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Learn to celebrate you sober anniversaries.
September 28, 2016

Celebrating Your Recovery: Anniversaries to Remember

Learn to celebrate you sober anniversaries.Recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is a journey, destination and way of life. It’s also a big achievement, one that consists of many smaller but nonetheless significant accomplishments. These countless milestones are anniversaries to remember. They are what make a recovery lifestyle so worthwhile, and are one good reason the month of September is now an annually celebrated National Recovery Month.

Celebrating these sobriety anniversaries can deepen and renew a motivation to stay sober by helping you gauge your progress in recovery. This article will therefore introduce readers to the types of anniversaries that mark critical progress in recovery, from key points of time in treatment and recovery—be they public celebrations or more privately experienced moments—to important measures of how far you have come in attaining life skills that support your recovery.

Types of Sobriety Anniversaries

Many sobriety anniversaries are significant points in the journey that can pertain to anyone in recovery and are often widely recognized as such in recovery circles:

  • The day of your last drink or heroin injection
  • Your first-year anniversary of sobriety
  • The day you got a white chip in Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous … and each point in time thereafter when you got another chip in a different color

There are also the less predictable thoughts, feelings, sensations and associations that are unique to your recovery story in particular. They are, in the words of one recovering addict:

“little moments which are sprung on you out of the blue and which, therefore, don’t come preceded by the attendant levels of anxiety which an obviously significant milestone on the horizon (say a five or ten-year anniversary of sobriety, for example) always carry with them to some degree… They are insignificant only insofar as they generally go unnoticed by others around us. They are our own private, personal milestones—signals not to others but to ourselves that we are getting better.”

Examples of this more personal sobriety anniversary can include:

  • The moment you hit rock bottom and/or realized you had an addiction that needed help
  • Your personal turning point between “white-knuckled” sobriety (abstaining from drugs or alcohol through clenched teeth) and a life off drugs and alcohol that is “joyous, happy and free”
  • When a sight, sound or smell previously associated with getting high now naturally elicits revulsion at the same thought

These are only some of the many milestones that, while maybe not accompanied by much public fanfare, are significant, nonetheless—because your personal celebration of recovery would not be complete without them. While they may not find their way into someone else’s recovery story, they are the critical details in yours. They therefore deserve to be treasured and remembered.

Finally, the attainment of certain life skills that support your recovery is another type of anniversary to remember in recovery. This type of anniversary has less to do with important points of time in the passage of your recovery (be they public or private), and instead relates to the successful mastery of a particular goal or skill. Examples might include:

  • The permanent adoption of a healthy habit for coping with stress (exercise, mindful meditation, etc.)
  • The daily practicing of the “12 Steps” so that they have become a way of life
  • The ability to say “no” to relapse triggers

Key Anniversaries in Treatment

Some key anniversaries in treatment and recovery have already received mention, but there are others. For example, treatment milestones that are more specific to clients at Beach House Center for Recovery include:

  • The day you pick up the phone to ask for help for a drug or alcohol problem
  • The day you enter rehab
  • Your last day of physical detox from one or more substances (generally 4-7 days following admission)
  • The 35-day mark in inpatient treatment, by which time you will have:
    • achieved 30 days of abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol
    • addressed the mental and psychological roots of an addiction
    • gained an introduction to new life skills supportive of recovery
  • The 90-day mark in intensive outpatient treatment, by which time you will have:
    • achieved 90 days of abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol
    • established a healthy daily routine to support recovery
    • developed life management skills in areas like personal finances and interpersonal communication
    • jumpstarted your future career and/or educational path
    • connected with the people, purpose and passion that undergird successful recovery
  • Ongoing participation in alumni activities, including the sharing of your recovery story

These key stages measure progress in the development of healing connections to people, purpose and passion, the three critical ingredients of recovery that direct our approach to drug and alcohol treatment at Beach House Center for Recovery.

Other Key Anniversaries in Recovery

There are still other anniversaries worth remembering and celebrating in recovery from drugs or alcohol. One way to conceptualize and identify these milestones is via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Recovery Support Strategic Initiative. This framework for recovery identifies four major dimensions that support a life in recovery. They include (quoting SAMHSA):

  • Health: Overcoming or managing one’s disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way
  • Home: A stable and safe place to live
  • Purpose: Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family caretaking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income and resources to participate in society
  • Community: Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope

Other anniversaries to remember are those that celebrate progress in one or more of the above dimensions. What they look like concretely will vary from one person to another, but their general parameters—better health, a stable home environment, deeper purpose and connection to a wider community of relationships—are what define them as important milestones in recovery.

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