National Recovery Month: Celebrate Progress with Family or Friends

by: Patrick Bailey

Since 2011—and for 22 years before that under different names—September has been National Recovery Month. It was created to honor those people who have successfully recovered from their drug or alcohol addiction and to increase awareness about substance abuse and drug addiction in general. There are many ways to share this moment with loved ones.

Recovering from drug addiction is a long process. Roughly half of all people with substance use disorders succumb to relapse at least once, but that is to be expected, and should not be regarded as a failure.

You can help bolster your recovery or that of your friends and family by acknowledging each milestone along the road to sobriety. Show or accept appreciation, and the treatment process will seem more fulfilling, more worthwhile, and give you or them the renewed strength to keep moving forward.

The journey to recovery can seem long and tedious, but it’s a relay, not a sprint. Every stage completed in the battle against drugs deserves to be celebrated as an achievement by family, friends and other supportive loved ones. Addiction is isolating.

Here are several ways to celebrate sobriety and reconnect with your community:

Sobriety Coins
Most substance abuse support groups acknowledge milestones in sobriety with tokens, usually circular disks indicating months of recovery, to serve as a physical representation reminds of the patient’s progress. Family and friends can stand with them as they receive this token.

Alternatively, patients can also create their own token. It should be small enough to carry around with them so it is accessible whenever they encounter a trigger or temptation, acting as a reminder of their success every time they see it and a representation of the better life they choose to have.

Get a permanent tattoo
A permanent tattoo is also a physical representation of the recovery and one that is always with the patient. It may be an image or symbol that inspires them to do better, a representation of the dark past that they have left behind, or the drug & alcohol treatment that helped them to recovery. Be careful, though. It shouldn’t be something that will isolate the patient. Recovery from addiction is already isolating enough.

Get a Makeover
Recovery is a fresh start, and that is why getting a makeover is a great way to celebrate recovery and progress. Not just a physical makeover—though the patient may need one after addiction, detox, and rehab—but a total makeover of the outer and inner self to minimize the risks of relapse. This also can help the patient re-integrate into the community, which can be a tougher battle than recovery. Some recovering drug addicts are shunned by society, making relapse more likely. Health issues should be addressed and practicing positive mindset makes it possible for you to reinvent yourself to become a better you. Family and friends can help with the makeover, including shopping. The patient can also thank them with a gift.

Share Their Story
After their makeover, patients in recovery might want to share their story. This shows that the phase of their lives where they were not in control and they felt trapped and shamed in their addiction, is over. One way to spread the message fast is through social media, either a public post, a group chat with friends and loved ones, or individual private thanks. If it comes from the heart, it may touch other people and inspire them, too.

Start a Tradition
As a culture, we celebrate milestones with traditions: birthdays with parties, Independence Day with fireworks, etc. Patients in recovery can start a tradition for their sobriety. Take a day to bond with family and friends, to catch up on what’s been happening while they were out of touch. Go to the beach, have a barbecue, or host a dinner and cook good food to thank them for their support. Even bake a cake from scratch with a “Thank You” message in icing. It’s easier than you think to DIY it at home and doesn’t require a big budget.

Take a Trip
Recovery never really ends. It can be emotionally, physically and mentally draining for the patients, their family, and friends. Taking trips together allow them to mend strained relationships and recharge their well being. Make sure to plan the trip with fewer chances of encountering triggers and temptations. Something in the great outdoors might be ideal: a nature trip or beach travel. Breathing fresh air, seeing the sun and feeling the sand beneath their feet brings good vibes and the feeling of freedom. Outdoor sports such as surfing, hiking, and rock-climbing could be fine, but a picnic or camping trip could do the trick. Appreciate the moment together.