Congratulations! Whether it’s your 1-week, 1-month, 1-year or 1-decade of sobriety, you’ve been taking some amazing strides towards your health and wellbeing. Only you can take the steps that you’ve been taking to improve your life, and you’ve been taking them. Milestones are a huge part of recovery because they remind people of how far they’ve come. It’s truly something to be proud of – to look back and notice considerable differences, to recognize the way our mind and bodies feel with abstinence, and to witness the strengthened connections with ourselves, others and with a higher power is a beautiful thing. It’s natural for you to want to celebrate – but how should you celebrate? First, there are some things to remember:
First and foremost, milestones can be overwhelming. As one person explained on The Fix, “The big dates and doings of ‘normal’ life which others tend to notice and comment on (overwhelmingly encouragingly) can be, as well as sources of pride and encouragement, both daunting and destabilizing.”
Sometimes the realization of how far we come can bring about a sense of pressure that we’ve never felt before, and this can place us at an increased risk for relapse. There are several ways that milestones can trigger this:
- We start to believe that we’re “cured”
- We believe that since we’ve come this far, we can have “just one” drink and it will be fine
- We become overly confident in our capabilities of recovery – sometimes this can come off as feeling as though we don’t even need treatment anymore
- We become increasingly anxious because we don’t want to fail or fall back on our recovery
Milestones are great, but they are only parts of the story – not the whole story. You still have a lifetime left in recovery, and you still need to maintain the strategies you’ve been using to get you to where you’re at today.
Rely on Your Support System
Reach out to your AA sponsor and share with them how you’re feeling. Most likely, they’ve been in a similar position as you and are able to describe some past experiences they’ve had with reaching milestones and how they dealt with them. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse confirmed that social support is often the glue that holds together abstinence and recovery for many people. It is this sense of community that provides a safe haven for guidance – whether it’s pertaining to successes or tribulations.
If you really want to do something to celebrate a milestone in your recovery, you could host a sober party with all of your peers from recovery. Doing this will not only create a structured, trigger-free environment, but will also allow you to play games, drink sparkling water and watch movies with people you’ve really connected with in your program thus far. From there, you may even get further reinforcement to continue using the coping skills you’ve strengthened over this period of time. It’s a win-win!
Do Something Fun
By treating ourselves in small ways, we reinforce the positive behavior patterns that we’re trying to adopt. There are so many ways you can celebrate a milestone in your recovery without worrying about being triggered, such as:
- Going on a weekend trip with your family
- Planning a special meal (without alcohol, of course)
- Helping others take strides towards their recovery (through volunteerism, sponsorship, etc.)
- Write in your journal about how you’re feeling on this day so that you can look back on this in the future
The Gift of Recovery: 52 Mindful Ways to Live Joyfully Beyond Addiction, is a book written by authors Rebecca E. Williams and Julie S. Kraft. They suggest using positive affirmations to continue motivating yourself, such as “I stay present, in the here and now, and thrive in my recovery.” They emphasize that meditation can be an incredibly powerful tool to reel you into the present moment, and it’s through this that you can feel your joy potential rising from within.
In reality, every day in recovery is a day that you should be proud of yourself. Each day, you’re taking small steps towards your happiness and wellbeing – but it’s a process, and that should be respected. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come but use that success that you’ve achieved thus far as a motivator for continued success in the future. Eric Clapton, English rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter, illuminated at this very concept once by stating, “My identity shifted when I got into recovery. That’s who I am now, and it actually gives me a greater pleasure to have that identity than to be a musician or anything else, because it keeps me in a manageable size.”
Don’t wait any longer; begin the journey towards recovery today. Hope is not lost, and healing is right around the corner.
This is the year to change your life from suffering due to the disease of addiction to thriving in the sunlight of the spirit of sobriety. As the world’s first 12-Step treatment center, established in 1939, High Watch Recovery is dedicated to educating patients on 12-Step principles, actions, philosophies, and lifestyles, preparing them to live a happy and healthy sober life after graduating. For information on our continuum of clinical care and our compassionate approach to treatment, call us today: 860.927.3772.