Whether you’ve just started reaching anniversary milestones in your journey to sobriety or you’ve been living clean for several years, it’s a good idea to celebrate these special days. Not only will these celebrations help you stay motivated, but they also remind your loved ones of your ongoing commitment to stay in recovery.
Just as life is a journey, so too is recovery. It’s not something that you do one time and move on. Staying loyal to your sobriety lifestyle requires on-going work. This work, whether through counseling, a rehabilitation center like 12 Keys Rehab, or attending daily or weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, continues even when you’re navigating through your daily life.
It’s almost like fighting a war — you never know when a temptation or trigger will jump out at you during the day. Even something as simple as grocery shopping becomes an opportunity to say “no” to your previous addictions by skipping the wine and beer aisles or finding a different driving route that won’t take you past your favorite liquor store. While these small opportunities are a good way to help you feel encouraged, it might also be too tempting, especially in early recovery.
But these small victories are all worth celebrating. Many people, especially early on in recovery, can be intimidated when they consider how they’ll need to adjust their habits not just in the short-term, but also for the rest of their lives. Some people struggle with remaining sober for years, but most will arrive a point where they feel like they have their addiction under control. If this happens to you or a loved one, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate the struggle that has gotten you (or them) to the point where it no longer feels like a daily effort.
A challenge in finding new ideas to celebrate sobriety is looking for opportunities that don’t involve alcohol or drugs. When most Americans celebrate major milestones, be it an engagement, a job promotion, a vacation or a win by their favorite sports team, alcohol is usually involved. You’ll need to take some simple steps to ensure that you’re celebrating around safe and supportive friends who are in favor of your continued sobriety. Taking an evening, or a whole weekend, to celebrate your newfound sobriety, or your continued success, is an important part of recovery.
With that being said, here are some ideas for how to go about celebrating sobriety milestones.
Get Into Nature
Since living sober means eliminating the toxic parts of your life, it’s obvious that being around nature is a great way to celebrate recovery. This can be accomplished with a simple picnic in a local park, or it could be weekend away at a resort or a cabin. Most small parks don’t allow alcohol, so that eliminates any awkwardness if a guest arrives with a six-pack (although this shouldn’t happen if you make the reason for the picnic clear to your guests). But it can also help you avoid bumping into a rowdy group of drinkers, like you might in a restaurant or club.
If you opt for a weekend away, consider what activities you and your friends will do. If you’re into fly-fishing, but in the past you incorporated alcohol into your weekend fishing trips, it might be a better idea to plan different activities, like local hikes or boating excursions. Make sure your friends understand in advance that this is a celebration of your sobriety and that you don’t want to be tempted by alcohol.
If your friends want to bring alcohol, ask yourself if you’re comfortable with setting boundaries for their drinking, such as limiting it to outside of your presence, or while you’re asleep. Your friends must also understand that they are never allowed to offer alcohol to you. While your friends might think it’s okay to drink on this weekend getaway, it’s your celebration and you get to make the rules. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of having alcohol there, or you feel that it detracts from the reason for the celebration, tell them to leave it at home. If they don’t agree, disinvite them.
During recovery, you deserve to be surrounded by family and friends who support you every step of the way. While you can’t prevent your friends from drinking when they aren’t around you, you don’t have to act like it’s okay in your presence. Never feel guilty about asking your friends to curb their behavior in your presence. Your ongoing sobriety comes first.
Go Out for a Fancy Dinner
Your celebration doesn’t have to be a big shindig — just gather a few friends together and go to a nice restaurant. It might be a good idea to call the restaurant ahead of time to request that the wait staff doesn’t offer any alcoholic drinks to your party and that they remove the drink lists from the table. When making this request, ask to speak with the manager who will be on duty the night of your celebration. There’s no need to explain the reason behind your request.
To take your celebration up a notch, tell the wait staff that it’s your birthday (which it is, in a way). Most restaurants will bring out a slice of cake or pie and sing “Happy Birthday” to you. It will make the evening that much more special, and the staff doesn’t need to know that you’re celebrating sobriety instead of a birthday.
Explore Your Local Activities
It’s probably a safe bet that you haven’t been mini-golfing in years — or bowling, for that matter. Revisiting some of these family-friendly attractions can help you meet new people while providing a different atmosphere compared to the ones where you previously used drugs or alcohol. Take a tour of a local arboretum, botanical garden, zoo or amusement park. Venturing out into something new can help you move forward with your recovery by creating new memories that aren’t tied to your past addiction. It can also be a great way to celebrate your sobriety milestone while exploring a new activity or pastime.
Before you go, check out the attraction’s alcohol policy. Some bowling alleys, for example, offer drink specials and might be heavier on their happy hour offerings than you’re comfortable with. If this is the case, find out what time of the day is most popular with the drinking crowd and avoid it. Plan your visit for a different time or day that doesn’t coincide with alcohol-related celebrations. Mornings and afternoons, especially during the week, might be the best time to check out some of these activities. Saturday mornings are also an often overlooked time for golfing and other activities, and most people don’t chose to drink during that time, so you’ll be less likely to run into any alcohol-related problems.
Take in a Ball Game
Spending an evening at the great American pastime is a perfect way to celebrate any milestone. The often slow pace of a baseball game, whether minor leagues, major or college, provides a nice backdrop for catching up with old friends.
Most ballparks are as famous for their food as they are for their baseball, so you can make an evening of it by sampling the concessions and eating your way through the concourse. Since many ballparks also recognize birthdays and celebrations on their jumbo-tron, you can always sign up for a shout-out about your own celebration. No need to get into what your particular milestone is — just tell them you’re celebrating. It’s a nice way to cap off the evening and your friends will enjoy celebrating your accomplishment with you. You might even end up on the big screen!
If you’re hesitant to invite your friends to an official celebration of a sobriety milestone, you could always mark the occasion yourself in a meaningful way. Find out if there are any one-day volunteer opportunities in your area that would allow you to give back to your community. This could be as simple as helping to hand out food at a food bank, delivering flowers in a hospital or helping to mark a trail in a local forest.
The ultimate goal is to find something you can do that you wouldn’t have done during your addiction. Even if it seems like work, you’ll feel rewarded at the end of the day and you’ll experience a simple way to make a difference in your community. Making this an ongoing tradition on each of your sobriety milestones will make the gesture even more meaningful. You can also invite friends to go along with you.
Common Recovery Milestones
As we’ve mentioned, many people chose to acknowledge sobriety milestones that are personal and important to the individual. But you might also want to celebrate some of the standard milestones that are acknowledged by most recovery and 12 Step programs, some of which recognize these occasions by giving the person in a recovery a colored, coin-like chip. Here’s a sample:
- 1 day/24 hours — The first day of recovery is generally filled with new experiences, most tied to entering a treatment program. It can be a difficult but exciting time, and is your first step into sobriety. Followers of Alcoholics Anonymous mark this by giving the new member a white chip.
- 30 days — The first month is one of the most difficult times of sobriety because of the physical symptoms of withdrawal. 12 Step programs recognize this milestone with a silver chip.
- 60 days — Since most recovery programs last 30 or more days, the second month of sobriety often occurs back in the home environment. This is the time when you’ll need to make changes to your regular lifestyle and will need to learn how to handle daily stress without returning to addiction. If you’re in AA, you’ll be awarded a dark gold chip for reaching this milestone.
- 90 days and 6 months — After working out how your life will unfold in recovery, the third month is when you need to “walk the walk” and carry out your daily responsibilities while living sober. By now, most of your triggers and past influences should be removed from your life. Popular 12 Step programs recognize this milestone with a red chip. Reaching the six-month mark earns you a yellow chip.
- 9 months and 1 year — By this point, recovery should be easier, but you’ll need to stay vigilant to ensure that past pressures don’t increase your chance of relapse. Once you’ve reach nine months (green chip) and one year (blue chip), it’s easy to become complacent and assume you’ve beaten the addiction. While it’s appropriate to celebrate this success, remember that addiction is a lifelong battle and you’ll need to continue to work on your sobriety, no matter how much time has passed.
Dealing With Early Recovery
When you’re new to recovery, it’s important to celebrate your milestones at any time that seems best. Many recovery programs make note of certain calendar-based accomplishments, such as 30, 60 and 90 days. But there’s no reason you can’t add extra milestones or celebrate different ones entirely. If, for example, you’re 41 years old, you might want to celebrate hitting 41 days of sobriety. Or, if you drank heavily for 16 years, 16 days sober might be an important achievement.
Acknowledging both your own sobriety milestones and those that are recognized by your recovery program and counselor are good ways to establish both short- and long-term goals. Each milestone you achieve will help you appreciate how far you’ve already come in your recovery. Don’t focus too much on the next milestone ahead. Instead, celebrate what you’ve already accomplished.
While you’ll want to follow the recovery set in place by your treatment center or addiction counselor, here are eight tips to help you reach your sobriety milestone.
Ask for help and patience.
Hopefully, you have supportive family members and friends who have stood by you during your decision to get sober. After leaving treatment, you’ll probably need to rely on them even more to help you continue your recovery. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, whether it’s simply needing someone to confide in or a trusted friend who can lend a hand around the house.
If you have past relationships in your family that need to be healed due to problems caused by your addiction, make sure these family members know you’re committed to mending the relationship, but that you need time to work on yourself first. Seeing a family therapist with your loved ones can help during this difficult time.
Create a safe space.
Any past addiction triggers must be removed from your home before you can expect to live there during recovery. You might need to enlist the help of a family member or friend who can get rid of alcohol, pill bottles, drugs or other things (such as family photographs or books that caused anxiety) that increase your likelihood of relapse.
If you don’t have anyone you can ask to do this, your counselor or recovery center might be able to recommend a community liaison. It’s critical that these items be removed before you return home to lessen your chance of relapse.
Stick to a schedule.
Not deviating from a standard schedule is a good way to lessen your likelihood of relapse. Most of your waking hours will be used up by work, therapy and doctor or social appointments and the downtime should be designated for activities like meditation, exercise or hobbies. Having two much free-time in your schedule can open the opportunity to relapse. Keeping yourself busy and on a regular, reliable daily plan will help you stick to your sobriety.
Actively work on your sobriety.
If you attended a rehabilitation or treatment program, you’ll likely be referred to a local psychologist or counselor who can help continue your recovery. Starting this relationship and sticking to your schedule of appointments is imperative, especially early on.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your counselor, seek out another right away, but don’t let more than a few days lapse between starting with a new one. Since insurance coverage and appointment waiting lists can delay treatment, stick with your first therapist until you get started with a new one. In fact, even if you like your therapist, it’s a good idea to ask him or her for a recommendation of someone else with a similar practice, just in case your preferred therapist gets sick or retires.
If you come home from treatment on medication, you will also need to immediately follow up with your general medical practitioner to update them on your treatment. This will help ensure that there aren’t any gaps in your medical treatment.
Many recovery programs emphasize the importance of so-called 12-step programs, like those offered by Alcoholics Anonymous. These meetings can offer an important support system from other people who have been through the same problems of addiction. In the beginning, it might be helpful to attend more than one meeting per day, especially if you have large chunks of time in your schedule when you have nothing to do.
Take care of your health.
Going through recovery can be hard on your physical and mental health. Make sure you’re getting exercise and eating healthy, and that you get a good night’s sleep. It’s easy to get run down during this time, which can lead to illnesses.
Your goals now will be different than before entering recovery. Setting your own milestones will take precedence over most other things, but you’ll need to work those goals in along with job and family responsibilities. This is another area where it’s important to develop supportive relationships with your loved ones so they can help you reach these goals.
If you had a certain group of friends who enabled your addiction in the past, you’ll need to cut ties with them. Even if they’re also in recovery, it might be necessary to distance yourself for the betterment of each of you. At the very least, only see those friends in situations where alcohol and drugs can’t be introduced.
If you or a loved one is dealing with an addiction and you’d like to learn more about the highly successful addiction recovery program at 12 Keys in Florida, please call us any time, 24 hours a day and seven days a week for a personal, confidential consultation, or fill out our contact page.