In 2019, almost 50% of British adults made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more or generally improve their fitness. Resolutions concerning health and diet are the most common type of resolutions, although financial and career orientated ones were also popular, with 31 % of Britons stating they have made a resolution to save more money.
While New Year’s resolutions are still popular, 27% of British adults claimed that they have never made one at all, with older age groups being far less likely to make a resolution than younger ones.
Even though nearly 50 % of people say they want to improve their health and wellbeing and save money, only 16% say they want to do something about their drinking and there are never any published data around drug use and New Years resolutions. The fact that alcohol use can contribute to over 60 negative physical and mental health conditions and is full of sugar it should be much higher on the list of things to address to improve your health. And with cocaine related hospital admissions at a 10 year high and over 350,000 alcohol related hospital admissions in 2019 stopping your use will also help our overstretched NHS who are busting at the seams with COVID-19 patients at the moment.
Not surprisingly studies have shown that less than 25% of people stay committed to their resolutions beyond 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them at all. Studies have even shown that the 12th January is when most people quit their resolutions giving it the title of “Quitters Day”.
So where does this leave those of you that are reading this thinking that you need to do something about your drug and alcohol use for 2021?
Well, New Year’s Eve this year is going to be vastly different to start with. No big parties, no mixed social gatherings.78% of those living in England being in Tier 4 which means we must not meet socially indoors with friends or family unless they live with or are in your support bubble. This being the case that last hurrah that some of you are probably promising yourselves before starting your New Year resolution maybe more like a last squeak.
This year everyone is going to be more visible. Getting completely wasted in a swarm of people, many of whom you probably don’t even know, is going to be replaced with just the people you live with and as such any excessiveness is going to be noticed and any unintended negative behaviours or actions are going to have far more serious consequences. For those that read our last blog on a client’s last hurrah that found him kicked out from the family home and in a soleless hotel room on the 29th December, it is a salutary warning how things can go very wrong very quickly. For some of you this may well put the whole idea of one last hurrah on hold altogether but for those of you that are already in too deep with your drug and alcohol use you know that a little thing like COVID-19 and its restrictions is not going to stop you from having a blowout. This in itself is a marker to how far you have come with your relationship with drugs and alcohol and an indication that even in the light of a pandemic and complete lock down you still can’t stop.
What Works In Keeping Your Resolution?
If you have decided to do something about your drug and alcohol use this is what we know about resolutions and behaviour change and what works?
- Join in a programme with other people. Studies have shown that simply by connecting with others, all of which have a same shared goal, will improve your chances of success by 46%. This is one of the many reasons why groupwork programmes, like those offered at Help Me Stop have such great outcomes. This doesn’t mean to say that the individual support you get is not helpful, but you increase your chances of completing your goal by nearly 50% through just being with other like-minded folks.
- Commit. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that people have a 65% of completing a goal if they commit to someone. And if you have a specific accountability appointment/s you’ve committed too as well this will increase your chance of success by up to 95%. So, commit to your partner, husband, wife, boyfriend etc. that you are going to make changes to your relationship with drugs and alcohol and pick up the phone and commit to a treatment programme and commit to those appointments on that programme. When you are accountable to someone or a group of people for doing what you said you would do, you engage the power of social expectations and this helps drive motivation to complete and improves your chances of keeping your resolution to address your drug and alcohol problems.
- Get Professional Help. Getting on top of drug and alcohol use is not easy. The psychotherapists at Help Me Stop know this from personal experience as all have a history with either drugs or alcohol, but they also know what works to beat it. A huge benefit of psychotherapy is that its effects are long-lasting. This is because you’re not only working through the underlying reason for your use, but you’re also developing the tools to help you deal with future problems. Another benefit of psychotherapy is that it not only helps you understand yourself better, but it helps you understand other people and you won’t have to self-medicate anymore.
As we have said in previous blogs self-medicating to “deal” with things is incredibly common. But it doesn’t do anything to actually address what’s going on – it just masks it. It also creates a new problem of drug and alcohol dependency. Getting to the root of your issues in therapy will, with time, avoid the need to self-medicate and is key to relapse prevention.
SMART meetings, AA, CA, MA and AA meetings are terrific additional support and should be encouraged but they are not psychotherapy and they are not run by professional addiction trained psychotherapists. In many cases drug and alcohol treatment can be free from your local community drug and alcohol team but private treatment costs are not as much as people think and can work out the same or less than your weekly spend of drugs and alcohol and invariably there are no waiting lists.
- Rewiring your brain to do something different takes time. There are no quick fixes or magic wands to change behaviour and then sticking to the new behaviour. One of the benefits about professional psychotherapy-based programmes is that they can bring about change within the brain. With brain imaging methods, psychotherapy has been shown to alter activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala all of which deal with fear, anxiety, sense of self, emotion, and control and its often these underlying reasons why people self-medicate with drugs and alcohol in the first place.
- Understand why you shouldn’t make a change. Drinking and taking drugs do have immediate, pleasurable payoffs so its good to get these down on a piece of paper listing all the benefits of staying with the drugs and alcohol. But you then must list all the benefits of quitting the drugs and alcohol, both for the short term and long term. If the benefits of quitting don’t outweigh the costs, then you are going to have problems from the outset in keeping your resolution. However, be mindful that you may be holding back on your answers to allow yourself to keep drinking or taking drugs. And be wary of some of your benefit answers i.e., when I drink & I am coked up I am funnier than when I’m not – are you really, who says so? Often the reality is that you are not only not funnier but are talking rubbish and embarrassing yourself with you nine-to-the-dozen banter and the only people that may find you amusing are the ones that are also drunk and coked up.
Stop Talking And Start Doing
All the talk in the world is not going to bring about behaviour change unless there are some actions to go with it. Self-medicating your problems away through drugs and alcohol is not the solution. But as we have said before when you’re drinking or using drugs (or both), it’s common to try to rationalize your substance use, deny how much or how often you use, or simply deny that you or you’re drinking or using is creating problems.
Admitting that you’re drinking or using is creating problems is the first step. The next step is doing something about it as only too often actually doing is put off to next week, next month as there is always a reason why you can’t start sooner.
Help Me Stop has been constant in our practice to maintain our standards of care since the start of COVID-19 while ensuring the protection of our clients and staff. The procedures we put in place at the beginning of lockdown have prepared us for any policy changes caused by COVID-19, including the government implementing tighter lockdown rules which was announced in December 2020.
Under the new Tier 4 rules, it is still legitimate for you to attend treatment or attend an assessment so please do not be put off seeking treatment. Our Dayhab centres, which is based in Acton, West London and Fitzrovis, Central London, will remain open as usual and of course we have our tried and tested 6-week online service for those that can’t make it into London.
If you are concerned that things are getting to much and you are hitting the bottle or taking drugs to cope and want to know how get your life back on track, or you are concerned about someone you know then call us now on 0208 191 9191 or jump onto Live Chat/email us directly at https://www.helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us/
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop’s Director of Operations and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.