A Better February 

January might not have gone exactly as you had planned. Maybe the month got off to a great start and you were feeling oh so good about your expectations and goals, feeling they were well within the range of reasonable. And then they got thrown a bit off course by whatever threw them off. Rather than getting upset or agitated with yourself I’m going to ask you to look at this a bit differently then perhaps you have in the past. 

Here’s the thing; our plans frequently get thrown off course or somehow not fully executed the way in which we envision them to be. This really is reality; very few people set a course for where they want to go and how they’ll get there without experiencing some bumps and detours along the way. 

Let’s start with the hardest of the suggestions ~ lower your expectations. If your plan was for a dry January and that didn’t happen let’s see if perhaps your ideas were even in the ballpark of reasonable to begin with. 

We engage in most of our behaviors because we believe they will help us in the long run or we find they are fun, satisfying and meet some sort of need (even if that need isn’t so healthy.) One takes Advil ® because they’ve have found that it helps with the headache. One drinks or engages in another behavior such as shopping because the short term gains ~ namely distraction and numbing out ~ are worth it. The long term consequences are less obvious and once they are obvious it’s harder to stop. 

While the idea might be to stop and stay stopped, it would be foolish to do so without considering the role those behaviors play in our lives and what feelings they are addressing. The headache is likely easy ~ head is pounding, nothing like food or water seem to be helping, I need to keep working so I’ll take this OTC that I know is going to work. If your attempts to stop the headaches don’t go away after a period of time, that’s when someone might consider going to a doctor to see if there isn’t a larger issue. Same can be said for drinking* ~ the desire to cover up a feeling or many feelings or to ‘enhance’ the celebration or speed the sense of relief ~ but if that behavior then causes its own set of problems, it’s time to take a look at that. 

And, like anything other behavior that might have physical consequences, it might be wise to seek medical advice. There really are drugs that can’t be stopped cold turkey. Alcohol, if one is at a particular place with their relationship to it, can literally be deadly if stopped unexpectedly. 

Perhaps it would be wiser for you to consider a few alternatives such as delaying the first drink of the day or using less when you do use. Part of what helps here is that the small victory of using later in the day or skipping a day, is that there a small victory to be noted. 

Remember, each tiny, almost impossible to see victory we can put on the boards for ourselves the easier it gets to be to put together larger and larger victories. It is thought this series of gains that we can begin to envision a different kind of relationship with the process of change as well as with the behaviors that get us into trouble.

February does not have to be like January and you can stay on course more easily if you recognize the feelings you are trying to change, give yourself the grace and space to tolerate them for a few extra minutes before you attempt to change them and then finally, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done when you’ve delayed or used less/spent less/said less than you had in the past. The best part about the change process is that you can try and then try again until you work out what works best for you. 

Best for your month!

*Please remember, I use the phrase ‘drinking’ as a catch-all ~ your destructive behavior might be something very different but it’s same concept of using something even after you have the evidence that it is no longer well in your life.