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Discover How to Reward Milestones in Sobriety

Before beginning their recovery journey, an addict will tend to celebrate by using their substance of choice. Once they get sober, they need to find new ways to reward their accomplishments, especially their milestones in recovery. They may choose to reward themselves for these milestones privately, or they may choose to reward themselves in the company of family, friends, and/or their support group; whether the rewards are quiet or raucous doesn’t really matter. As long as a person in recovery acknowledges their strength and feels grateful for how far they’ve come, they will reaffirm their dedication to sobriety and improve their chances of long-term success.

This article will address why it’s important to reward yourself throughout recovery, the kind of milestones you’ll encounter on this journey, and how to celebrate sobriety in fun and healthy ways.

Choosing to Be Sober

You didn’t choose to become addicted to drugs or alcohol, but you can choose to get sober. Making that choice and then following through on it, are major reasons to celebrate.

For most people, the choice to get sober is made after recognizing the negative impact of substance abuse. Addiction can lead to serious medical issues like heart and lung disease, cancer, and brain damage, as well as mental disorders that result from brain chemistry imbalances and the negative emotional impact of addiction. Addiction alters your behavior and leads you to neglect and/or hurt others—even the people you love the most—and this can cause profound destruction to a life. The only way to repair and rebuild is to choose sobriety and take action by getting professional addiction treatment.

Many people never get the chance to choose addiction treatment. Over 63,000 Americans died from drug overdose in 2016. Projected numbers from 2017 seem to indicate that the number of overdose fatalities is rising, not falling. Anyone who chooses recovery should feel proud of deciding to get sober before it’s too late—pride, joy, and gratitude are natural and appropriate reactions to the act of saving your own life through recovery.

Why is Celebrating Recovery Milestones Important?

It reminds you that sobriety is an accomplishment.

When you celebrate the milestones of your recovery journey, you are making sure that you recognize and acknowledge the progress you’ve made. Sobriety is an accomplishment that deserves celebration as much if not more than a birthday, a wedding, or a graduation. Be proud of how far you’ve come, and grateful for everything that helped get you here.

It keeps you motivated.

Trophies for winning athletic events and awards for academic accomplishments can be a big source of motivation for athletes and scholars, both before the recognition, as they strive towards their goal, and after the recognition, as they strive to continue living up to that success and work towards more and greater recognition. Celebrating milestones in recovery is no different—only you need to award yourself the recognition instead of waiting for someone to bestow it upon you from the outside. Don’t hesitate to take on that role and reward yourself. You earned that metaphorical trophy, and if you stay motivated, you’ll earn many more.

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It improves feelings of self-worth.

You may feel hesitant to congratulate yourself for milestones in recovery—maybe you have a hard time forgiving yourself for past mistakes, or maybe you’re scared that you can’t keep up the success. Being brave enough to push past that hesitancy throughout your recovery journey and celebrate accomplishments anyway will build up your self-worth by reminding you of how far you’ve come and how strong you are. It is also a way of declaring to yourself that you have the power inside you to stay on track. Sometimes you need to tell yourself that you can do something first before you can actually start believing that it’s true.

It allows you to share your recovery with others.

Getting sober and staying sober is something that only you can do for yourself. A strong support system, however, can improve your chances of long term success. So much of your recovery journey is about you and the choices you make on your own, that it’s great to involve your loved ones in the process whenever you can—and celebrating recovery milestones together is one of the best ways to do this.

It instills excitement for the future.

Rewarding yourself for milestones in recovery is a hopeful act of positive reinforcement that affirms everything that you’ve learned so far, while bolstering your faith in your ability to turn a week of sobriety into a month, and a month of sobriety into a year, and a year of sobriety into five years. People often say that you fight addiction one day at a time—and that’s true, but days are what make up a lifetime.

How to Reward Milestones in Sobriety

24 Hours Sober

milestones in recovery

Look forward to the wonderful memories you’ll make, clean and sober!

The early hours of sobriety can be some of the most difficult, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The best kinds of rewards to give yourself for your first 24 hours off drugs or alcohol are anything soothing and restorative that can ease withdrawal symptoms and distract you from drug or alcohol cravings. Enjoy a hot bath, take lots of long naps, drink ice water on a hot day or herbal tea on a cold day, or do anything that comforts and sustains you. Take care of yourself and do small, simple, healing things to affirm the positive choice that you’ve made for your life.

30 Days Sober

After your first month of sobriety, you’ll still be figuring out your triggers and dealing with the emotional aftereffects of your addiction behavior. You may sometimes become overwhelmed by the intensity of your emotions and feel the temptation to numb yourself with substances. Knowing how to celebrate sobriety is incredibly important right now, primarily as a way to keep you on track. Make sure to recognize how different your life is now—and how much better. Savor all the small things that you can now enjoy and appreciate thanks to your newfound clarity. Reward yourself with a small treat like an afternoon doing something you love, or a dinner out for your favorite meal. Invite a friend or family member who has supported your recovery journey to come with you and share in the celebration.

90 Days Sober

By the time you’ve been sober for three months, you’ve gotten used to living a sober lifestyle. You no longer need to use all of your energy to stay away from drinking and using because you’ve established healthy habits and have made healthy, sober friendships with people who can help you in challenging times. You have learned coping skills and have systems in place that can keep you from relapsing when cravings hit. As a consequence of all this positive change, you will eventually realize that you have empty time that needs to be filled and stored up energy that needs to be used. Make the best of this by trying out anything new that sparks your interest. Take a class, try out a new hobby, and start investigating local “things to do” lists online. Passive rewards like buying yourself something expensive can put too much value on how much you can afford to celebrate, while active rewards like new experiences feed and strengthen your recovery, while also reminding you that sobriety is something that needs to be actively maintained.

6 Months Sober

At half a year’s sobriety, your healthy habits are so ingrained, and your recovery support systems so established, that you are fully prepared to respond to drug and alcohol cravings with hard-earned knowledge and experience. That doesn’t mean everything’s simple and easy, but it does mean that you have a great big toolbox to use whenever you’re facing a challenge. Continue to reward your accomplishments with small treats and gratifying experiences. Choose one of the activities that you enjoyed most over the past few months and dive in deeper—join a club (or form one), set a goal, or start a project. This will reward you not just for your six months of sobriety, but also for discovering new interests and passions that you never would have found without recovery.

One Year Sober

After twelve months of sobriety, you have learned how to accept and acknowledge your addiction without wallowing in it. You know when to pay close attention to it, when to distract yourself from it, and when to ask for help. You have also achieved something amazing that deserves major recognition. Now is a great time to start a tradition that you can use to celebrate each year’s sober anniversary. You can run in a race, create a piece of art or writing that depicts your recovery journey, or travel somewhere with a loved one from your support network. If you can’t afford a lavish vacation, drive or take a bus on a day trip to someplace beautiful. What’s important isn’t how glamorous the trip is, but that you reward yourself with something personal and special that you can’t experience every day.

Five Years Sober

With five years of sobriety under your belt, you will feel like a recovery expert in some ways, but it is important to remember that there is always more to learn. Life and other people will continue to surprise you with things both good and bad, so don’t let yourself take your recovery journey for granted. Neglect will leave you unprepared for changes and challenges. Hold onto the significance of all you have accomplished by rewarding yourself with something big. Have a sober celebration with the people you’ve become close to in support groups or in treatment, with family and friends who have been there for you through your recovery journey, and/or friends you’ve made through the new activities or hobbies you’ve discovered since getting sober.

Begin Your Recovery Journey Today

As soon as you start to abstain from drugs and alcohol, your body will begin the detoxification and withdrawal process. A successful detoxification will cleanse your brain and body of toxic chemicals so that you can begin to heal your addiction. Medical detoxification is often necessary for a safe and effective drug or alcohol withdrawal. A medical detox will manage the acute physical symptoms of withdrawal, so that you avoid additional health risks, and start your recovery journey on more stable footing than you would otherwise. Detox on its own is not a long-term cure for addiction, but should rather be seen as merely the first stage of effective, ongoing, addiction treatment.

Detox and addiction treatment is not a one-size-fits-all experience, so it’s important to seek out a detox program that meets your own, individual needs. Find out what treatment centers are near you, which facilities are covered by your insurance or offer affordable payment options, and what kind of treatment services these facilities offer. Consider the factors that make your addiction unique, such as your primary substance of use, whether you mixed substances, how long you’ve been addicted, how much you use, and any co-occurring mental or behavioral disorders you may have, and figure out what kind of detox program will be most helpful to your situation. Keep an open mind as you do your research on detox and addiction treatment facilities—you might surprise yourself by being drawn to a very different kind of program than you initially envisioned for yourself.

Once you’ve rid your body of addictive substances, you will achieve a clearer mind, a stronger body, and the energy to fully engage with treatment. Your best hope for recovery is a comprehensive treatment program that includes behavioral therapy and psychological counseling. Aftercare is also important. Addiction recovery doesn’t end when you are discharged from treatment—it is an exciting, lifelong journey. And never forget that every step of that recovery journey is an accomplishment which deserves to be acknowledged and rewarded.

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