Audio version of this post, written and read by Jean McCarthy

Oh, my friends, we did it. We’ve made it through 2020. Surely the year ahead holds brighter days and a return to normalcy.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

New Year’s Eve will be quiet chez McCarthy. Alberta is still under pandemic restrictions, and we are not able to mingle with other households. It’s just my husband and me here, but we’ll call our moms and FaceTime with our kids. We plan to take a nice stroll before dark and then cook a fancy seafood supper.

Our regular evening routine has been watching shows together (some favs so far are Succession on HBO, The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, Upload on Amazon Prime, and The Morning Show on Apple TV). To make tonight feel special, we might do something different. Perhaps we’ll play a board game or do a puzzle while listening to music. It’s a bit of a race to choose the playlist. He prefers a random assortment of modern folk, but I’m hooked on the new Taylor Swift albums.

Maybe I’ll wear heels and a sparkly dress, just for fun.

How will you ring in the New Year? How is your heart? Are you feeling hopeful? Have you chosen a Word of the Year for 2021? (My word is LESS, as I learn to find contentment and self-worth without constant hustling and validation.)

I’ve received hundreds of messages showing the recovery community’s varied response to the uncertainties, disruptions, and difficulties of the past year. Restrictions resulted in too much solitude for some and too much togetherness for others. Many found sobriety to be a superpower that helped them stay strong through difficult times. Many did not. How we have managed is not a measure of our worth or character but rather a reflection of our many individual situations.

If the past months have derailed your efforts to be alcohol-free, take heart. You are not alone. New Year’s is a perfect reason to steady the bus and carry on. (Beware! Addicted thinking may also whisper that New Year’s Eve is a reason for one last hurrah. Call out that voice, should you hear it.)

If you think you might need a little support, Annie Grace of This Naked Mind has a 100 Days of Lasting Change program to encourage freedom from alcohol. It’s worth a look if you or someone you know could use a boost to get (back) in the groove.

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Need a little extra inspiration? I spoke with some interesting guests on The Bubble Hour in December, including:
Kathy L., whose drinking escalated when she became the caregiver in her 30s for her terminally ill husband, then faced tragedy again when her second husband was diagnosed with cancer.
Danielle G., a young mom who was diagnosed with cancer shortly after the birth of her second child and then had a debilitating stroke. Recovering her health has also meant taking back her power over alcohol and living life to the fullest.
Photographer Mike Blanchard, whose work combines photography and personal essays to connect the beauty he sees in the world with his healing and growth in recovery.
and Darcy, a health professional who recently celebrated her 40th birthday and one-year sober. Her spiral into alcohol use disorder accelerated after her twins’ birth with the loss of two subsequent pregnancies.

P.S. My big accomplishment of 2020 was a book of poetry about recovery, The Ember Ever There. I am delighted with the response and honored to know this little collection has a home in so many recovery toolkits. For more info about my books, please visit

One more thing! Please join me on Instagram at – see you there!