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How to Celebrate in Recovery

One of the big worries that people have when they give up alcohol or drugs is that they are never going to have fun again. They may picture a future that is going to be very drab, and they may even worry that they will never be able to laugh again. This type of concern is based on the idea that it is only possible to have fun if you are intoxicated. It is all part of the denial of addiction. The reality is that becoming sober will not only mean that you will you be able to celebrate, but you will also have plenty of things to celebrate about.

Misconceptions about Recovery

The reason people worry about never being able to celebrate once they give up alcohol or drugs is that they have developed misconceptions about recovery. This type of thinking occurs due to a process called cognitive dissonance. Basically, what happens is that when people feel convinced that they would never be able to become sober, it makes them feel bad about themselves. They manage to get over this bad feeling by developing the idea that life in recovery will be very dull. This way the person is then able to feel good about the current state of their life again. All this happens subconsciously and it is a type of defence mechanism designed to protect the ego. The problem is that this defence mechanism works so well that people can be completely fooled by it.

Good Reasons to Celebrate in Recovery

Once people become sober, they will usually have plenty of things to celebrate. This is not only because they will be sober enough to enjoy traditional celebrations like birthdays and Christmas, but they may also have plenty of other things to celebrate, including:

  • sober birthdays – (e.g. being sober for one year)
  • getting a new job
  • returning to education
  • passing exams
  • getting a promotion
  • having a baby
  • relationship anniversaries
  • getting married
  • accomplishing goals
  • losing weight.

Dangers of Celebrations in Recovery

When people become sober, they are in a great position to begin moving their life in a positive direction. This means they are going to start accomplishing things, and they will have good reasons to celebrate. Feeling good about hitting milestones is part of what recovery is all about, but there can be dangers associated with this type of celebratory mood.


One of the real dangers in regards to celebrating in recovery is that people who have been addicted to alcohol or drugs will tend to associate celebrating with getting drunk or high. This means that when something good happens, their first reaction may be to yearn for the drink or drug. In fact, the person may be almost convinced that it is impossible to celebrate without some type of chemical in their system. This situation is made worse by the fact that in most western countries people do celebrate with alcohol. It can take a bit of time before realising that not only is it possible to celebrate without these substances, but that our feelings of pleasure on these occasions can be much better than anything we have known before.

Another reason why celebratory moments can be dangerous in recovery is if we begin to see our achievements as evidence that we are cured. If we start to think this way, we may become convinced that the fact that we have been able to do things shows that our life is back on track, and it will be now safe to use alcohol or drugs again. This dangerous type of thinking can lead us right back into addiction, and it therefore needs to be avoided. Our achievements in recovery are because we are no longer abusing alcohol and drugs and they should not be viewed as evidence that we are cured of our addiction. If we relapse, we could lose everything in a very short period of time.

How to Celebrate in Recovery

During the first few years of recovery it can be confusing when it comes to deciding how to celebrate our victories. Here are a few suggestions for how you might go about this.

  • It is not a good idea to overdo it with food in recovery but on special occasions you can treat yourself to eating some of your favourite dishes.
  • It is a nice idea to reward yourself with something nice when you accomplish something significant. This could be anything from a new app for your smart phone to an exotic foreign holiday.
  • Just enjoying the feeling of accomplishing something can be a reward in itself. It is also important that you allow yourself to receive compliments – you deserve them.
  • You can celebrate by taking the day off and doing the types of things you like to do.
  • You can invite some friends or family over for a celebratory meal or go out to a nice restaurant.
  • You can celebrate by going for a long walk or a long run.
  • Plenty of people never drink or use drugs, so watch how they celebrate.

How Not to Celebrate in Recovery

Some things you will want to be avoided doing when it comes to celebrating in recovery, including the below-listed.

  • Going to bars and nightclubs may be okay if you have a strong recovery, but you need to have a good reason for being there.
  • It is very dangerous to enjoy being around people who are getting drunk or high if you find yourself enjoying watching them do this. If you are not careful, you could easily end up joining them.
  • It is not a good idea to use celebratory occasions as an excuse to feel bad about your life because you do not feel you are able to join in the fun.
  • Never be fooled into thinking that one drink or one drug is going to be okay because you are celebrating. If you relapse, you will no longer have anything to celebrate in your life.

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