Happy New Year!
For many, an avalanche of expectation is pending ringing in the New Year. On Wednesday evening, we will ring in a new decade together (like it or not) thanks to social media and a truly integrated global economy. What are you anticipating for New Year’s Eve? For 2020? Are your New Year’s Eve plans set? Have you jotted down a few goals (resolutions) for 2020? Take a moment and jot down the top goal for ringing in 2020 and the top three resolutions for the new year. What might get in the way of your goals?
New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken as Mark Twain’s quote alludes above. The great author was himself a social drinker whose alcohol usage was sometimes criticized and historically aggrandized. He did not have the resolution to quit alcohol and nor would I recommend he have the resolution to do so! Any resolution we make should be intimately connected to our identities of who we are and what we want to be today and all the tomorrows we have left. What about you?
Now, with your list in hand, I am going to ask you to examine two very personal relationships in your life:
- Take a moment to reconsider your relationship with alcohol (or other mood-altering habits).
- Take a moment to reconsider your relationship with your “best-self,” your ultimate potentiality, your sense of being in harmony with your nature, with your innermost sense of living a significant and meaningful life.
How does Alcohol fit into your New Year’s Eve plans? How significant is it for you personally on New Year’s Eve? How much thought have you put into what you will drink on Wednesday evening?
None of us fit the criteria for being diagnosed as an Alcoholic. I am sure of it. Why? I say this because there are no diagnostic criteria for being an alcoholic[i] in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM). There are many definitions in the manual for alcohol use disorders ranging from mild to severe that you can reference or, better yet, see a professional if you have enough evidence in your life to indicate alcohol use may be harming you.
This relationship with alcohol is, first and foremost, very personal to you. You are probably not one of the estimated 6.2% of the population that has evidence of an alcohol use disorder today. Hopefully, you are not on the road to joining that group either! It is really about what does alcohol truly means to you and how does it hurt or improve your mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual life? If you are like most people, alcohol does not play a big role in your life and is not necessarily needed to have a good time or enjoy friends and holidays. But what if you are not like most people – but you also don’t fit the stereotype fictional alcoholic diagnosis? You may have a job, friends, and all the trappings of being a successful adult and yet, have a little voice or nudging bothering you about alcohol?
The reality is alcohol use has an outsized role in our society to deliver what is already available to us without its use. People who do not have an alcohol use disorder or any history of negative events choose every day to not drink without any difficulty or pressure to do so. They naturally enjoy life and the people around them without alcohol. People with alcohol use disorders diagnosed or people self-defined as alcoholics who have achieved true recovery are also able to choose every day not to drink and enjoy life without alcohol, albeit it with a certain sense of added responsibility and weight that comes with a negative history from previous experiences.
Alcohol is a choice. Do I want you to not drink on New Year’s Eve? No, my wishes for you on New Year’s Eve is that your relationship with alcohol on New Year’s Eve and in 2020 is right-sized – that it does not take away from your overall well-being or those around you. If alcohol is not harming you or anyone else and you are fun to be with after partaking in drinking – I will buy the first round metaphorically speaking!
Too often, consumption of alcohol becomes the desired end rather than the consumption of alcohol being a means to add to the desired experience or social engagement. New Year’s Eve or any eve becomes an opportunity to drink rather than an opportunity to enjoy relationships with other people and life in general. Drinking becomes the means to get to a certain state of emotional sensation (euphoria, social ease, unguarded, numb, unconsciousness, uncontrolled, silly, dangerous, heightened adrenaline, humorous) that provides escapism from the self. Hopefully, this is not you.
I hope to spend New Year’s Eve with friends and family that enjoy each other for who they are with or without alcohol. I hope and wish for everyone, including you, to ring in the New Year, aligned with your relationship with your “best self.” Alcohol may not require your attention – insert in here any other goals that will help you be your best self today and tomorrow.
What is your “best-self” for New Year’s eve and 2020? You cannot become today what you are meant to be in ten years, but you must start today to be what you are meant to be today to achieve what is expected of you down the line. Wherever you are on your journey, in the valley or at a peak, beauty is present. Every day on the mountainside
climbing up is the opportunity to be your best self. The mountain tops will come and go with beautiful scenery to be cherished and remembered – but the journey is where the meaning of life is held, even the descents when we unexpectedly fall off the desired trail.
Defining your best-self involves an ideal to pursue balanced with an everyday actuality to practice today and every day. New Year’s Eve and any resolution is simply an artificial calendar day to provide us all the time to reflect on the mountainsides, unexpected falls, and mountain tops of yesteryear with gratitude and refining our relationships with life for the next ascent.
My best self is by definition unattainable as it is defined by desiring to be one with my God and be limited to striving to lead a holy life while fulfilling the everyday mundane human responsibilities. I am on one mountainside climbing with the tools that have been provided to me. I know not what the mountaintop brings, whether it will be my final mountain or many more to come. I can only climb the distance meant for me today.
Today, I have been charged with writing to you to ask that you reflect on your relationship with alcohol and your relationship with your best self. If you find it “wanting” in any way, make New Year’s eve a demarcation point and involve others in altering your climb up the ascent. Involving others is a great way to strengthen relationships that have significance and meaning. Mountain climbing should not be a solo sport. Choose wisely!
There is a movement afoot in society today that is exciting. It is people choosing a lifestyle change before a lifestyle change is forced upon them. Check out this article on Holly Whitaker: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/meet-the-woman-who-wants-to-make-sobriety-cool-in-an-alcohol-obsessed-culture/2019/12/18/38602da6-0fd4-11ea-b0fc-62cc38411ebb_story.html.
This post is aimed at people who are open to exploring their relationship with alcohol and have perhaps not had the issues associated with clinical alcohol use disorders or layman’s alcoholism definitions. I would be remiss to not include the Alcoholics Anonymous website where many have found a solution and where they also recommend people seek professional help as well if needed. If you are in that situation or have a friend who is in that situation you can always attend an open A.A. meeting. They will know the resources in your community inside and outside of A.A. You can also go to the SAMHSA website below as well.
[i] For advanced drinkers who have already delved into your personal relationship with alcohol and self-defined yourself as “Alcoholic” this post does not challenge your definition or your solution. This writer encourages people to explore Alcoholics Anonymous open meetings if you are unsure about where your relationship with alcohol fits on the continuum of normal drinking to desperate drinking and learn about a potential solution to myriad of life’s challenges for people who have committed themselves to abstinence.