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New Days to New Years

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Virgin promise abounds right now. Whatever we vow to change about our lives, hopeful commitment drives us into 2012 like a snowplow charging down an impassable road after a paralyzing blizzard. The path ahead is fresh, clean and clear. We're on the move again in the right direction.

The holidays are always a reminder that we've done too much of something that isn't good for us. The first of the year puts it all into perspective; what was doesn't have to be anymore. We can't do 2011 over. But we'll do this year differently. So we vow to improve on our humanness, and we bolster our resolve with a stout resolution or two.

And then the other 364 days get in the way, because they are jampacked with everything that makes us imperfectly human in the first place.

Today it hit me that in all of my years in recovery, I have met only one person who claims Jan. 1 as the date he successfully stayed stopped from using the substance that had wrecked his life. Every year, Tom tells the same story because he's earned it. "I was in jail on New Year's Day with a hangover and couldn't get a drink, and by the time I got out 14 days later, I figured, 'Why bother? I might as well quit anyway.'" He's a celebrity of sorts in the recovery circles I hang out in, because he always lays claim to the year's first sobriety medallion. He's got a streak of 28 of them, too.

I do know a handful of people who got sober on other holidays or special occasions.

There's a woman who went to treatment on Christmas Eve because that was the only day she could get an airline reservation. (Besides, it was effective cover for the intervention engineered by her family coming home for the holidays.) I met another woman whose sobriety date is also the anniversary of her wedding. "My husband's a federal drug agent. He hangs out with a lot of druggies and prefers not to be married to one. I don't blame him."

For most of the rest of us, our milestones in recovery are randomly ordinary days on a calendar except for what they represent: that flash of clarity when we finally grasped the lonely futility of our struggle against substances and accepted help. Jan. 2, May 1, June 28, Oct. 12, Dec. 11 or any other day of the year is our personalized New Year's Day, a start to the rest of the years of our life.

Before that happened, nearly everyone I know, including me, had other "stop" dates that fell by the wayside when we succumbed to the temptations of our chronic illness. We got another chance to get up off the bottom and start again and again and sometimes again. It is never too late or too early to get help. Recovery is possible. But it never happens until we're finally convinced that the eve of tomorrow is the last drink or drug we took today.

William Moyers is the vice president of public affairs and community relations for the Hazelden Foundation and the author of "Broken," his best-selling memoirs, and "A New Day, A New Life." Please send your questions to William Moyers at wmoyers@hazelden.org. To find out more about William Moyers and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2011 CREATORS.COM


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