Are you making resolutions this week? Setting intentions? Goal-mapping perhaps? I don’t know about you but I’ve been setting, and breaking, New Year’s resolutions as long as I can remember. I prefer intentions now, but even then I have to tread lightly. I’m convinced that if my intention is to fix something about myself, it won’t work, that kind of energy can only look backward, not forward. We in recovery from addiction know this way of life, too well. Addicts are exceptionally good at coming up with plans to fix our lives, because we are exceptionally good at focusing on the things we don’t like about our lives.
I say forget making resolutions. Forget how you want to feel once you achieve the goal.
There is a feeling more powerful than any other that exists in the present, and you can access it at any time: inspiration. Instead of trying to fix yourself, inspire yourself. New Year’s is a time for hope. It means rebirth, blank canvases, founts of possibility. It’s a time to give heart to the potential for new life that lives inside us all. Relish in the fact that the future does not yet exist, and so the you that you can be tomorrow, next year, for the rest of your life, it is yet to be determined. It can be anything. You can be anything. Think about that, sit with it, repeat it over and over. Even if you think it’s cheesy and ridiculous, I dare you to try, just for a little while, pretending you believe it. I promise you will find inspiration.
There is no greater teacher of inspiration than recovery, just as there is no greater authority on the lack of hope than addiction. It’s one of the sad paradoxes of addiction: at the end of the tunnel is one of the brightest beacons imaginable, but addiction is so dark we usually can’t see it. We in long-term recovery have a profound chance to give roots to our newfound hope and nourish it. Grow it into fires the still-struggling addict can see by, or the recovering addict in pain can find warmth in, or maybe to even light our own way, because sometimes we can all feel lost.
That feeling is not uncommon around New Year’s. We reflect on our entire histories, not just the past twelve months. And some of our pasts are rough to say the least. This month I’ve found myself reliving memories I try really hard to forget most of the time, things I think most addicts can relate to. Painful experiences we as kids couldn’t avoid. Actions during our addictions we never thought we were capable of. Some of us hurt people, endangered others, neglected still more. We were fountains of misery and suffering. We saw life through dark, cracked lenses. The path to our horizon was blocked by the Four Horsemen of terror, bewilderment, frustration, and despair. We had no way of seeing the beacons of recovery and hope.
It’s easy to remember all that and let it to start to block the way again, easy to let the past control how we look at the future. And so we come once again to where we are now, looking toward the new year ahead of us. I know looking at the future as a blank slate can be unnerving. With opportunity comes uncertainty. New ventures all have a chance to fail…unless we change our perspective.
One of the wisest people in my life always tells me, if your only expectation is to learn, then you can never fail.
No matter what happens, you will learn something, and learning is the only real power you need. If you learn more about how your brain tends to think, you can more easily focus your thoughts on better things. If you learn more about how you relate to others, you will have a better chance at improving your relationships. If you learn more about how you approach your work, you will be much better equipped to take your career in the direction you want. If you learn more about what your body’s unique needs, you can do the right things for your health.
I hear a lot about how the only way to achieve any of your goals is hard work. Work more hours (sleep less), discipline yourself (talk to yourself like a drill sergeant), learn to control your emotions (neglect your spirit). Addicts are already experts in all that, and where did it get us? I argue that instead of starting with the obsessive hard work and hoping to find your way to results we think we want, begin in the birthplace of all life: inspiration. Inspiration is creation. An idea is the beginning of bringing something into existence. No matter which direction you wish to go, inspiration is the fuel you need to get there. It doesn’t matter how good the destination is if you have nothing to light your fire right here and now.
What makes you smile? What do you daydream about? That’s inspiration.
A raging fire needs only a spark, and even the briefest dream or the tiniest smile sparks inspiration. We in recovery from addiction have the gift of a built-in spark, our own pilot light of hope. I will never stop saying, if I could get sober, I can do anything. Some days the fact that I’ve stayed sober is the only thing that can lift even a fraction of a heavy frown. It’s enough to ignite energy through my entire body and every crevice of my mind, convincing me despite myself of the possibility of any future. An inspired life has become my lifeblood, and now I’m convinced it is the most effective way of achieving any and every resolution, intention, or goal. Our new year is about to start, and we have two options. We can look back at the darkness, the things we want to fix. Or we can look ahead and resolve to use the fuel of inspiration–whether we find it in recovery or anywhere else–to blaze forward toward any future we wish. It can be anything. You can be anything.
Regan Spencer is a writer, filmmaker, recovery advocate, and person in long term recovery. She currently resides a town called Hope (and yes, she loves the metaphor) in Idaho, USA, where she is preparing to take her life and her recovery on the road in a converted van. Obsessed with wildflowers, roads that curve, and smiling at strangers, she is always looking for the next adventure and another good story. Regan would love to share her journey with everyone who’s interested at ReganSpencer.com or @ReganSpencerWriter on Instagram, and she welcomes anyone with a desire to reach out to continue the conversation with an email to ReganSpencerWriter@gmail.com. The primary purpose of her work is to help engage and connect people because, despite her stubbornness, life has convinced her we can’t recover alone.