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Tips for staying sober in the new year

The New Year is a time when people make all types of resolutions. People want to do things differently and be better than the year before. But as we all know, change is hard. If you're struggling to change an addictive behavior, such as drinking alcohol, it's not always as simple as making a choice to change.

The good news is if you've resolved to stay sober in the New Year, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of being successful: 

  1. Connect with a professional for a substance abuse assessment: An addiction professional will be able to determine your risk of withdrawal symptoms and can give you the "next-step" recommendation to increase your chances for success. Since withdrawal can be dangerous, leading to risk of seizure, stroke or death, it is best to consult a professional. It is not advised to go through withdrawal without professional assistance. Professionals can also take a more comprehensive look at the problem and find underlying issues. They will also help formulate a plan to get you the help you deserve and may need.
  2. Understand your resources: Help is out there and there are multiple access points to find help. You can talk with your primary care physician, a therapist, an addiction professional or attend groups such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous. There are also different kinds of professional treatment levels – inpatient, residential, intensive outpatient, outpatient, relapse prevention who work with individual therapists and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC). It's important to find what works for you.
  3. Find a support system: Whether it comes from friends, family or support groups, there's no reason to do this alone. Find people who will support your decision to sober up, and tell them about the goals you have set for yourself. If you think you might be tempted to have a drink or start to waver, call them immediately and talk to them about your urges. Supportive family and friends can help in the process and boost your confidence.
  4. Evaluate your environment: Take a look at where you're spending your time. Your old hangouts may not help you succeed. Put yourself in situations that will help you, not tempt you. It may seem obvious, but if you resolve to quit drinking you can't spend your free time sitting at the bar.
  5. Set small goals along the way: Think about what you want to accomplish in the first week or first month. Write your goals down.  Then think about what you're willing to do to make it happen and what can you put in place to make sobriety happen. If you want to stop drinking, your first goal may be to get rid of all the alcohol in your house. Your second goal may be to find a support group. Continue to build on your goals as you work toward sobriety.
  6. Use action-oriented language: You're more likely to seek help or attend a support group meeting when you say, "I'm going to the group meeting on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m." versus "I'll probably go to that group meeting later this week". Being specific reinforces the likelihood of following through on what you said you were going to do.  

While it's helpful to seek out advice and support from others, remember to find – and do – what will work safely and best for you to achieve your goal. 

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