It’s December 29th. Have you made your new years resolutions yet? Don’t worry if you haven’t. You can just use last years list; just like you did last year and every year before that.
Lose weight. Get organized. Save money. Get healthy. Drink less. Etc. Etc. Etc.
If it sounds like I plagiarized your list, that’s because these are the most popular resolutions made year in and year out. Or so says a report published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology at the University of Scranton. 45% of Americans that will make New Years resolutions. Of those, 90% will fail in their resolve. This of course begs the question, why bother?
While I don’t typically make resolutions, I have in fact begun every single year for the last thirty or so with the notion of this being the year I would achieve a better physical condition. Some years I fare better than others. Whether I’ve had success or failure, it’s something I continue to strive towards.
Five years ago at the age of 43 my resolve led to the biggest contribution towards better health than anything I had previously attempted. I resolved to quit drinking. Something I had wanted to do for many years prior and for whatever reason, I couldn’t. Like so many others, I had known for so long that it would bring me greater health and still, I wouldn’t.
In mid-December of 2009, with another Christmas and New Years looming and all the accepted drinking and debauchery those holidays allow for, it was on my mind once again. If you’re a drinker or addict of any kind, the time separating Thanksgiving and New Years can represent some of the most dangerous times thanks to the onslaught of enablers and their holiday merriment and good cheer. Over indulgence and irresponsibility can and often do become normalized to the point of true danger.
As I said, I had tinkered with the concept of retirement from drinking for several years. I was awakening to the idea that I had long since turned over control of my actions and was becoming more disappointed with choices I was making and the person I was becoming; especially where my wife and children were concerned. To make matters worse, I was becoming a true hypocrite who enjoyed preaching about the virtues of good health but with actions that sang a completely different tune.
On Monday, December 21st, 2009, I resolved to take back control of my life. My sick brain tried to tell me that I should wait till after the new year and use the birth of another new year as the start my new life of sobriety. My rational brain interjected and asked why I needed to wait for some arbitrary date to do what needed to be done right now. Furthermore, did I really want to chance another two weeks of illicit behavior? Whose to say what might happen during those two weeks? Did I really need to go another day? Would I really be missing out on something extraordinary by opting out of another drunken Christmas and/or New Years?
“No. Today is the day,” I resolved.
That morning I went to my first AA meeting. On the way, I got a speeding ticket.
What do you think my sick brain had to say about that?
Fortunately, my rational brain prevailed telling my sick brain to shut the fuck up; that if I could get through this day and the subsequent holidays, I could get through anything. And I have.
Suffice to say, I do not waste my time with New Years resolutions. The statistics are there. They don’t work.
Any and every day is an opportunity for a resolution so why not make it today, December 29th, 30th, 31st, or whenever? What do you really hope to gain by another few days of toxic or bad behavior? Whether you want to drink less, eat less, exercise more, save money, start your novel, be kinder to strangers, whatever, there’s nothing to say you can’t start it today? Or if you’re reading this in May or August or any other time of the year, then right then. Any day will do. There is no perfect day to forward your life that is better than right fucking now.
And on the subject of drinking, let me just reiterate that New Years does not have to be just another excuse to get blackout drunk. Quitting before new years might mean the difference between getting and not getting a DUI. It might mean the difference between acting like a dumb ass and not acting like a dumb ass. It might mean the difference between waking up on January 1st feeling healthy and strong and not trying to string together the pieces of the previous nights events wondering how you got home and who you owe an apology to. It might mean the difference between seriously injuring and not seriously injuring someone. It might mean nothing other than you are more in control of your actions than you’ve ever been before and you’ve finally realized that you are not going to be controlled by an unhealthy substance.
You do not need January 1st to change your life. You can change your life each and every day so why not today? Just like in When Harry Met Sally, when Harry finally realizes that he wants to spend the rest of his life with Sally, he tells her, “He wants the rest of his life to start as soon as possible.” Of course that scene did take place right after midnight on New Years. So maybe that isn’t the best example. Maybe a better example is Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption, a film that’s always on television, every minute of the day or night. “Get busy living. Or get busy dying.”