Whether you’re a few weeks or many years in, every addiction recovery is worth celebrating. Many people celebrate their own recovery milestones at times that are relevant to themselves, but sometimes it can help to share special events, stories or experiences with others – especially those going through their own recovery journeys.
National Recovery Month and International Recovery Month provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate your own recovery and join others in a range of events aimed at raising awareness and motivation among those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction – as well as those who might only now be thinking about seeking help and beginning their own recovery.
Introduction to National Recovery Month
National Recovery Month actually started in the USA in 1989. It is still going strong and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes the event as a “national observance held every September to promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the nation’s strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and communities who make recovery in all its forms possible”.
As with many American concepts, the idea of a national recovery month gradually made its way across the Atlantic. In the UK it tends to be known as International Recovery Month, or simply Recovery Month. It’s not yet quite as prominent but every September groups and individuals across the UK hold their own events.
This year’s Recovery Month 2023 operates under the tagline ‘Every Person. Every Family. Every Community.’ It also goes beyond the field of addiction recovery and celebrates “the gains made by those in recovery from substance use and mental health, just as we celebrate improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease”.
As in the US, the UK’s National Recovery Month 2023 takes place throughout September.
The Importance of Celebrating Recovery
Any kind of recovery can be a very difficult journey, even if it involves professional substance use treatment, mental health services, medical supervision or any other kind of support. In the case of substance misuse and addiction recovery, people are generally encouraged to take their journey one day at a time – but that doesn’t mean that setting objectives and celebrating recovery milestones is not an important part of the process.
The different milestones celebrated can vary from person to person. Time-based anniversaries such as the first 24 hours, week, month, six months and year tend to be very important, with the frequency of celebrations often reducing the longer the recovery continues. Some 12-step recovery programmes will commemorate different periods of drug and alcohol-free time with different coloured chips or coins.
Some people might also mark other milestones, such as notable improvements in their physical health, getting a new job or getting through a stressful or triggering situation without turning back to drugs and alcohol. Celebrating recovery milestones can provide a reward and a reminder to stay sober. It can also serve as an inspiration to others, especially if you are part of a recovery fellowship or support group.
Events staged for National Recovery Month can also serve the very important aim of raising awareness and challenging stigma in relation to drug and alcohol misuse. While our knowledge of addiction has improved in leaps and bounds, some sections of society can still be judgemental. Stigma, whether real or imagined, can prevent people from seeking the help they need and is almost always counter-productive.
Creative Ways to Celebrate
If you’re stuck for ways to celebrate National Recovery Month, there are plenty of things you can do – either to mark your own stage of your recovery journey privately, with friends and family or more publicly through organised events.
Some ideas for celebrating your own recovery could include:
- Going for a long walk or hike
- Book a fun day out – whether this involves paintballing, a luxurious spa day or something entirely different will depend on your own idea of fun!
- Have a movie night
- Throw a sober party – cook your favourite foods, play some games and spend time with some of your favourite people
Recovery Month can also provide the perfect opportunity to take some time out and reflect on your recovery journey so far – whatever stage you are at.
If it’s not something you are already in the habit of doing, you could try journaling to explore your thoughts and feelings on sobriety and all the things you are thankful for. You could also write letters of thanks to the people you care about in your life and everyone who has helped in your recovery so far. A vision board could help you to visualise the changes you still want to make in your life. There are lots of different ways to do this but it could involve some of the places you want to visit, dream jobs, health improvements or any other ambitions you have for the future.
When it comes to public activities, there are loads of different things you could do, including sponsored, fundraising or awareness-raising activities.
These could include:
- Running, walking or bike rides
- Holding a vigil for those who didn’t make it
- Blogging or vlogging
- Hosting a group lunch or other get-together
National Recovery Month 2023 – Getting Involved
If you went through professional drug and alcohol treatment such as an alcohol rehab centre, a fellowship like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or reached out to another voluntary organisation, you might already have a local support network to reach out to. If not, you can contact local support groups and organisations to see if they have any activities planned.
The biggest single event is the UK Recovery Walk organised by Faces & Voices of Recovery (FAVOR UK). This year it takes place in Hull at 11am on Saturday 23rd of September, bringing together individuals, families, and communities to spread awareness that Recovery is Real. If you don’t want to take part in the walk itself, you can also share your recovery story or look for other events on the FAVOR UK website.