Self-Preservation for the New Year

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Self-Preservation for the New Year


That’s the attitude most of us hold towards a new year full of the promise of change. Out with the old, bring on the new, and occasionally, good riddance to the year before. 

We’re ready to get on with it, take the bull by the horns, this year things are going to be different—pick the cliché that resonates. 

As energizing and positive as that sounds, it has a flip side—exhausting. Especially when you realize that for everything to change, everyone must change too, and the odds of that happening are slim to none, especially if you’re dealing with addiction in any form. 

So, I’d like to propose another word to keep in mind as we charge into a new year: preservation.

Self-preservation, that is. 

 When we think about how we want to live in a new year, we’re full of hope that this year things will be better. And they may be, but they may not. We rarely plan for how we’ll deal with the setbacks, the relapses, the pain and possibly failure to achieve our goals—especially if those goals involve the sobriety of another, which we ultimately have no control over anyway. 

comfy reading nook

Enter self-preservation.

During the worst of my son’s active addiction, I sometimes chose self-preservation, even if it meant giving in to the madness of David’s addiction at that moment. I would literally walk away, leaving him to his demons, locking myself in my room to binge watch a favorite show, or even drive away, because really, is there anything better than McDonalds French fries when life is hard? And there’s a drive-through—my winning at the time. 

Be kind to yourself.

Self-preservation is not self-indulgence, although there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Self-preservation is survival, and sometimes it’s all you have the strength for. 

Build recovery time into your own life.

Retreat is not the same as defeat, and it’s necessary if you’re to stay in the fight for your loved one’s addiction recovery. Create a safe zone in your home—somewhere you can retreat to that is addict-free. Watch TV, read, play spider solitaire on your computer (my favorite!), nap—do what nourishes and replenishes you.  

It’s okay to choose to do nothing to combat addiction if you’re depleted.

Remember the three C’s: you didn’t cause the addiction, you can’t control it, and you aren’t going to cure it. Take care of yourself. Love the one suffering from addiction, but remember to love yourself, too. 

Card with Mindfulness Written on it in script

Mary Fran Bontempo is a 2x TEDx speaker, author and humorist. Visit her at

Her latest book, “The 15 Minute Master—How to Make Everything Better 15 Minutes at a Time,” can be found on Amazon.

Mary Fran Bontempo