What is a sober milestone? What is a sober anniversary?
A sober milestone commemorates how much time has passed between the present moment and the date of the addict’s last drug or the alcoholic’s last drink of alcoholic beverages. In reality, we celebrate a new sober milestone on a daily basis when we wake up sober. This is a great gift that keeps giving. As we continue to accrue days of sobriety, we can also commemorate significant milestones such as 1 week sober, 1 month sober, 2 months sober, 6 months sober, etc. When you reach one year of sobriety, this means you celebrate a sober anniversary, since anniversary comes from the word “annual” for “every year.” Then you get to count years! Each year in sobriety often brings new friends, especially if we are attending 12-step programs and anonymous meetings. Growing groups of friends and old acquaintances can help you celebrate your own sobriety in an appropriate way (no champagne toasts, please!).
Here we will talk about the experience of celebrating a sober milestone, different ways to celebrate, and who to celebrate with, so you can get planning your next important milestone. But first, do you know your sobriety date? Take a moment, think back, and write it down somewhere you will remember if you haven’t already. This is a special day, a big deal, and it merits holding a high place in your mind. Taking note of the day helps you track the inevitable positive changes that will happen in your life as a result of your decision to recover from substance abuse. And this addiction treatment is hard work that ought not to go unnoticed.
Mixed feelings are okay
Even though it is an objective fact that sobriety milestones are a big deal. It’s also normal for some of us not to make a big deal out of them, with our disease trying to trick us into believing it’s not something to celebrate. It’s important to remember that celebrating a sober anniversary is not just about the person celebrating–but an opportunity for the community of support around this person to bear witness to successful recovery from substance abuse disorder, one year (or day, or month, or hour) at a time.
There can be a lot of mixed feelings about sober anniversaries, especially for those of us in our first year of sobriety. While it is a great thing to recognize the successful completion of an alcohol rehab program, for example, addiction recovery also can be a fact of our lives we still feel slightly ashamed of. The last day of a treatment program can be a daunting occasion since it is the first day of a sober lifestyle and the constitution of a recovery process that will take hard work. But it is work you do not have to do alone, and this is why finding a support group outside of rehab is an immediately important thing.
It can also be difficult for folks who have been in recovery for a long time to celebrate sober anniversaries, even if they are celebrating years and years of sobriety. But it is just as important to mark these annual celebrations in our lifelong process of recovery, not only for your own sobriety but to share with the newcomer–the person just starting their sober journey–the good news that sobriety is possible, even when tough days inevitably occur. With each passing day, our sobriety strengthens, and any time is the perfect time to recognize this with simple gratitude. But doing something a little more intentional with a planned fun activity may add just enough motivation to get you to your next year, one day at a time.
Ways to celebrate your sobriety anniversary
A great way to celebrate your sobriety birthday or sober anniversary is to throw a sober party. Having a good time with sober friends in a party setting with no alcoholic beverages (and not even no-alcohol beer) can be a simple way to feel the freedom that comes with sobriety. If you’re not a party person or don’t have that many close friends (yet! Keep coming back…), you could have a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant with your best friend. If you really even don’t want anything to do with people, you could plan a fun activity that fills your soul and spend the day with your higher power. You could treat yourself to some massage therapy or go to a sporting event–alone or with friends.
The great thing about a sober lifestyle is that there are more great ideas for options to celebrate than one can know what to do with. Opening up one’s mind to the possibility of celebration without alcohol is a great freedom. You can be present for your wedding day! And every birthday, and every other significant life event, even the tough ones.
There are also lots of little sobriety gift ideas to buy for yourself or for someone else celebrating. This is a nice way to commemorate your special day as well. Often the best way to mark sobriety is to keep it fresh in one’s mind. So gifts like a key chain or a personalized journal are great gifts for a sober person to give creative expression to the most important fact of their new life on a daily basis.
Who to celebrate with
For just as it is important to celebrate a sober anniversary in some way, it is just as important to make sure you celebrate it with a support group of people who have had similar experiences and their own sober journeys. It’s hard to expect a family member or group of close friends who have not had personal experience getting sober to understand what you are, in fact, celebrating. A note especially to young adults or young people—choosing to get sober when you are young can be a radical departure from many groups of friends, and sobriety may seem lonely at times, especially when all the folks your age seem to be engaged in drug use or drinking. This decision to prioritize your mental health (and physical health) is brave and will add so much to your life. If you don’t feel like there are many young adults who are sober in your area, you can do a Google search of “young people in recovery” and call today one of the non-profits or organizations in your area. You’d be surprised how not alone you truly are.
No matter how long you’ve been in recovery, how old you are, or how you feel about it, celebrating your sobriety date is just as important a tool to maintaining a sober lifestyle as any of the other tools (like making phone calls to close friends to share feelings instead of picking up a drink or a drug, going to various anonymous meetings, working 12-step programs, prayer, meditation, exercise, a healthy diet, choosing lesser evils like sugar over greater evils like alcohol in moments of craving, and so on and so forth).
Each sober anniversary is an opportunity to reflect upon your recovery journey and the positive changes that have happened in your inner world and outer world. Noting these changes to yourself is a good way of building a case for the continuation of a sober lifestyle when you hit the inevitable tough days that might tempt you to give up. Happy celebrating! One day at a time.