Reflections on the New Year: 2016 as a Time of Hope

Generally, I am asked to comment before New Year’s Eve, to tell you all the things about going out to celebrate that you already know. Don’t drink and drive. If you are going to drink, alternate between alcoholic beverages and alcohol. Make a plan for getting home and stick to it. Go out with a group and keep an eye on one another. Be safe. This year, I left all that to other bloggers and instead set aside time to think about what is really important and has perhaps been left unsaid. Instead of commenting on debauchery, I want to talk about change, not the resolution type of change that works for a week or two, but real change, the kind that remakes your life into something that you had given up hope for, long, long ago.

I work with addicts. The common characteristic in all of them is hopelessness. Addiction is trade in hopelessness. Contrary to popular belief, it is rare that a person with substance use disorder will “party” their way into addiction. The abuse of substances is almost always a response to very deep pain. It begins as a temporary solution to problems a person does not have the skill to deal with appropriately. It only later becomes a problem in and of itself. It is then, when the one-time-solution becomes the elephant in the room, that the addict loses hope – hope of changing and hope of dealing with the initial problem that brought the addiction on.

BUT – and this is a huge caveat – people do change. Men and women who are hopeless addicts find freedom and abstinence from substance abuse. They are unrecognizable as their former selves, the change is so profound. There are very few things that are impossible to manifest if you dedicate yourself to a new beginning. Certainly, you may have missed your opportunity to be on the Olympic gymnastics team or a professional sports figure, but you can still be active and healthy, a coach or mentor, or a fan or aficionado of those activities. Almost everything is within reach. Time and circumstance do not need to relegate us to death, rocking chairs, or depression. We can, under almost any condition, lead happy, healthy, engaged lives.

New Year’s Day is a time for hope. It is a time for dreams. Today is the day to think about all it is that you can become. If it is your dream to sing opera, find a teacher and begin practicing. It doesn’t matter if you’re tone deaf. Be the best opera singer your bathroom has ever come across. Life is about doing those things that bring us joy, and happiness is found in meaning and connection. Do what brings a smile to your face and do it with others. The camaraderie will keep you buoyed when times are tough and your commitment to yourself and your dreams wanes.

I was once a person with substance use disorder so bad that everyone in my life was waiting to get the call that I had passed. Now, with effort and commitment to living, I am a devoted husband, father to two beautiful children, and the owner of a thriving business in a field that gives my life meaning. You too can have the life of your dreams. Right now. Starting today. I can assure you from my own experience and that of countless others that the work of change is absolutely worth the outcome.

Happy New Year.