Many people in sobriety take great pride and meaning in celebrating milestones. They allow us the opportunity to honor the hard work we did, reflect on our journey, and thank the people who supported us. Whenever I celebrate a milestone, I also make sure to thank myself; something I believe many people on a recovery journey don’t do often enough. Here are a few recovery milestones you may want to work towards, and different ways you can celebrate them.
7 Important Milestones in Recovery
Milestones can be significant dates, for example celebrating your birthday while alcohol-free or honoring your “quit date,” if you keep one. Milestones can also be experiences, like attending a wedding or holiday celebration sober, or even more day-to-day experiences like having dinner with friends, attending a work event, or getting through an entire weekend without drinking. Celebrating these milestones provides an opportunity to reflect on how we have grown and how our mindset has shifted since we changed our relationship with alcohol.
Here are some milestones that are well-worthy of celebration:
1. Significant Anniversaries
Whether it’s your wedding anniversary, the anniversary of when you decided to change your relationship with alcohol, or another meaningful day of the year, honoring your choice not to drink during these days can make them all the more special.
2. Attending a Party Sober
Attending a social event while sober is a major milestone, especially in early sobriety. Learning how to socialize without alcohol can be intimidating, but it gets better with practice. Making that effort and being able to wake up the next morning hangover-free is a huge accomplishment. Here are some tips for your first party sober.
3. Celebrate Saying No
Drawing boundaries is something to be proud of. There’s nothing wrong with saying no in order to put your sobriety first. Sometimes that means turning down an invitation to a potentially triggering event, or saying a firm no when someone offers a drink. Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
4. Navigating Difficult Life Events
Many people use alcohol as a way of coping with stress, anxiety, grief, and other intense emotions. Building alternative, healthier coping mechanisms is a huge part of the recovery journey. Being able to get through a bad day without drinking is an incredible sign of progress.
5. When You Are No Longer Physically Dependent
After an extended period of drinking, the body can adapt to need alcohol for its basic functioning. This is called alcohol dependence and is the reason why many people experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop drinking. With time away from alcohol, the body regains its normal functioning and withdrawal symptoms dissipate. This is a great time to congratulate yourself for getting through one of the hardest parts of the alcohol recovery timeline.
6. When You Begin to See Improvements in Work or Relationships
As a sobriety coach, I often see that when people cut back on alcohol, their professional and personal lives improve. They’re able to show up more fully for their relationships and have more energy at work. Celebrating the way sobriety has improved other aspects of your life is a great way to encourage yourself to keep going.
7. When You Achieve a Personal Goal
Whether your goal is to learn a new language, prioritize fitness, or complete a creative project, sobriety can help you achieve amazing things. And being able to celebrate hitting a goal without drinking alcohol is a milestone all in itself. Even the smallest wins are worthy of recognition.
How to Celebrate Recovery Milestones
How we celebrate our recovery milestones can be as unique as our recovery journey itself. Someone might get a tattoo or a piece of jewelry and keep the meaning to themselves, while others may choose to celebrate with others and share their achievement as a badge of honor. Maybe a celebration with friends and family feels right, or maybe taking yourself out for dinner or a show is more appealing. For me, fancy coffee, a new candle, or a day to rest is amazing. Here are a few other ways to celebrate:
- Spend Time With Family
- Give Back to a Good Cause
- Plan a Fun Activity
- Give Yourself a Treat
- Reflect With Gratitude
And we don’t have to wait for a major milestone in order to celebrate our sobriety. Every time we choose sobriety is a moment to honor. In this spirit, we can find ways to celebrate sobriety every day.
Support Group: Staying engaged in your sobriety or moderation journey
How to Get on the Path to Sobriety
Starting a sobriety journey can look different for everyone. Some people start by tapering down their drinking, while others begin by participating in a sobriety challenge like Dry January. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you embark on this journey:
Set Achievable Goals
Goal setting can be a powerful tool in your recovery journey. When setting goals, I often recommend acknowledging a larger goal and then working on 2 or 3 short-term goals that will support you in achieving it. For example, if your overall goal is to stop drinking by the end of the month, you might start with the short-term goal of not drinking within the first hour of every social event.
When we achieve even a small goal it gives us valuable evidence that we can achieve the goals that we set for ourselves. People often don’t often give themselves credit for what they have accomplished, and instead hyperfocus on what they haven’t achieved yet. Setting smaller goals prevents us from getting stuck in this perfectionist mindset and allows us to better appreciate and build upon our progress.
Remember Your “Why”
I always recommend creating a list of reasons why you want to stop drinking and what alcohol may be taking away from your life. My “why” for not drinking included getting a good night’s sleep, true connection with those I love, and feeling healthy in my body. This practice is helpful because sometimes after a period of being alcohol-free we can lose sight of why we stopped drinking in the first place. Connecting with our “why” helps to affirm our progress and can reinforce our decision to remain sober.
Planning for events was key to my recovery. I did this by taking extra time to rest before an event, either by taking a nap or listening to a guided meditation. I’d also make sure I was comfortable in what I was wearing when I went out. Shoes that hurt my feet or a sweater that was a bit itchy would make events seem more uncomfortable and would sometimes trigger my desire to drink. I would check out the menu in advance to make sure I knew what non-alcoholic drinks were available and to visualize myself enjoying the night. This helped quell my fears that I was missing out by not drinking. Planning ahead helps you feel more in control and ready for whatever challenges may arise.
Find Support with Monument
Seeking support for quitting drinking is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courage. We all need to be connected to others, it’s hard wired within us all. I love the Brené Brown quote, “We don’t have to do it all alone, we were never meant to.” I encourage you to reach out to whatever support systems feel empowering to you. Online treatment platforms like Monument can provide support, education, and guidance throughout your journey. Monument connects you with personalized therapy, support groups, and physicians who can determine if medication to stop drinking is appropriate for you. There are tools and people ready to support you.
The very first milestone in my recovery journey was the day I said to myself, “this isn’t working, it’s keeping you small and preventing you from having the life you want.” If you’ve had a similar thought, you already have taken an incredible step towards a healthier, happier life. You can do this.