At the start of every year, I resolve to be a better person than I was the year before. I commit to using New Year’s Day as a type of reset button for my life, and I set out to be healthier and happier. I decide to make good choices and to keep from repeating the bad ones I seemed to make too often the year prior. As determined as I am to make it through the year without failing, life happens.
Life is hard because it never goes the way we plan. Having been in a residential recovery program, I know life there is pretty easy comparatively. Withdrawals are painful and having to dig up trauma is not my idea of fun, but at least it is predictable. Unlike life, it is a controlled environment. But when you get out, you’re back in the real world. Before you know it, the stress builds thanks to responsibilities that must be handled. It’s hard, and some days, it seems nearly impossible. In the past, I’ve slipped up, fallen, and done things I had vowed to never again do. That’s when I feel like the worst person in the world, when I’m even further from the resolutions I’ve made for myself. Failure engulfs me. I wonder if I will ever be the person that I so long to be. How could I become the person I want to be if I feel so far away from her?
Year after year, that is how I felt. And at those times, my resolutions for myself were monumental. Though my goals were worthy, they towered over me and reminded me how small, weak, and hopeless I really was.
A couple of years ago, I changed my resolutions to be more manageable. I wanted to make my resolutions small enough that I wouldn’t feel so dwarfed by them. So I set more realistic expectations for myself. For example, instead of just telling myself “I will be a better person,” I set smaller, more specific goals. One included finding one new recipe a week that was free of sugar and gluten. I chose this goal because I had found that sugar and gluten significantly impacted my mental health; by being diligent in eating the right foods, I was also aiding in my recovery.
Instead of telling myself, “Don’t have another mental breakdown – ever,” I set a new goal. I decided to find three things that I could quickly do to alleviate stress in a healthy way. Doing whatever I could to prevent these breakdowns, no matter how small, was critical to my health and well-being.
As silly as it sounds, one of those stress relievers was to keep my house picked up. I often found that the visual chaos around me exacerbated the internal chaos in my head. By spending 30 minutes a day to pick up, I had more mental room.
While it might sound counter-productive, another of my resolutions was allowing myself to fail. Climbing that mountain toward recovery is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I failed early in my recovery process, it devastated me. But I’ve learned to allow myself to just be for a moment, to grieve the failing. After that, I would get back up again. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was draining in every possible way. But I knew I could never give up on myself. Another thing that helped immensely was the resolution to surround myself with healthier people. That alone has helped me so much in terms of having the support and encouragement needed to renew my strength to get back up and try again.
I still want to be a healthier, stronger, better person, but I now know that my recovery is not a one-time event. It is a journey. And as long as I refuse to quit that journey, then I am on track to meeting my resolutions. There are days that are easier than others, but that’s OK. By making realistic and specific resolutions for myself, I’ve found that obtaining the recovery I seek is now possible. I am no longer my own worst enemy by setting expectations for myself that I can’t accomplish. I only added to my feelings of being a failure when I set myself up to fail by the resolutions I made. Now I know better. And while my resolutions each year have pretty much stayed the same, each year I get further and further from the person I started out as and closer to the one I am working on becoming.
Thank you for this article … I’m going to be rereading it a lot in the few days. Its things like this that help us breathe and remember the goal in the long run. In many ways this was something I needed.
Thank you again – and good luck with your resolutions too!! X
I’m glad it helped. And thank YOU for your kind words. Anything that helps us breathe and keeps the “big picture” in perspective, is always good.
Hi…..I would love to pick your brain a little about the residential recovery part of this article. I know it was only a little detail in the overall gyst of the article, but I’ve been searching the internet trying to find an answer to this, and your paragraph indicates you may have insight. I have a friend who is currently being treated at a mental facility. She was inpatient for 3 weeks, then went to outpatient care (9a-3p) for 3 weeks before being put back in full-time about a week and a half ago. Her stories often conflict – one day she says she can’t wait to get out, and says she’s devastated that they extended her stay, and then next, she is saying she ASKED them to (when I question her about why doesn’t she tell them she thinks she’s ready to go back to outpatient if she truly feels she is). Is there a sort of attachment that develops after being in? I would not have ever guessed that – she can’t do any of the things she enjoys while in there, obviously, so this thought never crossed my mind – but is it possible?
Inpatient facilities can be bittersweet for residents. For me there was absolutely a loss of freedom because of restrictions, yet at the same time it was the safest place on earth – a haven, a refuge. I think the “back and forth” your friend is experiencing is pretty common and normal. 🙂
Wow ok. That’s interesting… good to know, though. Thank you.
Thank you so much for being so realistic and passional at the same time, the way you had showed up your ideas is amazing. It helped me to clarify a lot of things in my mind
I’m glad it helped you gain clarity, Lucas. Thank you!
Thank you for writing this. I felt like you were in my shoes. I have been in recovery for over 2 years now and I deal with a mental illness. Recovery is amazing but honestly everyday is not filled with rainbows and butterflies. This post made me realize that I need to quit making unrealistic goals that eventually tear me to pieces when I don’t reach them. This post gave me some great guidelines on how to make some realistic goals that will help and inspire me to keep going.
Healing is a journey, not a destination. Some days we run, and other days we are lucky to crawl… but we are still getting there, no matter what. And that is the important thing. 🙂 I’m glad it helped!
Thank you. I needed to read this tonight. In a very dark place.
Sometimes the smallest flicker of light turns the darkness into a mere shadow. Thank YOU! 🙂
You guys are always the right type of encouragement i need day to day. I send these articles weekly to a few of my friends who i know are struggling with the same concepts- different reasons.. I remember when i first found out about you guys at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois when i was 10 years old. Now almost 16 years old… love you guys and bless you <3
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