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Exercise more often, commit to volunteer work, drink less and party less; these are a few of the many New Year’s resolutions we make to ourselves each January. Statistics show by the end of January 46 percent of people have already given up on their New Year’s resolution. What happens to our resolve, and why is it so difficult to sustain these healthy aspirations?

For those who set a goal to party less often—or cut down on drinking and other types of drug use—the ability to successfully manage drinking and other drug use becomes seemingly impossible, despite our best efforts. Why is it so difficult when we know that the benefits of spending more time sober greatly exceed the fleeting pleasure produced by drugs and alcohol?

The reason is simple but not widely understood. When the brain becomes accustomed to the presence of alcohol or drugs, it becomes conditioned to the effects and tolerance develops. After continued use, two or three drinks on the weekend don’t seem to have much effect anymore. Two or three drinks turns into a weekend of drinking and then drinks after work, or maybe even at lunch just to get through the day. Replace alcohol with any other drug and the same scenario is applicable.

So what can you do besides inevitably fail on a New Year’s resolution to party less frequently? The solution requires professional help for most people. Often the reason people initially turn to alcohol or drug use is to avoid uncomfortable feelings or situations. If you have been using alcohol and drugs for quite some time, your healthy ways of coping have probably ceased to exist. When you take alcohol or drugs out of the equation, the problems and stresses that come with daily life are still there.

Professional help can be the first step toward achieving your New Year’s resolution to cut down on drinking and partying. In treatment you’re surrounded by professionals like physicians, psychologists and other mental health professionals who can help you learn how to cope with life without alcohol or drugs. You will hopefully learn how to have fun again without the aid of harmful chemicals.

For anyone who may be thinking this message applies to them or to someone they know and care about, please consider taking the first step toward healing by coming to treatment.

At Altus Treatment Services, our goal is to help save lives by treating people with substance use disorders. It is our commitment and our passion. We would welcome an opportunity to speak with you or your loved one more about the options for treatment. Please feel free to share this message with others who may need help as well.

Dr. Marcum – Clinical Director, Altus Treatment Services