I recently overheard a comment from someone who said “Sobriety anniversary? Who would ever want to celebrate being sober?” And to that I replied, “Well, for someone who was destroying their lives with drugs or alcohol, being clean and sober every passing day just happens to be a big, freaking deal!” People outside AA, NA, CA, and other 12-step or recovery-related programs often do not understand the importance of the sobriety anniversary.
Outsiders or Normies May Not Understand
As an addict in recovery, I can speak for many people that sobriety anniversaries are extremely important. They are major accomplishments! I cannot express the utter amazement I experience every passing year of continued sobriety. A customer of mine described her sobriety as a wonder to her that through “one day at a time” she was able to put together over 21 years of clean, sober, happy living.
Sobriety birthdays are events that are nothing like a regular birthdays: it’s not something we dread as we get older, but rather it’s another year of freedom from addiction. Another 365 days of rebuilding our lives and going from complete self-loathing to find meaning and purpose.
How Others Can Help
We must absolutely recognize sobriety birthdays both in and outside of fellowship. Sisters and brothers in fellowship, friends, and family should acknowledge the sobriety anniversary. Because it is an indescribably important day in the addict/alcoholic’s life, we can offer our presence at meetings where we accept chips marking another year of sobriety, or we can offer gifts commemorating that special day.
Numbers are Real Motivators
During my first year of in recovery, I remember watching people in the program celebrate their anniversaries and this actually made me envious. I often thought bitterly , “if that person can do it why can’t I?” and this became a huge motivator for me. So as the months passed and I accepted more chips, the challenge became greater and I had finally reached my first year. That number “1” became a motivator in itself because I didn’t want to break it and have to start over again.
After a few years of sobriety under my belt, sometimes the idea of remaining clean and sober became somewhat abstract; however, breaking the number was not. There were times when I thought, “I’ll just have a little this one time, no one will ever know…” but then I couldn’t stand the idea of starting over. What’s more, I would feel hypocritical if I would have ignored that one occasion and pretended it never happen. The competitive part of me and I’m sure for many others in recovery believe it is healthy and an example of how the program is a system of interlocking motivators.
My Personal Touchstone
When I first entered recovery, I started making my own jewelry bearing the Serenity Prayer as a touchstone, something to re-direct my thoughts whenever I needed to, especially during those early days of sobriety. On my fifth sober birthday, I made myself a special reminder with a big 5 on it that wore close me. It became a constant reminder of how far I’d come. It was something I could touch or look at in the mirror at any time.
I’d been offering serenity prayer jewelry and gifts, but it never occurred to me to offer the anniversary piece because it was only relevant for one year. Then someone in the program reminded me of the tradition of passing your number along to another sister or brother in recovery whenever they reach that birthday. I now offer several types of gifts customized for sobriety anniversaries for both men and women . I invite to stop by and view my artwork at www.serenityisforever.com.