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The Importance of the Sobriety Anniversary

Updated on September 19, 2012
Florentine Bordered Pendant for 1st Year Sobriety
Florentine Bordered Pendant for 1st Year Sobriety | Source

Outsiders may not understand

I recently overheard a comment from someone who said “Sobriety anniversary? Who would ever want to celebrate being sober?” And to that I replied, “Well, for someone who was destroying their lives with drugs or alcohol, being clean and sober every passing day just happens to be a big, freaking deal!” People outside AA, NA, CA, and other 12-step or recovery-related programs often do not understand the importance of the sobriety anniversary.

As an addict in recovery, I can speak for many people that sobriety anniversaries are extremely important. They are major accomplishments! I cannot express the utter amazement I experience every passing year of continued sobriety. A customer of mine described her sobriety as a wonder to her that through "one day at a time" she was able to put together over 21 years of clean, sober, happy living.

Sobriety birthdays are events that are nothing like a regular birthdays: it's not something we dread as we get older, but rather it's another year of freedom from addiction. Another 365 days of rebuilding our lives and going from complete self-loathing to find meaning and purpose.

5 Years One Day At A time Pendant on Leather Cord
5 Years One Day At A time Pendant on Leather Cord | Source
10 Year Sobriety Anniversary Dog Tag
10 Year Sobriety Anniversary Dog Tag | Source

How can others help?

We must absolutely recognize sobriety birthdays both in and outside of fellowship. Sisters and brothers in fellowship, friends, and family should acknowledge the sobriety anniversary. Because it is an indescribably important day in the addict/alcoholic’s life, we can offer our presence at meetings where we accept chips marking another year of sobriety, or we can offer gifts commemorating that special day.

The numbers become real motivators

During my first year of in recovery, I remember watching people in the program celebrate their anniversaries and this actually made me envious. I often thought bitterly , "if that person can do it why can't I?" and this became a huge motivator for me. So as the months passed and I accepted more chips, the challenge became greater and I had finally reached my first year. That number "1" became a motivator in itself because I didn't want to break it and have to start over again.

After a few years of sobriety under my belt, sometimes the idea of remaining clean and sober became somewhat abstract; however, breaking the number was not. There were times when I thought, "I'll just have a little this one time, no one will ever know..." but then I couldn't stand the idea of starting over. What's more, I would feel hypocritical if I would have ignored that one occasion and pretended it never happen. The competitive part of me and I'm sure for many others in recovery believe it is healthy and an example of how the program is a system of interlocking motivators.

Narcotic Anonymous Key Chain with 25 Years Clean
Narcotic Anonymous Key Chain with 25 Years Clean | Source

My personal touchstone

When I first entered recovery, I started making my own jewelry bearing the Serenity Prayer as a touchstone, something to re-direct my thoughts whenever I needed to, especially during those early days of sobriety. On my fifth sober birthday, I made myself a special reminder with a big 5 on it that wore close me. It became a constant reminder of how far I'd come. It was something I could touch or look at in the mirror at any time.

I'd been offering serenity prayer jewelry and gifts, but it never occurred to me to offer the anniversary piece because it was only relevant for one year. Then someone in the program reminded me of the tradition of passing your number along to another sister or brother in recovery whenever they reach that birthday. I now offer several types of gifts customized for sobriety anniversaries for both men and women . I invite to stop by and view my artwork at


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      Kristy  7 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your message. Congratulations on your sobriety. I know it must feel amazing to be free of addiction. We are celebrating my brother's 1 year today. For the family, it has gone by super fast but I understand that is probably not the case for him. It's not and easy task and It's a huge accomplishment. Each day gets better and better! Thank you for sharing.

    • the clean life profile image

      Mark Bruno 7 years ago from New Jersey Shore

      Hi Stephanie,

      This Hub is Great! Congratulations on your long sobriety. I am on my way to one year. 7 months to some may not sound like a lot but it is a huge accomplishment even at one day. I love being sober and I can't wait to celebrate my first year. I just wrote on Hub today called staying sober one day at a time and then I found your hub. How about that. Time for me has gone bye so fast. It feels like I have never drank before. It's strange. The urge for the drink has like just vanished. That's great for me because I never want that life ever again. I'll take sobriety anytime. Thanks for sharing with us. Remember, one day at a time and stay Positive!

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 7 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      One of the best things about sobriety is hearing about other people's success. It is so inspiring and at the same time a reminder of where some of us were at one time. I wish everyone in any stage of their sobriety great things!

    • profile image

      Sobriety 7 years ago

      Welcome to the social network! If you already have an account, you can login below.If you don't have an account,

    • veritasvilla profile image

      veritasvilla 6 years ago from kerhonkson, ny

      Stephanie, congratulations on your continued sobriety! It seems that many people do not realize that staying sober requires a daily effort...and it isn't just a passing year that is celebrated on the's the culmination of 365 days of hard work and perseverance. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective and experience!

    • profile image

      Stacy 6 years ago

      My dad's 30 year anniversary is next month and i want to get him something very special for that. Any ideas where to go?

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 6 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Hi Stacy,

      Feel free to check out my website for some gift ideas at

    • Sue B. profile image

      Sue B. 6 years ago

      Congratulations. This was an interesting hub.

      It appears as though the 12-steps have truly helped you. I have noticed that this is not always the case with everyone. Celebrating an anniversary can be a trigger for relapse for some. Perhaps it is self-sabotage and the idea that they just are not worthy of something as positive and good as this successs. I always found it interesting that the approach is "one day at a time" yet the measurement of years is also so important. What may have contributed to your success is that you actually appeared to take one day at at time while gaining insight and awareness looking back at your past years. Others may become caught up in jumping forward and projecting into the future anniversary dates which acts as an escape for now.

      Thank you for sharing your journey. I found it insightful and inspiring.

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 6 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Dear Sue,

      You raised a great point. I don't necessarily see sobriety anniversaries as triggers for relapse. However, addicts/alcoholics can have the dangerous misconception that if they've gone as far as one year of continued sobriety, they are okay or cured. I believe every addict/alcoholic, including myself, harbors a secret dream that they can one day go back to drinking or using recreationally. The reality is that addiction has memory and recovery is life-long commitment and lifestyle choice. A great many people go through a relapse or two before they understand that.

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      carrie Lynn 5 years ago

      Was so good to read this - thank you. My husband has been sober for almost 90 days and I know how hard it has been for him, because I've been there through it at its worst. We celebrate every new day of sobriety because it truly works one day at a time. It is so hard for people outside of the program or who is not directly tied to someone in recovery to understand how important just 24 hours is. His son and I are planning a surprise celebration for his 90 days to show how proud we are - any ideas on what to do for a celebration? Thanks again!

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      How nice of you to recognize your hubbie's accomplishment. 90 days of sobriety is hard to do. Most people can't do it. Might I suggest a medallion key chain. I sell some on my website. I can modify it to say 90 days. Check them out on Feel free to email me through my website contact me page with any other questions.

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      mick 5 years ago

      Just celebrated 29 years of sobriety...

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Amazing congratulations!

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      Kenny J 5 years ago

      Today is my one year birthday, or anniversary as it is called here.

      I abused alcohol and drugs for well over 25 years. I destroyed every part of my life, and until I became willing to do whatever it took to change my life, I felt utterly hopeless.

      In the past year, I have worked the 12 steps in a way I never thought possible. I have done everything it said to do in the Big Book. I followed direction from my sponsor and the men in my immediate circle.

      I have a life today because of working the 12 steps. This is huge for me. The only thing that saddens me is how many of the people who came in around the same time as me are still out there doing the same old thing, and expecting a different result.

      My sobriety has made me a valuable person in the lives of those around me. I don't think anyone outside of the fellowship understands the significance of this milestone. I wish more people understood just how much work this takes. Only those who dedicate their life to this get it. I will continue to do the things that made this milestone possible. Working with others, and practicing these principles in all my affairs is the method I have used to change my life.

      To all of you who are walking this journey with me, thank you and God Bless You.

    • profile image

      Leah Murrell 5 years ago

      My ex husband is about to reach his one year sobriety on the 26th of this month. I have helped him along the way and will continue to do so. I love your message and will have him read it. Congratulations on your many years of day at a time! I'll check out your site and place an order!

    • RevChuck profile image

      RevChuck 5 years ago

      Congratulations on 7 years !"I remember watching people in the program celebrate their anniversaries" , is the part that stuck out . from your writing . It took me awhile to catch on that it wasn't all about me . Tokens , medallions , whatever they're called , provide 2 services . One for celebration . The other for motivation . I love the way you clearly pointed that out . My LDD is 3/10/1991

    • profile image

      LMM75 4 years ago

      We are fixing to celebrate my 17 yr old daughters 1 year anniversary. She is still in an inpatient treatment but on home passes on the weekends. They are having a huge celebration for her. I have been her every step of the way w/ her but until I read the above article that was written, I really didn't understand the number thing. I knew it meant a lot to her when she got the next chip but I didn't really understand. I was looking for a gift for her for her 1 yr. (that's how I came across this site). I love the necklace shown above (silver foil anni. necklace. I think it has 6yrs w/ 1 day at at time on it). I was wondering if it comes with the 1 year instead of 6? CONGRATS on your accomplishments!!

    • StephanieP profile image

      StephanieP 4 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Please check out my website for all sort of gift ideas for sobriety anniversaries. Unfortunately, I am no longer carrying the resin item, i.e. silver foil anniversary necklace.

    • profile image

      lecon 4 years ago

      Today's date, 16 years ago I made a conscious decision to be drug free. 4/11/1997. My sobriety birthday.

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      Sue 3 years ago

      My son's 1st clean birthday is almost here & we certinly do want to celebrate it in our small family. There are 4 children, & only one, his 13 year old son, is aware of his Dad's struggles & the importance of celebrating his great year. The other 3 children are very young & unaware of their favorite uncle's problems or even what the celebration would be all about at all. But they do love family parties, even for pets!! Anyone have any fun ideas for an upbeat, happy little party? All ideas welcome,

    • profile image

      YvonM 3 years ago

      Yes today I celebrate. A 71 year old man turns 22.

      Twenty-two years ago today, I got cleaned of any substance modifying behavior. I never picked up since that date. I was 49 and had been using intensively for the past two years, losing three businesses along the way and finding myself homeless, roaming the Montreal street, begging for pocket change to get enough money for my next shot.

      I was a broken man, both monetarily and mentally. Today, I live life on life's term and I'm able to accept my deficiencies, as well as my qualities. I am still not a perfect man, but at least I can live with it.

      Clean & Sober

    • profile image

      sarah 3 years ago

      For me personally knowing the anniversary was coming was a dangerous time because it put drinking back in the forefront of my mind, in fact on my first anniversary I drank one drink, because it was all I could think about for weeks before. Then I didn't drink again for a year, until my second anniversary, that was in February this year and I haven't stopped drinking since then which is a shame. I just watched Nurse Jackie take a pill before celebrating her first anniversary and I totally got it. The anniversary can go either way I guess, I found it very hard as it brought everything to the forefront of my mind, ultimately it lead to my failure. I do wonder could I still be sober without that damn anniversary to get through every year. Maybe it's because my problem wasn't big enough or because I did it alone, all I know is that mile stone didn't help me or inspire me to keep going, it just made me think about booze obsessively.

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      myra 2 years ago

      I am celebrating my one year this Sat and I have a question about when I receive my cake if it's necessary to say a speech

    • profile image

      stephaniep 2 years ago

      I believe every group is different however you may be asked how you achieved your sobriety. You may want to think of that so you you'll be prepared to respond.

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