Reflecting on the Past Year and Looking Ahead

When we are working to move forward in our recovery, it is so important to look back and reflect on the past so that we can celebrate our successes and take inventory of what we can improve upon. Looking forward to the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 is the perfect time of year for reflection.

Sometimes self-reflection can be challenging, even painful. We can be overly hard on ourselves. We can dwell on our mistakes and perceived shortcomings. We can feel as though we haven’t come as far as we would have liked to. However, when we look back on what has happened through the course of a year, we can see from January to December just how far we have come. Reflecting on the past requires some shifts in our perspective so that we can make the most of our progress moving forward. Instead of focusing on how far we have left to go, by focusing on how far we don’t perceive we’ve come, we focus on the strides we have gained.

Self-reflection urges us to embrace all aspects of our journey with honesty and humility- from what we have accomplished to what we still have to work on. We can no longer let denial and pridefulness stand in the way of our recovery. When we are in denial, we try to hide certain aspects of ourselves and our experience from others and most importantly, from our own conscious awareness. We bury our most painful emotions, fears and memories in an attempt to avoid having to confront them. Some of us have buried them so deeply and for so long that they have become emotional blockages within us that we have to work to unravel. We have to work through layers of anger and resentment that have been festering, debilitating shame keeping us stuck, and paralyzing fear and sadness. The end of the year and the beginning of a new year offer us a clean slate, of sorts, if we choose to take it. Starting with a clean slate, free of our resentments and shame requires “cleaning house”. Through treatment and ongoing recovery, we can work to remove these emotional blockages and allow ourselves to make room for the possibility of a new year.

Processing all of these difficult emotions requires that we be honest with ourselves, just as we had to be to take the first step in our recovery. We can’t possibly unburden ourselves and have a clean slate for a new year if we continue to hold back our transformation. Many of us try to pretend we’re not suffering because we think suffering is what we need to do in order to appear strong. We lie to ourselves and others about how much pain we’re actually experiencing. We cover up our depression. We convince ourselves and the people in our lives that our addictions aren’t as problematic as they really are. In order to take full advantage of our self-reflection so that we can really learn from everything we’ve been through, we have to be honest and we have to be humble. We have to remind ourselves that pain is an inevitable part of the human experience and nothing to be ashamed of. We have to tell ourselves that we can’t heal if we don’t face ourselves fully, head on and with total transparency. We have to affirm for ourselves that it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to accept that we have challenges and that we need help. We have to realize that year after year will continue to come, filled with day after day, in which there are opportunities to make mistakes as well as opportunities to learn and grow from them.

The process of self-reflection at the end of the year demands a level of courage we might think we don’t possess because we’ve been running from ourselves and convincing ourselves that our fear and pain outweigh our strength. We’ve formed limiting beliefs about our ability to cope. We’ve developed false notions of our capacity for transformative healing. Now, with the new year approaching, is the time to muster every ounce of courage we possibly can. Analyzing ourselves with honesty and humility might be one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. Our lack of self-analysis has been fueling and perpetuating our addictions. Our fear and denial have given our addictive behaviors and compulsions the momentum they needed to thrive. We have to take this opportunity to starve our addictions of this fuel, to choose courage instead. Every time we make the choice to face ourselves, we strengthen our connection to our inner selves. We bolster our ability to process our emotions so that we can work towards healing. We get better at integrating all of ourselves into the full light of our acceptance. We stop rejecting the parts of ourselves that might have made us feel uncomfortable or ashamed, and we choose forgiveness and love instead. The result is a powerful alchemy where radical transformation can take place and the promise of a brand new year.

Reflecting on our past makes true healing possible and lets us look towards a brighter, more empowered future. When we take the time to look at our past and analyze it with honesty, humility and courage, we build a foundation for ourselves that lets us move forward with hope rather than holding ourselves back in despair.


The new year is the perfect time to choose recovery and change your life. Riverside Recovery has the educational tools, the experience and expertise, and the supportive community to help you reclaim the life you love. Call (800) 871-5440 today to get the help you deserve.