As we start another year and another decade (how cool is that?), I’m sure a lot of you have some resolutions you would like to make. I know one common resolution is to get a handle on our vices, be they sleeping late, eating too many carbs, or late night cocaine binges. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the proximity of addiction, as have we all. Chances are if you don’t have this illness (or condition, or however you want to classify it), you love someone who does. There is a lot of interesting media out there about addiction. Whether or not you think this body of work applies to you, I’ve found a specific medical model to be useful in my understanding of what’s going on in the minds of friends, loved ones, and to some extent all of us. I suggest checking out some of these recovery resources to gain insight into your own behaviors; try googling “dopamine tone” and how our mammalian midbrain survival system operates—and malfunctions from time to time—for starters.
One thing that can be intimidating when we start a new year is that exhilaration of a blank slate combined with the dissatisfaction and disappointment that comes when we stumble back into habits we wanted to leave behind, despite our best intentions. At some point, everything new stops being new. Your new sneakers get scuffed up, that new relationship encounters its first speed bump, you just need a couple of drinks after a long day, and so on. So my brief advice for the start of 2020—completely arbitrary as a marker though these numbers on a grid may ultimately be—is to take some advice that may be found in many places, but is distilled so well in the collective lexicon and history of recovery. Treat every day and every moment as its own time and place to be experienced fully, each day—each hour—an opportunity to start anew. In those moments of great despair, hurt, or craving, remember: this too shall pass. And also in moments of great elation and triumph, remember: this too shall pass.
It’s also important to remember that when you do achieve some modicum of success with your resolutions, and the days of your desired behaviors accumulate, should you stumble, don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s no such thing as total purity or having a “perfect” record or being “clean”—in fact, it’s heartening to see a cultural shift toward moving beyond such absolute, judgmental wording when it comes to the ways our bodies operate. Let’s all try to keep an open mind and optimistic heart when those first scratches and scuffs appear on this promising new decade, not only for those around us, but for ourselves as well. Happy 2020, let’s get to it. —Dan Fox