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Joe has extensive personal and coaching experience with addiction and mental health conditions, including bipolar, depression and anxiety.

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Q: How can I make sure I stick to my New Year’s resolutions?

A: Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of resolutions. There are much more practical, realistic ways to set goals or make changes.

One big problem with resolutions is people try too much too fast, which leads to mistakes and feelings of failure. Patience is really important when it comes to lasting, sustainable change.

It’s important to set realistic goals. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but starting small will help you make ongoing change.

Staying reasonable also helps keep things in perspective. In my work as a coach, many people struggle with the idea that they can’t drink or use for the “rest of their life.” 

Try making change by adjusting how you think and putting it into practice one day at a time. 

A good example of this is counting days of sobriety.  I don’t think there’s a problem keeping track; my friends and family still wish me a happy “sobriety anniversary” each year. The problem comes after a recurrence of symptoms or relapse. People feel as though they have to start from square one. They’re disappointed because they think they failed.

Does that mean those days without using were a waste of time? I don’t think so. 

Let’s say someone has 60 days of sobriety but relapses on day 61. Starting back at day one may seem daunting. Another way to look at it is the person now has a record of 60 and 1, which is incredible. If you don’t put so much weight on the total number of days, and focus instead on the day you’re in now, you won’t experience as much hopelessness and disappointment. Relapses are very, very common and can serve as opportunities to learn and move forward. 

Wellness is a process – it takes team and patience. Celebrate your progress and continue to make small, reasonable goals.

Having said all that, setting a goal for the new year isn’t a bad idea. It’s all about your approach and expectations. Remember, change takes time, patience and self-compassion.

Here’s to a new year of wellness!


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