5 Tricks for Making Your New Year’s Resolutions Stick

Now that the holiday festivities are wrapping up, people across the nation are planning the tradition that comes with every January 1st: New Year’s resolutions.

The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time for fresh starts and clean slates. People hope to improve or even remake themselves in order to make 2019 better than 2018.

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, however, many people kick off the first of January with good intentions and high expectations. After all, self-improvement is a shared American hobby! This tradition is the reason why so many people make New Year’s resolutions in the first place.

How to Stay Strong in Your Recovery

“For addicts, a New Year’s resolution can be especially risky because the stakes are higher and therefore, the opportunity to feel disappointment is greater.”

It’s easy to become discouraged with New Year’s resolutions. How many goals set at the beginning of each year end up forgotten by the time February rolls around?

For most people, it’s easy to become discouraged when they fall short of their goals – be it losing weight, finding a better job, or eating healthier.

But for those who are seeking to break free from the cycle of addiction, New Year’s resolutions can be especially risky. The stakes are higher and, therefore, the disappointment can be greater when the resolution doesn’t work out as planned. This can further exacerbate the conceived negative traits that were trying to be improved upon.

No matter what your pledge, it’ll be much more difficult to follow through if you make goals that, for one reason or another, are nearly impossible to keep. Don’t set yourself up for failure – heed these tips to see your resolutions through this year:

1. Abandon the “laundry list” method of resolution-making

If you have a lot of different things to accomplish, that’s fine – but start off going deep instead of wide. Filter your New Year’s resolution ‘to-do’ list to the fewest, most important ones and tackle those first, instead of scattering your time and energy on a broad range of competing ambitions.

2. Don’t confuse goal-getting with goal-setting

Oaths and promises to yourself are not enough to make a change. Once you have a vision on lock-down, it’s time to create an action plan. However, don’t confuse one with the other, as often many do. Goal-setting means that you’ve decided what you wanted to accomplish, while goal-getting is the “how” of getting to that – the action plan that will let you achieve it.

3. Keep your New Year’s resolution specific and tangible

Setting ambitious resolutions can be inspiring, but the difficulty in achieving them means that your elation can quickly give way to frustration. Set out just to “be sober” or “be healthy”, and you’re selling yourself short.

In health behavior change and maintenance studies, the effects of setting difficult but specific goals lead to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, non-quantitative goals, such as “do your best.”

Vague goals give people too much leeway and lower their motivation to push themselves. For example, if your goal is to quit the bottle for good, give yourself a time-frame of accomplishment, enroll in a program that will help you achieve sobriety within that particular time, and chart your wins along the way.

4. Don’t expose yourself to temptation

New Year’s resolutions are hard enough to abide by, even when they’re made in the right way – so don’t make your job more difficult. Our resolve diminishes the more we’re forced to say ‘no,’ so avoid situations where you have to choose.

5. Keep your friends and family in the know

Whether it’s Weight Watchers or Al-Anon, social support groups exist because having the support of others is really helpful when trying to accomplish a difficult goal.

If joining a group isn’t really your thing, you can still increase your chances of success or reduce your level of stress and anxiety about achieving your goals by telling a few supportive individuals about it.

Ask them to help keep you motivated as you tackle the challenges ahead of you. If you feel comfortable enough, ask them to hold you accountable as well.

Keep these tips in mind when writing your resolutions for 2019, and make this coming year the best one yet.

7 Easy Ways to Recognize and Avoid Holiday Triggers

The holiday season is about to begin! Thanksgiving is a few short weeks away, and soon after comes the rush to find the perfect presents and host the best parties. Autumn colors will change to festive greens and reds, but the holidays aren’t always sparkling and festive.

For people struggling with addiction recovery, with the parties come the judgmental relatives and all-too-tempting cocktails. Not only that, but the financial pressures of gift-giving and even the lack of light can start weighing you down.

This volatile combination of external stressors and mental burdens – including anxiety, depression, and even Seasonal Affective Disorder – make attractive the thought of just one drink.

However, you don’t have to let your holiday problems lead to a relapse. Here are some tips to having a safe, sober, stress-free season!

1. Make a list of potential problems.

What’s scaring you this season? Is it your overly-nosy aunt, or perhaps all the things you need to do between now and the next family party? Or are you afraid that if someone offers you a glass of champagne, you can’t say no? Once you have your list, move on to the next step.

2. Write down potential solutions to those problems.

Break each one down! Come up with a list of prepared answers to common questions to save you the stress of having to answer on the spot. Write a to-do list and try to get a little bit done each day! You can even write down some ways to politely reject drinks if you don’t want to tell people you’re trying to stay sober.

3. Find a support system.

You’re not alone – many people are going through similar struggles over the holidays. Find friends, family, or even online community who you can confide in and ask for advice! You don’t have to tackle everything by yourself. This way, you can have a list of people who can offer advice or some comfort if you’re feeling particularly triggered or upset.

4. Learn the signs of a craving and ways to get past them.

Cravings last approximately twenty minutes. When you feel one hit, find something else to do – going to a quiet room and meditate, for example. Come up with a list of distractions that you can fall back on until the craving passes.

5. Bring your own snacks.

Hunger, stress, and fatigue – all can increase your desire to pick up just one more drink. To help prevent this, bring your own snacks to munch on throughout the gathering; it’ll prevent you from becoming too hungry, and is also guaranteed to be a safe snack for your recovery.

6. Set a budget.

Ask yourself how much you want to spend this season. Budget out the extra expenses, such as gifts, so you have a clear plan when going shopping. Over-spending can strain your finances going into New Year, so preparing as early as possible can help reduce stress and the risk of relapse.

7. Forgive yourself.

Remember, you’re not alone. Struggling with sobriety is natural, and mistakes happen – the most important part is to keep moving. If you take one step back, take two steps forward. Acknowledge your feelings, especially the negative ones. Don’t blame yourself for mistakes, but forgive them and move on.

Prepare for the holidays in advance! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, after all. Reducing stress during this busy time of year can grant you peace of mind and help you stay on the road to recovery.

If you have any questions, or are in need of assistance, please contact StepHouse Recovery today at (714) 394-3494 or toll-free at (888) 923-7623!

Why You Should Reach Out to Others

I want to tell you a story about a good friend I used to have named Jessie. When I first met him, he was your typical bright-eyed 9-year-old.

Full of life and curious about the world, he loved to play video games and be with his friends. I knew he came from a broken home and that he sometimes spent time with his father, who did not live at home with him, his mother, and two brothers. But, for the most part, to me, he was a typical child very happy-go-lucky.

Some years later, I learned that he had become homeless and addicted to drugs. I remember thinking that the boy I knew seemed far removed from the world of drugs and dependency. It was odd to me that this is where his life had taken him.

I am ashamed to say that, upon hearing this news, I did not try and reach out to him or his mother. I just went about my life as if I had never met him or spent time with him. I lost sight of the person he was and lost contact with him over the years.

I later heard he had died a tragic death at a very young age. I went to his funeral and paid my respects to his mother and surviving brothers, but it seemed a hollow gesture. I think about Jessie a lot more, wondering why I didn’t reach out to him.

I think to myself, why did I not keep in contact with him just to see how he was doing? Now, it is too late for me to re-connect with Jessie.  I look back and see it as a missed opportunity, but there is a very important lesson to be learned from this story.

Please don’t be complacent with your relationships or your old friends. Take time to pick up the phone – or, better yet, visit them see if they are doing okay. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

If anything good can come from this story it is that this should serve as wake-up call to all of us. I think we all suffer in silence and the world would be a better place if we shared a little more of our pain with each other. So don’t wait any longer – life is too precious and too short.

Take a moment and reach out to someone. It could save a life.

September 10, 2018: National Suicide Prevention Day

5 Steps to Prevent Suicide

Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.

Since 2006, the rate of suicide has been increasing by as much as 21% for men and 50% for women. In 2016, there was approximately one death from suicide every 12 minutes.

If a loved one is struggling and you don’t know how to help, following these steps may help avert a tragedy:


1. Talking about it.

Suicide often has an associated stigma. However, most suicidal people are not ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ – they’re simply people who are hurting. Substance use and mental health disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder often occur in those considering suicide.

People struggling with their health should not be shamed for their pain or have to hide how they feel. Speaking out about the importance of mental health and opening up regarding suicidal thoughts is an important step toward prevention.


2. Know the warning signs.

The easiest signs to identify are verbal cues: “No one cares about me,” “I never want to wake up,” or other phrases that indicate hopelessness or worthlessness.

Other risk factors include a history of attempted suicide or childhood trauma such as violence, bullying, or abuse. A recent death or other stressful event – being fired or breaking up with their significant other – can also lead to suicidal thoughts.

Observe their behavior as well. Are they no longer interested in things they used to enjoy? Are they fidgety and anxious or persistently angry and reckless? Dramatic mood changes can be an indicator of a mental illness, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.


3. Listen and try to understand.

Connect with the person. Allow them to speak their thoughts to you without fear of judgment. Support them by being there and acknowledging their pain.

Express your concern for them! Let them know that you are worried about them and want to help. Show that you genuinely care about how they are feeling. The simple act of saying ‘I care about you’ might not solve all their problems, but it can give a person struggling with suicide some hope.


4. Help someone else.

Have them volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup chicken. Maybe even a pet clinic anywhere where they can focus on the problems of others and not their own. It is a productive use of time and can be a much-needed distraction from their own thoughts.


5. Find ways to help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

There are also other ways to help a suicidal person:

Seek professional help. The doctor, a mental health specialist, and/or treatment facilities are better equipped to handle a suicidal person and can help start the healing process. This is especially important to treat mental disorders.

Make plans. Discuss what to do if the person finds themselves suicidal and alone. Remind them that they are not alone.

Do a bit of research. Helping a loved one who is struggling can be difficult, but there are many resources (such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention) available for both the suicidal person and their friends and family.

Keep up your support. Even periodically asking “How are you feeling today?” can help. Check in on them or drop by and ensure their recovery continues.