“New Year, New Me”: Why the illusion of a quick fix poses danger to those struggling with addiction

For many of us, 2023 brings with it an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, casting aside what has passed and establishing goals to improve us for the better. According to a recent poll, almost half (48%) of the UK’s population have made resolutions for this coming year, with a large majority of respondents looking to work on either their physical or mental health. But what are the realities of this ‘New Year, New Me’ mentality, and is this promise of an overnight fix helpful or harmful to our wellbeing?

Below, we will explore what New Year’s means to each of us, in particular those who have struggled with addiction. By taking a closer look at this celebration, as well as some of the dangers that can come from the allure of this holiday, we will outline some helpful tips to ensure that we are protecting both ourselves and, most importantly, our recovery this coming year.


The New Year, New Me trend and its impact on addiction

January 1st brings a unique meaning for each of us. For some, this day represents an exciting opportunity for growth and metamorphosis, using that added motivation to start fresh and live life to the fullest. For others, January 1st is a chance to right some of our wrongdoings, starting again with a new perspective and fresh attitude to life.

For those who are struggling with addiction, the build-up to a new year can bring with it complex emotions. For example, someone caught in addictive behaviours may feel compelled to give up the object of their dependence, using 2023 as the catalyst to kick start their recovery. However, this hope for transformation in the new year can introduce emotions of guilt or anxiety, presenting these individuals with an added pressure that if they have a bad start to their year, they are destined for failure.

Do resolutions to give up addiction ever pay off?

You might be wondering, with such a large population of people looking to change their lives for the better in the new year, how many of those fighting an addiction are actually successful in achieving their goals?

In the UK today, quitting smoking is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. In fact, according to recent findings, and estimated 58% of smokers want to quit by the time January rolls around. Unfortunately, however, it would appear that a large proportion of smokers are unsuccessful in their objective. A 2017 poll looking into the success rate of smoking cessation found that, of the individuals who had resolved to quit the previous year, three in five had started smoking again by 31st January, with as few as 13% still smoke-free one year later. Based on the above evidence, it would appear that resolving to break addictive habits can often lead to disappointment.

The high rate of failures for addiction-based resolutions could have a lot to do with the commitment it takes to make such a transformative change. Factors like the desire to get sober, determination, and a solid support system are all fundamental to a successful recovery. For many people choosing to quit in the new year, they may approach this process half-heartedly, doing so for the sake of their loved ones rather than for their own growth. They might also go in with inadequate preparation, unaware of the work it takes to stay clean.


The dangers of a quick fix for an addict

If you are addicted to alcohol or illicit substances, the first step to recovery comes with detox – relinquishing your physical dependency so you can move forward in your journey to long-lasting abstinence. For those seeking to jumpstart this process in the new year, it is common to avoid any preparation whatsoever, instead viewing 2023 as an opportunity to quit cold turkey and finally start anew.

However, it is important to remember that addiction is far more than just a nasty habit; it has the power to take over a person’s life to the point they lose sight of any responsibilities or values they hold dear. With an ability to fracture relationships, destroy finances and disrupt career progression, addiction changes a person’s behaviour, as well as their ability to think rationally. For this reason, recovery takes far more than sheer willpower, and it is essential that appropriate measures are taken to protect yourself and your own wellbeing if you wish to recover safely and effectively.

Some important preparations to be made prior to detox can include:

  • Choosing a safe environment to detox, away from potential triggers to relapse.
  • Ensuring that you are in the care of someone who can monitor your condition and take care of any needs you might have.
  • Making sure that you have a support system to turn to if you require emotional guidance.
  • Remaining aware of any potential withdrawal symptoms, ensuring you are in contact with a medical professional should any complications arise.


How can I resolve to get sober, the right way?

If you are currently caught in active addiction or in the early stages of your recovery, it is best to step into the new year with the right mindset. Below, we have included some tips for your New Years’ goals, and how to do so in a way that protects your sobriety.

Set realistic goals.

In today’s world of Instagram, TikTok and other sharing sites, we so often fall victim to the threat of comparison, observing the polished lives of our loved ones and feeling that we just can’t measure up. This can be a huge trigger for those struggling with addiction or co-occurring disorders, especially when witnessing those around us making life-changing advancements in a way that looks effortless.

Unfortunately, this unrealistic approach to progress can push individuals to establish overambitious goals, setting aside their sobriety in a slap-dash effort to drastically improve their lives. This can pose untold consequences, putting people at risk of losing sight of what is important, or becoming so overwhelmed with meeting their goals that they cannot truly commit. With this in mind, it is always important that, if you do wish to set goals for the new year, they are realistic, and never jeopardise the most important goal, which is staying sober and protecting your mental health.

Be kind to yourself.

One of the biggest dangers of the new year comes with its potential for self-criticism, pushing individuals to look back on their year with a harsh and judgmental attitude. When analysing some actions and wrongdoings from 2022, people are almost encouraged to develop a mental list of flaws in their character, devising goals which might feel daunting or impossible to accomplish. For this reason, it is crucial that the prospect of a new year is handled with positivity and compassion, and that, whatever your takeaway is, you still give yourself time to celebrate some of the wonderful achievements you made in 2022, moving forward with the knowledge that you made it into 2023.

Keep it simple.

Looking back at life through the lens of a big picture, we can often lose sight of all the little things that make life meaningful. This can also translate to our resolutions, with so many of us feeling obligated to set ambitious and impressive targets, rather than focusing on smaller, more achievable goals. For example, one of the biggest hurdles to recovery can come with unrealistic expectations, approaching 2023 with the aim of staying sober forever, rather than simply taking it step by step. A far better approach comes with keeping things simple, surrounding yourself with a network of support, and ensuring your days are as stress-free as possible.

Remember, January 1st is like any other day.

In the 12-step programme, people commonly live their lives by practising the phrase: ‘one day at a time,’ encouraging those who have struggled with addiction to focus on the next twenty-four hours and reminding us that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start.

As you step into your new year, remain mindful that this month is just like any other, and that there is no expiry date on self-growth and progression. If you believe that January marks a great opportunity to get sober, then you should take steps to begin this transition. However, it is vital that when you embark on this journey you are adequately prepared, as processes like detox can pose huge health risks when attempted without the appropriate support.

Above all, nothing that is worth having comes easy, and recovery is no different. While the promise of a quick fix might sound appealing, factors such as preparation, care, and determination are all instrumental to a successful rehabilitation.