Six Resolutions for a Clean Start to the New Decade
by Joel Lewin
You want to stay clean in 2020? Here are some resolutions that can help that happen.
Addiction damages most of our close relationships. But most of all it mangles our relationship with ourselves. Getting to know ourselves once more can be a baffling and challenging experience. Journaling can catalyse the process.
Writing can help to unravel our tangled thoughts, yielding clarity and insight into ourselves and the world around us. It can help us get in touch with our feelings, facilitating the processing of those waves of emotions that come up when they are no longer chemically repressed. It can help us get a better perspective on things, fostering resilience.
There are also some surprising physical health benefits of journaling. Studies have shown that it can improve the functioning of the liver and the immune system, as well as lowering blood pressure.
Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation
Metta meditation involves generating a feeling of warmth and friendliness towards ourselves and others, typically using visualisation and mantras such as “May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be free from suffering.”
When we practice cultivating this feeling of compassion and friendliness during meditation, it becomes easier to tap into it throughout the day. Self-love may be rather unfamiliar to addicts, who have spent years mired in self-loathing. It can be a transformative, liberating experience.
Metta is a powerful antidote for a slew of negative mind states, such as resentment, anxiety and depression.
Research has shown that metta meditation fosters positive emotions, which in turn yield an abundance of psychological and physical health benefits, including diminished stress, decreased illness symptoms, greater purpose in life and stronger social support networks.
A gratitude list doesn’t take long but it can have an outsize impact on your life. It’s a healthy way of procuring a hit of dopamine. Gratitude feels good, and as such it sparks the release of dopamine. This motivates us to keep pursuing it; in other words, the practice of gratitude trains our mind to focus on things to be grateful for. It’s a powerful feedback loop that initiates a spiral of well-being.
Some other unexpected benefits of gratitude:
Reduced anxiety and depression
In the morning, before bed, or even both, write in a note book a list of things you’re grateful for that day.
Try something new
When you stop using you find yourself with spare time and cash that were previously being burnt. Make it work for you. Do something with it. We didn’t get clean to be bored and miserable. But we may well be if we don’t get creative. Try something new. Resuscitate a childhood dream. Revive a dormant passion. Shed the shackles of self-doubt. Pick up a paintbrush. Jump out of a plane. Go to a salsa class. Don’t let your outdated ideas of what you can and can’t do restrain you.
Connect with nature
In active addiction we don’t tend to gravitate to beautiful places. And even if, for some reason, we do end up somewhere pleasant, we rarely appreciate it in its fullness.
But sober eyes see with intensity, if you let them. I’ve heard people say sobriety is one of the trippiest experiences they’ve had. Take your new eyes for a spin. Try them out somewhere lovely. Spend some time connecting with nature. The setting need not be uniquely spectacular. Just take the time to appreciate it deeply. Research has shown that spending time in natural environments nurtures psychological and physical well-being in a variety of ways.
Emerging from addiction it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have nothing to offer. In reality you certainly do. At the very least, your experience of addiction can be an asset that can help others. Make use of it. Get a service position at a recovery meeting. Sponsor someone. Giving back works wonders for your self-esteem and it embeds you more deeply into the recovery community. You could even train as a SMART Recovery facilitator and start up a meeting.
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