What is a 'soberthday'? Here's how people celebrate their alcohol-free anniversaries

How do people honor their sober anniversary? (Photo: Getty, Illustration by Nathalie Cruz)
How do people honor their sober anniversary? (Photo: Getty, Illustration by Nathalie Cruz)

On Nov. 30, Tawny Lara, author of the upcoming Dry Humping: A Guide to Booze-Free Sex, Dating, & Relationships and co-host of the podcast Recovery Rocks, put out a question to followers on Twitter.

“Seven years sober today,” she declared alongside a smiling photo of herself. “How should I celebrate my Soberthday?!”

Lara is just one of many people in the sober community who choose to commemorate the day they decided to stop drinking. Lara tells Yahoo Life that the day means plenty of “reflection” on all she has accomplished since she quit drinking, both ‘emotionally and professionally” — but also, a fun celebration, which can include a “birthday-style party for myself with friends.”

“I know some folks keep their Soberthday quiet. My partner's favorite way to ‘celebrate’ his Soberthday is not to drink, which is great, too! I'm super dramatic and love any reason to throw a party, wear lots of glitter and acknowledge milestones like living without alcohol for another year — especially during tough years like 2016 and 2020,” she explains.

Dr. Kenneth Stoller, director of the Johns Hopkins Broadway Center for Addiction, says celebrating one’s “soberthday” can be important for recovery.

‘Recovery is hard work, and does not always provide tangible rewards in the short term,” he explains. “Since recovery involves lots of time and hard work, much of which does not bring immediate pleasure or joy, as alcohol or drugs may have done in the past, it is important to incorporate alternative means of enjoyment and diversional activities — including recognizing one’s accomplishments in memorable, joyful and positive ways. Doing so makes ongoing maintenance of recovery something that is attractive, and diminishes the glorification of past drug and alcohol use.”

For author and photographer Beth Leipholtz, the day isn’t marked by a formal party, but by reflection. She used to go back to the last place she drank — her college campus — to reflect, but stopped when she moved away.

“I make sure to take time that day to consider how far I've come,” she says. “Often this means going to a local park and taking a walk and just letting my brain wander. Sometimes my family will celebrate or surprise me.”

Though the day has fallen more into the “background” of her life as the years have passed, it’s also one that brings mixed emotions.

“I am glad that I'm not living the way I was in May of 2013,” she notes. “This May will be 10 years for me, which is obviously a big milestone. I haven't given it a ton of thought, but I would like to acknowledge it somehow."

Kelly Fitzgerald Junco also says she will mark 10 years sober in 2023, and is already planning a possible trip to celebrate.

Nancy Carr, of the blog Last Call, calls her sober anniversary the “most important thing” to her, and says that her friends throw her a party every five years of sobriety. Each year, she also goes to dinner with friends from Alcoholics Anonymous. Though the date is “celebratory,” she adds that “it does evoke the memory of me taking my last drink, which was somber to me.”

Dr. Stoller adds that it may be extra helpful to celebrate with others who are in recovery, explaining, “Celebrating in ways that do not involve alcohol or other drugs may be an achievement that the recovering person has little experience with. It may be new territory. As such, celebrating with other people in recovery, who are more practiced in ways to celebrate that are least likely to result in lapse to drug use, may be useful.”

For Lara, she’s already looking forward to a soberthday that’s a few years away, as it marks an official decade of sobriety.

“I'll probably do something big for 10 years,” she says. “Who knows what that will look like, though.”

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