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Bird being freed from a bird cage
August 12, 2018

Celebrating Freedom from Addiction: You Don’t Have to Wait for an “Official” Sobriety Anniversary

Bird being freed from a bird cage

If you’re a member of any 12-Step group, you’ve heard many of your fellow members announce: “Tonight I’m celebrating one year of sobriety”—or six months, five years or ten years. Perhaps you’ve personally made similar milestone announcements. There’s nothing like a sense of accomplishment to boost confidence.

On the other hand, knowing that in four months you can celebrate one year of sobriety is not always sufficient motivation to stay sober when you’re wondering whether it’s worth the effort to stick out the rest of this week. Even “living one day at a time” can feel overwhelming in times of pressure or monotony. One way to motivate yourself to keep going: instead of waiting for your next “official” sobriety anniversary, take time to celebrate your freedom today.

REMEMBER HOW FAR YOU’VE COME

  • If you’re battling the temptation to take a drink “just this once,” remember that your very will to resist proves you’re stronger than before.
  • Remember how many hard days you’ve survived without a drink, and pat yourself on the back (literally) for it.
  • Look in the mirror and give yourself a congratulatory pep talk.
  • Write yourself a congratulatory letter. Or write several and ask a friend to mail one to you every week—that regular dose of encouragement works wonders.
  • Call up someone in your support network just to celebrate your progress. (Yes, a simple “how well things are going” conversation counts as celebration.)

TREAT YOURSELF TO SOMETHING FUN

This can be anything from a trip to your favorite coffee shop, to a long soak in a bubble bath, to an evening concert in the park. Just make sure it’s something you personally enjoy and that reinforces the principle of indulging yourself (in healthy ways) simply because you deserve it.

DO SOMETHING FUN AND PRODUCTIVE

Celebrations don’t have to be all play, and work doesn’t have to be all monotony. However much sweat and effort goes into a project, if you feel fulfilled in the act of doing it (as opposed to being satisfied only when it’s finished), doing it counts as celebration.

Projects that may appeal to you include:

  • Carpentry or woodwork
  • Knitting, crocheting or embroidery
  • Writing stories, memoirs or poetry
  • Running a marathon
  • Volunteering for a service project
  • Assembling jigsaw puzzles or models
  • Pencil-and-paper puzzles (crossword, Sudoku, word search, maze, connect-the-dot)
  • Artwork (painting, coloring, sculpture, pottery)

CELEBRATE WITH A FRIEND

Of course, the best celebrations are shared celebrations. You can invite a sobriety partner—or your whole family—to join you in any of the above. Or just get together to chat about the good things happening in your lives.

CELEBRATE IN A COMMUNITY

Celebrating someone else’s one-year sobriety anniversary—or attending an addiction-awareness event of any kind—also counts as celebrating yourself, everyone else who has survived the horrors of addiction, and your loved ones who’ve supported your journey. You don’t have to be the guest of honor to get personal encouragement from a celebration.

THROW A PARTY

If you enjoy entertaining, there’s no rule against having a “real” celebration for your recovery and progress, whether or not you’re anywhere near an “official” anniversary. “Just because” celebrations aren’t as spectacular or as loaded with gifts and congratulations, but still can be a lot of fun.

  • Plan anything from a multi-course dinner for 16 in your home, to going out for lunch with your two best friends. Just remember to make it something you enjoy (including enjoying the preparation)—no stressing yourself out trying to impress others with something overly fancy, or paying everyone else’s bill whether you can afford it or not.
  • Include a “sweet treat” and dress it up a bit (you can buy desserts already dressed up at any bakery)
  • Plan on a time for sharing what you’re proud of and having others congratulate you on the improvements they’ve noticed. You might ask someone to officially toast your progress and future goals (with a non-alcoholic beverage, of course). Or propose a toast yourself: to sobriety, to any or all persons and organizations who made your recovery possible, to a dream of a world free of addiction.

Finally, remember that every day of successful sobriety is a day worth celebrating. Develop an evening ritual of offering yourself some small congratulations or treat, as a reward for completing one more day of freedom.

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