Do You Celebrate Your “Soberversary”?


The backbone of motivation is reinforced by the power of small wins. Whenever you set a series of incremental goals and achieve them, you’re living your intentions, developing a growth mindset, and propelling positive momentum. But the goals you choose to set and celebrate should be driven by what matters to you–not to anyone else. For some, celebrating the “wins” of sobriety, whether daily, monthly, or a yearly, can reinforce their commitment; for others, it can feel like an obstacle to focusing on other life goals.   

The Importance of Life Goals

To accomplish things that matter, we often need to set goals that have a direct impact on our emotional, mental, and physical health. More importantly, we need to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve achieved. In fact, the University of Minnesota (U of M) points to research that indicates “any accomplishment, no matter how small, releases the neurotransmitter dopamine which boosts your mood, motivation, and attention. It also signals you to keep doing the activity again and again.”

How can life goals benefit someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD)? Here are just a few ways.

  • They provide a sense of direction and purpose. They’re the roadmap for where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Having clear goals also helps you stay focused and motivated, even during challenging times.
  • You cultivate a growth vs. fixed mindset. As you strive to attain your goals, you’ll likely acquire new skills, knowledge, and experiences that contribute to your overall individual development.
  • You’re enhancing motivation. You know firsthand from your initial rehabilitation treatment that when you have something specific to aim for—such as sobriety from alcohol and drugs—you’re more likely to put in the effort and work hard to achieve it. Goals give you a reason to push beyond your comfort zone and overcome obstacles.
  • They improve resilience and persistence. Overcoming setbacks and failures along the way can build your capacity to persevere and adapt in the face of challenges.

So if sobriety was one of your life goals, congratulations! You have every right to take a closer look at your progress and celebrate all that you’ve achieved so far. 

Why the Little Victories Matter

U of M notes that with every little victory you acknowledge, you’re continuously building something greater. “The positive psychology research has shown that celebrating the small wins, the small accomplishments—and more frequently—has a bigger impact than waiting for that one big thing to celebrate. It keeps you engaged. It helps you to remember that you’re on a path that’s working and you feel good when you get a chance to celebrate the small thing.” This cyclical process adds to our motivation.

So as you apply this philosophy to celebrating a soberversary, one of the most popular reinforcement methods in the recovery community is the 12-Step program process of using chips or keys to mark a person’s next stage of sobriety. Whether it’s for 24 hours, four weeks, six months or longer, many of these support groups acknowledge the occasion within a meeting of peers and issue some type of tangible token. 

When you recognize such an important achievement, it adds to your motivation. It also gives you a moment of positive reflection: to affirm how far you’ve come, recommit to your sobriety intentions, and set your sights on what you can strive for as a result. Some people also appreciate sharing their success with others who question whether they themselves have the ability to stick with recovery. 

Does Everyone Believe in Celebrating a Soberversary?

Not everyone wants to note the date of their continued sobriety. For example, some people who adhere more closely to the “one day at a time” tenet of 12-Step programs think soberversaries negate this vital point. In fact, many individuals commented on this recovery blog that they feel celebrating such a milestone is more about ego than truly living through sobriety with all its joys and challenges.   

Additionally, many individuals who choose other mutual aid groups instead of 12-Step programs may not think their sobriety date aligns with their other life goals at all. It’s a fact of existence, but not necessarily one that defines everything else they do.

The only way to know whether a soberversary is worth appreciating is to try it. After all, there’s no hard and fast rule about it. What matters most is that you continue to define sobriety in ways most meaningful to you.

Talk About It With the Willingway Community

Navigating recovery successfully is one of the many topics discussed during Willingway’s free continuing care community support groups throughout the Southeast and online. They’re not a substitute for other mutual aid programs, but still offer an essential point of connection. You can also visit our Facebook page to learn more about sober living.