New Year 2021

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!


  1. Finding this blog is a God-send. 2020 has marked an all-time high of too much drinking and my body and face show it and most importantly, I have NOT been a good mother. Does anybody else drink when they are just bored and want to check out? It’s a lonely feeling accompanied with moments of pure anger at myself and everyone around me. I have quit before and it’s time to do so again. I welcome any tips you can give. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


    • Hi Tish, so glad you found your way here. It sounds like it’s time to take your power back. Read blogs and books, listen to podcast, join online communities (see my resource page at, start a journal, (or a blog!), and enjoy the process. Consider checking in with your dr to learn about possible withdrawal issues to be certain you go about it safely. I am excited for you.


  2. Hi Jean, today is my one year alcohol free anniversary. I just wanted to thank you because reading through your blog and all the comments really helped me, especially at first.

    Happy New Year!


  3. A New Year resolution 6 years ago started me on my path to sobriety. I absolutely love this time of hope, renewal and second chances. I am so grateful that I was able to navigate 2020 without the added chaos of out of control drinking. I shudder to think what 2020 would have been like had I still been drinking. I fear I would have never found my way to the surface again. I’m so thankful for you Anne! You really were my beacon, guiding me to safety in those early days.

    Happy New Year!


  4. I love Less, great choice. Still reflecting on mine. It’s been quite and year and you are so right about how people have handled it is a reflection of individual circumstance. Bless us all. Happy New Year to you and your family! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Happy New Year, all!

    My word is accept. I found 2020 to be a year in which I practiced judgment on a grand scale. So today, in giving up judgment, I’ve shut off the twitter/political/news feeds and will instead practice accepting people and events as they are instead of as I would have them be.


  6. Happy new year.
    My word is This. To be with this, whatever it turns out to be in 2021.
    2020 was an interesting year. I preferred it to 2019, mostly because I am fortunate to be able to work from home and my kids have managed school transitions without missing a beat.

    Take care and I hope you get the less you want!
    Stillness and peace,

    Liked by 2 people

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