Celebrating Sobriety – Life After Rehab
Claire’s phone rings: reaching for it in the haze of her sleep, she reads the screen. Call from Christy; she sends it to voicemail. “Claire, it’s me. Where are you? Linda keeps asking. I told her I think you mentioned you had an appointment this morning, but I can’t keep covering for you.” She rubs her eyes and sprints out of bed. 10:06 am, she’s late again, and work will not wait for her. Her breath, her smudged makeup from last night, and the empty Tito’s bottle on the counter are all a story she’s trying desperately to end. She gets through her day with a splitting migraine. After work, through teary eyes, she runs a quick google search, “AA meetings near me.” She finds a zoom meeting starting in twenty minutes. She sits cross-legged on her bed, logs in, and breathes in the familiar beginning.
“Hi, I’m Claire, and I am one day sober. Alcoholism has been in my life since my divorce 17 months ago…”
The Fear of Relapse
For many addicts like Claire, the process of recovery has multiple stops and starts. The fear of relapse hangs over their heads like an impending storm. Every day they resiliently fight to overcome the urge to slip back into old ways and lose their sobriety streak. Research has shown that approximately 80% of those who find long-term sobriety experience at least one relapse in their lifetime. The standard approach to sobriety was an all-or-nothing approach; one slip-up meant a loss of one’s sobriety. A newer path to sobriety is to allow former addicts to treat their slip-ups like mistakes instead of a downward spiral they can’t get out of.
When the Initial Determination Wears Off
When reaching goals and continuing to progress, the real challenge sets in once the initial excitement wears off. The challenge of maintaining one’s sobriety can be more complex than the detox process. Hit daily with physical triggers and emotional ups and downs, those in recovery constantly fight to maintain sobriety. Hope, support, and momentum are needed to keep going and persevere through challenges and cravings.
When the Initial Determination Wears Off
In 1942, in a small AA meeting in Akron, OH, the tradition of counting one’s sober days began. Group members were awarded tokens as badges of accomplishment using a token system. The tokens represented the group’s commitment to the member and the member’s commitment to the group. Each token symbolized the number of days one was sober. The famous sober tokens have since been adopted by many recovery groups, as well as the idea of counting one’s sobriety. Apps have since been developed for measuring sober days. The famous opening statement in many groups, “Hi, I’m __, and I am __ days sober,” is synonymous with sobriety.
So Why Count?
Counting is used to measure success in many areas of daily life. How many days have you gone to the gym? How many calories have you eaten today? And of course, how many days are you sober? Counting is so often used because it builds momentum towards a goal. It also allows for reflection and celebration along the way.
Counting Towards Sobriety
When working through sobriety, the count can create momentum. Each day stacks upon the next to show the significance of each sober day. It also allows for support from other group members. For those in groups, reporting their number of days is essential, rewarding, and encouraging.
It is vital to celebrate sober milestones. For each individual what marks a milestone will differ.
Here are some milestones to consider celebrating along the way.
- Sober Birthday- The date that began one’s sober journey.
- Emotional milestones- Learning emotional coping mechanisms and handling triggers and temptations can all be causes for celebration
When Can Counting Hurt?
Counting doesn’t always help. For some people losing count or slipping up may derail into a full-blown relapse. This attitude can happen when someone is hyper-focused on the count. If they then slip up, they may spiral downwards since they have lost their time.
When beginning one’s sober journey, taking individual preferences and motivators into account can help keep the momentum going. It is essential for anyone in recovery to participate in groups, sober count days, or any other healing method that comes from one’s desire. This will allow one to stay motivated and tap into the right resources.
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