You have a birthday, right? Of course you do. And chances are good that every year on that day, you and your loved ones celebrate it in some fashion — or at the very least, you take notice of it.
Well, for most people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, the same thing applies for their sober date (aka sobriety date, recovery birthday, sobriety anniversary, etc.). It’s the day you stopped using and/or drinking. Every year on this date, most of us in recovery celebrate the beautiful milestone of being sober.
“I love my sobriety birthday!” says Courtney G., a recovered alcoholic from Philadelphia. “My sober date is my favorite day of the year. It’s meaningful…it is the day my recovery journey started. It’s the day I said, “no more.”
Should you celebrate your sober date? We think so. Not everyone agrees. More on that later. First…
Which date should you pick!?
This question sometimes causes minor controversy in recovery circles. Some people choose the day they last drank or used a substance; others use the following day, the first day they were entirely clean/sober.
This is a personal decision. If you’re not sure which date to go with, ask your sponsor what they think. The most important thing is that the date be special to you.
Of course, such is the nature of alcoholism that we can’t always remember when we took our last drink/drug.
“I claim Nov. 18, but I don’t actually remember when it was during that month,” says Jeff K., a recovered addict from Baltimore. “Getting clean for the long-term wasn’t something I planned on doing. When I went into treatment, everyone wanted a specific date, so I just guesstimated as best I could.
“Luckily, 4 years later, here I am, still clean. And every Nov. 18 is when I pick up my chip.”
Jerry P. can relate.
“Geez, I have no idea when I took my last drink,” he says. “Between the blackout and the detox, I definitely lost track.”
Such is the nature of our disease. If you’re not sure — guesstimate.
But then there’s also this:
Some people don’t track or celebrate their sober date
There is a fairly decent-sized group in recovery who purposefully do not track their sober date, don’t pick up a chip and/or otherwise celebrate. For them, it’s usually about keeping their egos in check.
“I know what my sobriety date is, but I don’t announce it, post it on Facebook, pick up chips or anything like that,” says Laurene K., an alcoholic from Phoenix. “I can get too easily caught up in the credit and recognition. Anytime I start to think that I want credit for my sobriety — I need to check myself.”
Lara A. from San Diego agrees. “For me, the date or getting a chip was never a motivation. I know it is for some, and that’s great. But I saw some of the arrogance that comes with picking up chips and accruing time, and I’m just not interested in participating in that.”
Still others don’t want credit for something when they know the glory should go to their Higher Power.
“I have nothing to do with getting sober,” says Elaine T., an addict from Tempe, Arizona. “That was ALL God. I don’t want to confuse anybody that some human effort accomplished that feat. Remember: ‘No human power could have relieved our alcoholism.’”
To others, counting time is a source of anxiety.
“Counting the days always stresses me out,” says Kevin M. from Illinois. “I’m still struggling with my addiction, quite honestly, and counting the days makes me feel like I’m in prison watching the days go. I don’t want the focus to be on time. I want the focus to be on my progress.”
For one addict in Phoenix, not counting her time became a tactic to guard against relapse.
“Initially, I kept very good track of my sobriety date,” says Petals W. “Then I noticed a pattern of relapse, usually right around either my 3-month or 6-month mark. This time, I do know my sobriety date, but I don’t think about it or obsess over it. I usually have to figure it out when someone asks about my clean time. This time around, I am at 8 months. That’s the longest I have been clean since 2015.
“So by not keeping track, I think it’s helped me make it further than I have in the past, because I don’t realize when I get to certain milestones. My ego takes over if I focus on the date, and that’s no good.”
Of course… there’s always another side to the story.
‘Yes! You should definitely celebrate your sobriety date!’
Most people in recovery, however, do know and celebrate their sobriety date.
“My sponsor says it’s important, so it’s important,” says Tommy F. “We go around the circle and share our sobriety date in my men’s group every week. Lord knows I’ve had more than a few sobriety dates, so I’ll just follow his lead on this one.”
Rich M. from Miami definitely knows and celebrates that day.
“My last drink was at 32,000 feet, flying to rehab. My sobriety date was 3 days later, when I finally conceded to my innermost self that I was an alcoholic and powerless over any mind-altering substance. I am grateful for that day. My journey began. It’s been 11 years and hell yeah, I celebrate it every year.”
Zack B. agrees. “My life restarted on April 2, 2008,” he says. “That is the most important day of my life. I love having that day to celebrate; it signifies a gift from God. I can never repay that gift — I can only share it.
“Picking up a chip and rejoicing in your sobriety shows the newcomer that recovery is possible.”
Walt K. from Seattle takes a slightly different tack. “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it,” he says, “and this includes my own history. I will never forget the most important day of my life.
And still to others, celebrating the gift of recovery with family and friends is part of what makes life so joyous in the first place.
“I’m not so hyper-focused that I’m counting down the approaching days to my sobriety birthday,” says Sierra M., an alcoholic from Flagstaff, Arizona. “But I do pick up a chip and I do celebrate. I got sober so that I could live life, so that is what I will do, and if my family and friends want to celebrate with me, that is great, because celebrating with family and friends is one of the best parts of life.”
Sobriety counters and apps
Want a little help keeping track of your recovery anniversary? Here’s a handy list of apps that can do the trick:
- AA Grapevine – Sobriety Counter
- Arizona Region of Narcotics Anonymous Cleantime Calculator
- Clean and Sober Time Sobriety Counter – on iOS and Android
- Nomo – Sobriety Clocks – on iOS and Android
- I Am Sober – on iOS and Android
- CleanTime Counter – iOS and Android
Megan Krause is a freelance writer and recovered addict raising two teens and living a beautiful, sober life in Phoenix, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.