the globe are writing down their resolutions or goals for the year of 2022 in order to make it the best year yet. Goals to work out more, spend more time with family, do more, see more, and be more. These goals can see insurmountable at first, idealistic, which makes it both easier and harder to loose traction, especially over the length of the entire year. This isn’t a fault in the motivation or inspiration, but rather, the goal was too large.

Break It Down!

Goals for managing your addiction can see unachievable and difficult at first, so you need to break it down in achievable baby steps—as with anything. If you want to run a marathon by summertime, you can’t just start running 13 miles the first day of January! You need to break it down over a longer period of time. Maybe January first, you will run a mile and repeat this three days a week for the two few weeks until you increase it to two. By the time February rolls around, say you’re doing 3 miles! While you are not up to 13, you are a lot closer than what you started with and that is PROGRESS! Similarly, learning and managing your addiction is the same way. It takes a lot of time (more than 30 days!) and effort from both the individual and their support system in order to successful tackle one’s addiction. And even then, there are set backs—but minor setbacks (or relapses) should not get in the way of one’s PROGRESS. If you are running 3 miles and you stumble halfway through, it does not negate the 1.5 miles you have already ran. It just means you need to catch your breath and keep moving forward.

The term “relapse” implies a negative connotation that essential means one has reverted back to the original state or starting line—to individuals, it feels like we have failed or ruined all our progress. This can lead to the abstinence violation effect, where a person feels that they have completely ruined all their progress so they might as well go overboard. We see this a lot in the dieting world. Have you ever decided to abstain from chocolate or coffee or carbs? What happens when you cheat on your diet and eat chocolate? You may be inclined to just indulge in the entire Oreo package or chocolate ice cream tub instead of a single spoonful because you already broke your streak of abstinence. It is easy to feel this way. A minor setback or “relapse” can make you feel like a failure or incapable of getting back on track, but you can. If you do stumble, ask the important question: what did you learn? What did you learn from stumbling? Did something/someone/some situation trip you up? Did you learn a new strategy to help you get back on your feet? Focus on what is ahead of you rather than what is behind you. Dwelling on the negative feelings of guilt, remorse, and depression can further activate the “addiction loop” and keep you in the cycle of use. To prevent this, just keep moving forward and do your standard routine tasks (make your bed, do push ups, write in your journal, go to work, etc.) and ask: what did I learn?

End Goals Can Differentiate

The end goals of managing an addiction can look different from one another too. One’s goal may be to be completely abstinent from alcohol or a particular drug. Other’s may just want to decrease frequency of use or have the control to quit using once they have gotten started. While it is important to have a goal in mind, it is even more important to keep moving FORWARD. Also, goals can change. Maybe you start out believing that by the end of treatment, you never want to touch alcohol again, and over the course of learning about yourself, you find out that is not your ultimate goal. One size shoe does not fit all.

So What Should My New Year’s Resolution Be?

Set goals that are short, attainable and lead to a long-term, larger goal. If you fall down, keep moving forward and learn from your past mistakes and behavior. Relish in the progress that you have made so far on your path to becoming healthy. The path to stability is not linear!


Encyclopedia.com. (2022, January 3). .” encyclopedia of drugs, alcohol, and addictive behavior. . encyclopedia.com. 28 Dec. 2021 . Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/abstinence-violation-effect-ave

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