New Year’s resolutions come and go, but a resolve to get sober is accessible and sustainable throughout the year. Experts working in addiction treatment and the recovery community contribute actionable ways to get sober in the new year with minimal or no cost.
1. Meetings! – “ ‘90 in 90’ is a popular phrase in the recovery community,” responds Kate Toomey, Manager of True Intentions Sober Living in Tarzana, California. Commit to 90 meetings, either Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings in 90 days. “This may sound a bit overwhelming” admits Toomey, “… but when we’re honest, we acknowledge that we’re consumed with drinking or using.” In contrast, Toomey encourages the recovery community to be consumed with 12 step meetings. After all, Toomey says, it’s easy to find a meeting and they’ve helped people get and stay sober for decades.
To get the most out of meetings, arrive fifteen minutes early to enjoy fellowship, offers Jennifer Rosa, Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor for Oaks of Hope Addiction Treatment Center in Santa Clarita, CA. First timer’s to a meeting should accept a newcomer’s chip. Share in the meeting and ask for help finding a sponsor. When the meeting ends, don’t leave. Stick around to talk to others who are sober and more than willing to help.
2. Get a sponsor – Be accountable. “Check in with your sponsor daily even if it’s just to say hello,” says Rosa. A sponsor can define and guide in applying the literature to life. “I’ve personally seen a high school dropout define the 12 steps to a doctor,” says Toomey. “The doctor is still sober today.” A sponsor will make introductions to other members of the 12 step community.
Antonio Sabato Jr., Candidate for Congress and Co-Founder of True Hope Calling, an addiction helpline, explains, “Twelve step members depend on helping newly sober people in order to stay sober themselves, so don’t be bashful. Ask for help. Identify as a new comer by raising a hand. They are there to help without profit or judgement.”
3. Use the “Buddy System” – In early sobriety it is very important to not feel alone, advises Rosa. The buddy system also fosters accountability. Why not get a sober exercise buddy? Ask a sober friend to workout daily together or to join in a new hobby, activity, or skill. Learn flower arranging, stained glass, rock climbing, yoga, cooking, or dancing.
Martial arts can be used to instill self confidence and mental strength to addicts and alcoholics in recovery. According to Brandon McVicar, Founder and Chief Instructor for Fighting For Recovery, a martial arts program that supports addiction recovery, “… adhering to a complete ‘mind, body, and soul’ philosophy, …strive to build …the warrior mentality needed to regain control of their lives.”
Try something new. Take a class, or learn a new skill from Youtube. Settle on specific about days and times to get together. Calendar the dates and stick to them. Practice the new hobby or skill daily. Call or text each other often to share daily progress and encouragement.
4. Set health and wellness goals – Set long term and short term goals to achieve throughout the year, suggests Nick Warner, Clinical Director for Oaks of Hope Addiction Treatment. Get in the gym three times a week. Establish a healthy diet routine. Spend one night a month volunteering. Begin daily meditation. Aspire to run a ten minute mile, challenges Warner, then a six minute mile. Keep a daily journal of accomplishments, concerns and progress, adds Rosa, “Use the journal to process all thoughts no matter how crazy they may seem.”
5. Ask for help – Being honest with self and others acknowledges the seriousness of addiction. Reconnect with sober friends and family. Call any number of helplines available, such as The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). According to Laurence Marinelli, CEO and Co-Founder of True Hope Calling, “Helplines should always be of service at no cost to the caller.” Marinelli cautions that it’s important to find out if Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is needed. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), some drinkers that consume alcohol in quantities outside healthy limits will develop an Acute Alcohol Withdrawal (AAW) syndrome when they abruptly stop or substantially reduce their alcohol consumption. Deaths and seizures while detoxing off of alcohol and Benzodiazepines (Xanax) have been documented by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). If a helpline counselor’s assessment leads to the necessity for medication assisted treatment, he should refer to addiction treatment providers that accept the caller’s insurance plan. Marinelli adds that without insurance and limited resources, any helpline counselor should provide referrals to sliding scale or no cost addiction treatment providers.
“Most importantly, buckle in for a beautiful journey of recovery,” offers Sabato, “We don’t do this alone. We lean into each other. Sobriety is a gift of life. The contrast from dependency to freedom is beautiful.”