Choosing sobriety: Observing alcohol awareness/recovery months

Medically reviewed by Audrey Kelly, LMFT
Updated March 5, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

If you or someone you know needs support to stop using substances, call SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or text your zip code to HELP4U (435748). You can also use SAMHSA's Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator to find additional resources.

Alcohol Awareness Month is observed every April, and National Recovery Month is observed each September. Alcohol Awareness and Recovery Months aim to raise awareness of the potential impacts of substance use and offer resources to those interested in pursuing treatment and/or recovery. Read on to learn about various ways that people can support these goals during April, September, and year-round.

Evaluate your relationship to alcohol with a professional

What are Alcohol Awareness/Recovery Months? 

Alcohol Awareness Month was founded in 1987 by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependencies (NCADD). It takes place in April and aims to make knowledge and information about the impacts of alcohol, addiction statistics, the causes of alcohol dependency, and treatment and addiction recovery services options more widely available. 

National Recovery Month

National Recovery Month is a national observance held in September. The national observance has occurred every September since 1989 and is intended to promote new treatment and recovery practices, encourage sobriety, and support recovery in all its forms. It aims to celebrate individuals in recovery while offering hope to those in active addiction. The month reminds people of the positive message that prevention works and that recovery is possible. In 2022, events included initiatives by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and a proclamation by the white house to promote evidence-based treatments and recovery communities around the US. Together, the events associated with these two months can help people examine their own relationship with alcohol and seek help from various service providers if they find that it’s negatively impacting their life or their health. 

Why celebrate alcohol awareness and recovery? 

It’s a pervasive but untrue mental health myth that experiencing substance dependency is a choice or that sobriety is simply a matter of willpower. Although initially using a substance may be a choice, addiction itself is a mental health disorder that falls under the category of substance use disorders. Over time, active addiction can also change the chemical makeup of the brain, causing difficulties with decision-making and problem-solving and potentially making sobriety and a person’s recovery journey even more difficult without professional, evidence-based treatment.

Supporting alcohol awareness means you support research on the impact of substances on overall health, informational campaigns to help people understand these impacts, and the promotion of resources for individuals and families who are facing challenges due to substance use disorder or its effects. Community efforts and widespread support may also encourage those currently experiencing dependency to reach out for help and to utilize community-based programs and resources without shame. 

How to celebrate Alcohol Awareness/Recovery Months  

There are a variety of different ways to observe both of these months. A few ideas include: 

  • Checking in on friends, family members, and co-workers 

  • Talking to your family about alcohol 

  • Supporting friends who are sober

  • Learning more about addiction and substance use disorders

  • Using the hashtag #AlcoholAwarenessMonth on social media

  • Wearing a red ribbon for alcohol dependency awareness 

  • Attending National Recovery Month events

  • Attending a support group or meeting with a counselor if you're experiencing substance use issues

If you have lost someone to alcohol-related causes, you might also consider honoring their memory in some way during these months or even speaking at an Alcohol Awareness Month event. If you are experiencing grief as a result of this loss, you might also benefit from attending therapy or joining a support group.

Choosing sobriety: How to get started

For many, part of recognizing Alcohol Awareness Month and Alcohol Recovery Month is choosing sobriety—whether for the first time or daily as part of ongoing, long-term recovery from substance use. If you’re interested in exploring sobriety, some of the strategies below may be worth looking into.

Note that if you decide to pursue sobriety, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor. Some individuals with a significant amount of alcohol in their system may experience severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal if they stop drinking abruptly, which can be dangerous if they also experience high blood pressure or other health conditions.  

Explore different accountability measures

If you’ve embarked on a recovery journey, devising different methods of holding yourself accountable to your commitment may help you stay on track. For example, some people find it helpful to:

  • Draw up a contract with themselves and sign it 

  • Seal money in envelopes to open after different sobriety milestones and entrust them to a sponsor or friend until then

  • Hold a small ceremony to get rid of all their remaining alcohol 

  • Tell friends, family, or other close community members that they’ve chosen sobriety 

Lean on your support system

Studies show that social support is often an essential factor in the recovery process, and that clients in alcohol recovery treatment programs who have social support tend to report higher positive outcomes than those without it. Although addiction can negatively impact relationships, you may benefit from reaching out to loved ones and expressing your intent to get sober and recover. You might also let them know how you plan to repair your relationship if it has been damaged as a result of substance use issues. It may also be helpful to pursue new friends and connections who also have your commitment to sobriety, as they may be able to better understand your journey and because you can spend social time together and fill your events calendar with activities that don’t involve alcohol.

Consider a support group in the proud recovery community

There are many support groups focused on recovering from substance use issues with the support of others. In them, individuals are often able to talk about their struggles, share their recovery story, and become a part of the proud recovery community. One of the most popular is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which has thousands of chapters all over the globe. If you're in the US, you can use their meeting finder tool to find a meeting in your area. 

There are support groups for families of those with substance use issues as well. Alateen is intended for teenagers (omit a s in teenagers) who are experiencing the impact of a parent with an addiction, and Al-Anon is for partners, friends, and family impacted by someone with an alcohol dependency. 

You might also take advantage of resources from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to find more and mental health services near you. You can also search for treatment centers in your area if you're looking for more intensive recovery support. 

Celebrate milestones 

Celebrating milestones after you’ve been sober for a certain amount of time can help you renew your commitment to sobriety and stay on track. In AA, participants celebrate recovery and often receive special chips when they meet different sobriety milestones, from 24 hours to 30 days to one year.

On your own, you may also find it helpful to figure out meaningful ways to celebrate sobriety milestones. For instance, you might have a celebration with friends, buy yourself a gift or treat yourself to a spa day, find a new way to give back to your community or practice self-gratitude and positive affirmations to recognize each one.

Evaluate your relationship to alcohol with a professional

Meet with a counselor

If you’ve chosen to pursue sobriety, you may benefit from professional support. A therapist can help an individual who is experiencing substance use issues in a variety of different ways. If they’re facing challenges related to low self-esteem, past trauma, depression, behavioral health or other mental health issues that may be contributing to problematic substance use, a trained counselor can help address them. A mental health professional can also provide resources and support along the way for someone who is on a recovery journey.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

Many people are impacted by cultural stigma, myths, and shame around substance use disorders, which may make seeking support and treatment more difficult. For some, meeting with a therapist virtually instead of in person can feel more comfortable. Online therapy can also be a helpful alternative for those who face certain availability barriers to pursuing treatment. For example, this therapy format does not require a person to leave their home or arrange transportation in order to attend sessions.

Research suggests that web-based interventions can be as effective as in-person counseling for treating substance use disorders. Those who prefer this format might consider trying out an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, which offers entry to a growing database of thousands of counselors with expertise in areas like addiction, substance use, relationships, and more. You can fill out a brief questionnaire about your needs and preferences and get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to discuss your concerns.

Takeaway

For many, celebrating Alcohol Awareness and/or Recovery Month can mean choosing to begin or maintain sobriety. If you’re interested in reevaluating your own relationship with alcohol or if you’re experiencing substance use challenges, it may help to attend a support group or meet with a counselor. 

If you feel hesitant to attend in-person therapy, you might consider online therapy, which allows you to connect with a therapist from home or anywhere with an internet connection. With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people who are experiencing difficulty moving forward from alcohol or substance use. Take the first step toward getting support with recovery and contact BetterHelp today.
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