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Addiction Recovery Anniversaries and Important Things to Keep in Mind

By September 30, 2018 June 15th, 2023 No Comments
people celebrating an achievement

Many people in the early stages of recovery wonder whether it is appropriate to mark anniversaries of sobriety, and if so, how it is best to do it.

While some people may decide to simply let them pass by, there are several potential benefits to marking them. These benefits are discussed here. There are many ways of acknowledging the occasions, from celebrations to more low-key events. Each person can decide upon the method that suits them best.

For people who are uncomfortable with the idea of marking a recovery anniversary, or are unsure of how to do so, it may be of help to speak to someone else who is further into recovery. They will probably have experienced similar feelings and may be able to offer insight and advice. As is usually the case in recovery, communicating about the challenges you are facing is a great first response.

Upcoming Anniversaries Worries

Some people in recovery find that they become anxious as anniversaries approach. Tim Stoddart, writing for Sober Nation, notes that any feelings of anxiety may be partially influenced by Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). This condition can last for up to two years into recovery. Symptoms include difficulty in managing anxiety and stress, as well as difficulty sleeping, memory, concentration and physical coordination.

It’s important to remember that, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms early in recovery, they will likely decrease over time. If you experience anxiety approaching a sobriety anniversary- or in any other context in early recovery- it may well be at least partially a result of PAWS. As Stoddart suggests, celebrating an anniversary may ease any anxiety and replace it with a sense of accomplishment.

Recognition of a Great Achievement

One of the most important benefits of marking an anniversary is to recognize what you have achieved. This is true at any stage of recovery. As David Sack, M.D, puts it, “when the work is as hard as recovering from addiction, every milestone merits recognition.” He writes, “People win awards for their smarts and medals for their athletic prowess. It’s only right that recovering from a chronic, relapsing illness should be honoured.”

Sack also discusses the anxiety around anniversaries discussed above. He writes, “Addicts are sometimes reluctant to self-congratulate, partly out of concern that they won’t be able to continue living up to their own expectations.” This is entirely understandable, and a sense of ambivalence as an anniversary approaches is a common response. However, Sack continues, “celebrating your recovery serves a number of valuable functions. Even years into recovery, celebrating reminds you where you were, how far you’ve come and how easy it is to fall back.”

While recovery will always be challenging, marking an anniversary can remind you of the challenges that you have already confronted. While recovery is a lifelong process, you should resist the impulse to minimize the achievement of reaching a milestone. Each one is a great achievement that has required enormous commitment and determination from you and those who support you.

Reaffirming Commitment to Recovery

An anniversary is a good time to assess what you have already achieved and to reaffirm a commitment to recovery. It is a chance to reflect on what you have already achieved and to consider the challenges of the future. If there have been specific challenges in your recovery, consider how to deal with these in the future. You should also consider what you have gained in recovery and the positive changes that have resulted from your work.

Focusing on the one-year anniversary, Stoddart writes that it is “a great time to do some self-reflection.” He suggests, “If you’re feeling anxious, try to figure out why. Are you worried that you’ll slip up? Have you struggled with cravings? Are you feeling sad, disappointed, lonely, etc.?” Once you have identified any issues, you can address them by speaking to someone or making a change. Self-reflection and communication are crucial aspects of recovery, and an anniversary can serve as a good reminder of this. If you are in touch with a therapist, treatment provider or sponsor, it is also a good time to speak to them about your recovery so far, your challenges and achievements.

Keeping It Green

In an article for on recovery anniversaries, Lisa Smith discusses the idea of “keeping it green.” This is a phrase used to describe maintaining a focus on how things were before recovery. This helps to maintain a commitment to recovery. Smith says she usually thinks back upon her life before recovery more in the weeks leading up to an anniversary. She considers this to be a good thing, as she writes, “If I ever forget how bad it was, I risk somehow thinking that it wasn’t so bad, which could lead me to thinking, maybe I can have just one.”

While one should not focus too heavily on the struggles of the past, it is important to “keep it green” to remember just why it was so important to begin the recovery process. This also allows you to compare your life before and after recovery, and see the progress you have made.

Sharing the Achievement

An anniversary of sobriety is also an opportunity to mark the occasion with those close to you. People rarely achieve recovery alone. There are probably people highly invested in your recovery who may value the chance to mark the occasion with you. People who have offered support in facing the challenges of recovery have provided crucial assistance. An anniversary is a great time to acknowledge this. If they have been with you through the process then they will also recognize what you have achieved. The occasion gives them a chance to express their pride in this achievement.

The actress Kristen Bell recently demonstrated this sort of pride when she paid tribute to her husband, comedian Dax Shepard, on the anniversary of his sobriety. “I will forever be in awe of your dedication,” she wrote, “and the level of fierce moral inventory you perform on yourself, like an emotional surgery, every single night.” The kind of commitment to honesty and communication Bell describes is an important aspect of recovery. Sharing an anniversary with those around you makes sense. Her comments show just how much she understands the work required in recovery. They also suggest how important a role she plays in her partner’s sobriety.

Inspiration for Others

As well as those who have supported your recovery, marking an anniversary can benefit others who are facing challenges. To anyone who understands the nature of addiction, seeing someone achieve lasting recovery is deeply inspiring. This is particularly true, of course, for those facing their own struggles with addiction. This is partially why some organizations encourage their members to celebrate their recovery anniversaries together. As well as recognizing the achievements of these individuals, they serve as inspiration to others in different phases of recovery.

As David Sack puts its, “Not only is it good for you to take pride in your accomplishments, but it’s also beneficial for others to share in your joy and to find hope in your story.” Bell also acknowledged this in her tribute to Shepard, writing, “I’m so proud that you have never been ashamed of your story, but instead shared it widely, with the hope it might inspire someone else to become the best version of themselves.” It is important to recognize that lasting recovery is an achievement that can inspire others. Social media data reports also suggest that more people choose to mark their recovery anniversaries publicly each year.

Methods of Marking the Occasion

There are many ways to mark an anniversary of sobriety. It may take a few tries to identify one that feels appropriate to you. It may help to speak to others who are further into their recovery and have some experience in the area. As mentioned above, some recovery groups invite members to mark their anniversaries together. This is a great way of sharing the occasion with people who understand the achievement. As Sack notes, “universities, self-help support groups and other organizations sometimes schedule sobriety celebrations,” allowing their members to mark occasions together.

Sharing the occasion can also function as a way to reaffirm a commitment to recovery, and to remember that there are others going through a similar experience. Simply knowing this can help someone more supported and remind them that there are people they can turn to in times of difficulty. Sack notes that, “While some people prefer a quiet celebration alone or with a close group of family and friends, others find solace in larger, public gatherings of fellow people in recovery.” Neither method is better than the other; it is simply a matter of deciding what works for you. As Sack concludes, “It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it motivates you toward ongoing recovery.”

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

Trafalgar Addiction Treatment Centres

We offer residential and outpatient rehab treatment programs for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders.

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