Who came up with New Year’s Resolutions?

Whoever they were, they must have been a masochist. I have seldom seen a person stick to their resolutions; more often, I have witnessed the guilt and upset that comes from falling short of lofty goals. Don’t get me wrong! Goal setting is important- vital, even, in recovery. It gives you a place to focus your energy and produces a sense of achievement and pride as you move past milestones.

But there is a balance between setting goals and setting yourself up for failure.

“I’m going vegan…”

…or “I’m saving money…”

…or “I’m deleting my dating apps.”

(Well, wait- do that last one. Especially in early recovery.)

…these drastic diet changes, commitments to changing spending, promises to lose weight, and otherwise unrealistic goals can be counterproductive, and here’s why. Expecting me to undergo a massive shift in my otherwise fairly consistent behavior is akin to hoping that tomorrow Florida will knock it off with the heat and rain thing and behave itself.

I’m probably not going to wake up on January 1st of any year and decide “Due to the arbitrary turning over of a calendar created by humans, I am now going to be a different person in regards to my decisions!” I will still forget to floss. I will still take too long to do my laundry. I will still chase stray cats in the hopes they’ll let me pet them.

And yes, I will still be having dessert.

According to a very reliable resource (the internet) most people fail their resolutions before January 31st. We set up the shot, and our human nature gives the assist. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Maybe we’re the masochists.

The New Year represents a time of renewal and change in life. Or at least, that’s what some hippie told me. Whatever, it sounds good. But as an alcoholic/addict- heck, as a human being- I am a creature of renewal and change. I am always in the process of becoming a different (hopefully better) version of myself, down to the cellular level. If I set small goals, ones I can accomplish, maybe I’ll surprise myself and actually reach them.

I’m not saying resolutions are bad (okay, I am a little bit). What I mean to say is this- if I have an expectation and it is not met- whether it is of myself or of someone else, I’m going to feel some kind of way. I’ll tend to be upset, somewhat resentful- and, if it’s me who has fallen short- I’ll feel some guilt and self-loathing associated with my perceived failure.

I’m not giving myself the space to be human with the expectation that tomorrow I’m going to:

-save more money

-go to the gym every day

-eat like an Instagram fitness model

-save a puppy at least once a week

And, of course:

-cure Ebola

Setting small, realistic goals all year is a more consistent way to move towards change and improvement. Surround yourself with loving and supportive people. Wake up a little earlier (maybe). Hit more meetings, build your tribe. But, above all else:

Forgive yourself if you fall short.

Be kind. To others and to yourself. And if you’re doing the sober thing, do that with all that you have. Some days I can strive for kindness, love, and compassion and maybe eating better than I did the day before. Some days all I can do is not pick up, and try again tomorrow.

Both are okay, because I’m a human being.

So, whether you’ve decided this is going to be your year and you’re sticking to your guns on the New Year’s Resolutions, or you think it’s all bunch of flim-flam and are still rolling out of bed five minutes before you need to be to work, fret not.

Allow yourself some breathing room- maybe your resolution can be to cut yourself a break.

But if you figure out how to stick to a diet, let me know.