Today, celebrating is almost synonymous with going out for drinks or throwing a party (with drinks). Birthdays, promotions, anniversaries, just the simple fact that it’s Friday… these are all cues for people to go out, get a good buzz going, and party with their friends. But this isn’t the case for a sobriety birthday.

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Celebrating sobriety is very important. It shows you that your efforts and accomplishments are appreciated while simultaneously keeping you motivated to stay clean and sober. Obviously, going out for drinks is completely counterproductive (to say the least) to your recovery. So how do you celebrate?

The Importance of Celebrating Sobriety

Recovery can change your life for the better from the moment you start out on your journey. It helps rebuild strength and purpose, allows you to be healthier and happier, mends relationships, and just gives you your life back. But that doesn’t mean it’s all green lights and blue skies 24/7. Recovery is hard sometimes. So maintaining your sobriety for one year, two years, or twenty years is something worth celebrating.

Celebrating Sobriety Feels Good

Feeling appreciated is important, regardless of whether or not you’re in recovery. It has to do with something called relational value. Relational value is essentially the extent to which you feel important, valued, and appreciated by people we deem to be important in our lives. These people can be our loved ones, friends, coworkers, employers, etc. However, it’s important to acknowledge that someone doesn’t have to be close to us to be important. For example, in recovery, we may feel especially valued when the other people in our fellowship meetings – whether we know them on a personal level or not – give us approval or praise. Being congratulated by others as you accept a one-year chip at a meeting speaks to our relational value.

celebratingRelational value is argued by social psychologist Mark Leary as the root of self-esteem. Self-esteem is incredibly important in recovery. Most addicts have very low self-esteem. It’s something that is worked on in recovery. High self-esteem will help a person stay sober, motivated, and happy. So, we can look at it as a kind of cycle. Celebrating our sobriety milestones stimulates our relational value, which increases our self-esteem, which helps us stay sober, which leads to more sobriety milestones… and the cycle keeps repeating.

You are also an important person to yourself. You don’t have to involve a lot of other people in order to celebrate your sobriety. If you celebrate and appreciate yourself, your self-esteem (and self-worth) will increase. It may not exactly be relational value, but valuing yourself is just as important.

Celebrating Keeps You Motivated

As psychologist B.F. Skinner so kindly consolidated for us, you’re more likely to repeat a behavior if it’s reinforced. Addicts prove this everyday. An addict who uses a drug and experiences a euphoric high is more likely to use that drug again to repeat that high. Of course, there’s more to it than that what with the way addiction changes brain chemistry, causes other health problems, and keeps people down. But you get the picture. A celebration is also a reinforcer. Celebrating your sobriety essentially reinforces being sober. So, recovered addicts are more likely to stay sober if their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated by both themselves and others.

Ways to Celebrate Your Sobriety Birthday:

  • Celebrate at a Meeting

    Going to a meeting is probably the best way to celebrate – if you’re part of a fellowship program in the first place – because you’ll likely get a milestone chip and be congratulated by your recovery peers. It’s a good way to feel appreciated while reinforcing the recovery values that keep you sober. New Start has a fellowship meeting every Tuesday night and we’d love to celebrate with you! Talk to us on our live chat or reach out to Paul, our admissions and outreach director, for more info.

  • Go to Dinner with Friends

    Even people who aren’t in recovery sometimes opt for celebrations that don’t include alcohol. A nice dinner out with friends and family is a common way to celebrate. And it’s perfect for people who have loved ones who are and aren’t in recovery because there are non-alcoholic and alcoholic options for both types of guests, respectively.

  • Invite People Over for a Get-Together

    If you want to go all-out and plan a full-blown party, by all means do it! But as we get older, our big parties tend to relax a little and transform into smaller, more intimate get-togethers. You can ask your loved ones to come over and just hang out, have piece of cake, and talk about what you’ve accomplished in your sobriety so far. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your non-recovery guests to curb their substance use at your get-together if you so wish. This is about you and your recovery, and your loved ones will totally get that.

  • Take a Hint from the Kids

    Since you don’t feel obligated to do the usual go-out-in-uncomfortable-but-fancy-clothes-for-over-priced-drinks thing in recovery, you might consider using a sobriety birthday as an excuse to do something you loved as a kid (not that you need an excuse…). When was the last time you went mini-golfing or bowling? Or maybe you’ve been dying to go to one of those trampoline parks your neighbor always takes his kid to. You worked hard for these sobriety milestones. I’d say that warrants being a kid for a few hours.

  • Just Relax

    You don’t have to do anything major for your milestone to be acknowledged. Celebrating can also mean staying home and giving yourself some much deserved relaxation. Take a hot bath, binge watch Netflix, play with your dog, indulge in your favorite dessert or snack food. Relaxation can be a celebration, too. Just remember to acknowledge the fact that you made it another year, month, or day sober and you’re doing a great job.

Remember to Celebrate the Small Things Too!

You don’t have to wait for big sobriety milestones to celebrate. In fact, you shouldn’t just wait for those milestones. Your smaller accomplishments in recovery are worth celebrating too. Let’s say you made it through your sister’s wedding without being tempted to have a drink. Or maybe you haven’t missed a fellowship meeting in three months. Those are reasons to celebrate! Maybe you don’t think they warrant a full-blown dinner with all of your loved ones, but acknowledging your accomplishments is definitely something you should always do.

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There are so many things to look forward to in recovery – sobriety milestones being just one of those. But you have to take that first step towards recovery in order to get there.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, New Start can help. Call us at 855-737-7363 or reach out to us on our live chat so that we can help you take that step into recovery.