For most addicts, celebrating usually has a strong association with their alcohol or drug use. As much as negative emotions or times of stress can lead to substance abuse, positive feelings can also fuel addictive behavior. In times of celebration, people tend to reach for a drink or other substance that will enhance their happy feelings.
Celebrating can often lead to the heaviest binges because people are not considering the consequences and feel that it is an acceptable time to engage in substance use. Because of the link between celebration and addictive behavior, people in recovery often wonder how they will handle special occasions. How can you still celebrate while sober?
Over time each person develops their own way of rewarding themselves or enjoying their positive feelings without turning to substance abuse. Once they have adjusted to what it feels like to celebrate sober they can experience the same level of enjoyment from special occasions and holidays like everyone else.
New Types of Celebrations
Sobriety does not mean you have to live a dull or boring lifestyle and it doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate when positive things happen. In recovery, people can begin adjusting to a new way of celebrating through “sober birthdays”. Their support group meetings might have small celebrations for every year that someone has been sober.
This is a safe environment to celebrate something positive along with others who are going through the same changes. It is important to reward yourself in some way the longer that you remain sober and overcome your challenges in recovery. Sober birthdays can be a good way to celebrate in early recovery without any danger of feeling tempted to use again.
As your recovery progresses, eventually you will have to handle a number of celebrations from weddings, holidays, birthdays, and other special occasions. You might feel the need to celebrate personal accomplishments as well such as getting a new job, a promotion, passing an exam, or winning an award. These types of positive events can be triggering for many people and they must find a way to observe or honor them without experiencing a relapse.
Finding Different Rewards
The connection between substance use and reward is often deeply ingrained for people with addictions. At a party or social gathering, they will feel the urge to reach for a drink or other drug because they feel entitled to that environment. A sober celebration will definitely feel strange for them at first and perhaps even less meaningful as they adjust to their new lifestyle. The key is to test out and discover the type of reward that helps them feel satisfied as they celebrate. There are other types of less harmful treats that can be used as a way to enjoy a positive event.
In very early recovery it is important to avoid being in a place where a lot of alcohol or drugs are being used. Their celebrations should not take place in a bar or around friends that are still heavily engaging in substance abuse. A sober environment with other types of rewards such as good food, music, close friends, fun activities can be just as enjoyable and will not present any danger for former addicts. People in recovery often arrange their own celebratory events where there is no alcohol present but plenty of other satisfying treats to take part in.
When you are sober you might feel tempted to avoid parties or celebrations altogether. However, it is actually very important to reward yourself and join in on celebrating positive moments in life. Failing to celebrate achievements can actually be detrimental to the recovery process. The key is to find your own reward system that works for you and proves to be beneficial to your life.