celebrating one year sober

One Year Sober: What to expect, benefits, and suggestions

05-31-2024Recovery Tools

A full year of sobriety. What an accomplishment! When we’re new, we often look at folks who have been alcohol and drug free for a year or more as the ones to look up to. They become our sponsors, our mentors, and the ones we call when we need a word of guidance.

If your next significant milestone is one year sober, give yourself a pat on the back, but don’t forget to keep recovery as the centerpiece of your life!

You’ve been through a lot!

If you’re a year sober (or close to it), you’ve undoubtedly been through a lot, even in recovery! This journey is fraught with ups and downs. If you’ve managed to maintain contact with a 12-step sponsor, navigate the tough times, and remain humble during the good times, you’ve undoubtedly come a long way!

What follows are some of the benefits you can expect around the one year sober mark, some of the things you can expect around this time, and some suggestions for continued progress and freedom as you navigate this journey:

One year sober benefits

Healthier relationships with family and friends

Improved family relationships should be one of the most dramatic benefits of a year without alcohol or drugs. Most people in our lives see one year of sobriety as a major turning point.

Occasionally, a member in recovery will have trust issues with friends and family that extend into a multi-year journey. However, if you’ve followed through on your commitments, stayed sober, and worked to become independent, it’s typical for most family members and loved ones to feel that trust has been restored by the one year sober mark.

Having regular fun

One of the best benefits of being sober for a year is that we should be relatively comfortable in our own skin at this point. Additionally, by the time you’ve got a year sober, you should have some fairly solid bonds with friends in recovery, and it should feel much easier to have fun without relying on drugs and alcohol.

Stable health

Going one year without alcohol and drugs should benefit our health greatly and set us up for physical and mental health going forward.

Though there are certainly outliers, it’s typical for a year of sobriety to bring massive health benefits. You should have plenty of energy to make it through the day, sleep well, and notice dramatic improvements in any pre-existing health issues.

If you’re experiencing health issues, it should also be easier at this point to separate what’s really going on with your body from the artificial lingering effects of substance use. Make sure to see a qualified physician if you’re still having any health issues at this point.

Stable work or school life

If you’ve stayed sober for a year, you’ve likely been working, returned to school, or both for 6-9 months. What this means is that by this time you should feel as though your routine has stabilized.

While some of our members struggle with this routine, most of us find this to be a good thing. At this point, we don’t wonder where we stand in the world, and perhaps we’ve even got some exciting goals and plans for the future!

What to expect after a year without alcohol and drugs

A feeling of wellbeing

An entire year of sobriety is quite an accomplishment, and it’s a great time to enjoy the congratulations you receive from others and the feeling of wellbeing you’ll surely have when you pick up that one year chip!

A renewed commitment and excitement about staying sober

We mention frequently that the second half of the first year of sobriety can be a struggle for some people. It’s common for recovering individuals to “forget where they came from” around the 9 month sober mark, as good distractions like work, school, and relationships sneak higher on the priority list.

If you’ve made it to a year sober, it’s likely that you’ve made it through this potential slump and have renewed your commitment to keep your recovery at the center of your life. This is a great decision, and re-upping that decision one day at a time will pay dividends in the months and years to come!

You’ll be looked to for sponsorship and advice by newcomers

For most of us, having a sponsor is one of the essential elements of maintaining sobriety for more than a few weeks at a time in the beginning. As newcomers continue to come in, you will be viewed as a resource and mentor to many.

Don’t be surprised if some of the newcomers you meet ask you to sponsor them. This is a great thing! If you haven’t taken the plunge and begun to sponsor others, now is a great time to start seeing the benefits of intensive work with others.

Suggestions if you’ve got a year sober

One thing to remember is that getting a year of sobriety doesn’t necessarily change anything. There’s still going to be ups and downs; it’s still need to remember to live one day at a time. In other words, we aren’t “cured.”

Here are some suggestions to those who are closing in on the one year mark:

Stay humble

One of the potential pitfalls of having more than just a few months of sobriety is that it becomes progressively easier to believe that we are the ones who have produced all the results, and lose sight of the fact that it’s our reliance on a higher power that’s brought us this far!

This is just as true at a year sober as it was when you were new: EGO (edging God out!) is the enemy of continued progress. If we plan to stay happy, joyous, and free, we’ve got to remain right sized!

If you find yourself struggling to find time to hit meetings, make phone calls, or be of service to others, it’s a good time to get with your sponsor and discuss what can be done to get back on the beam, so to speak.

If this happens to you, don’t worry too much about it, just get into action! Here’s what to do when sobriety loses it’s priority.

Stay in service!

Speaking of staying humble, one of the primary tools we have for remaining right-sized is to dive head-first into service.

With a year sober, opportunities for service will present themselves to you. People will ask you to sponsor them, you’ll be asked to speak at meetings, or your home group will need a new chair person.

The great thing about this type of service is that it almost forces us to remember where we came from. It’s very easy to remember why meetings are important directly after talking with a newcomer who’s still in the midst of solving some messy problems related to their substance abuse!

It’s still one day at a time

Another thing to keep at the forefront of your mind is that you’re still living one day at a time. Just because we’ve gotten a year sober doesn’t mean we’re any less susceptible to little lies we tell ourselves about being “home free.”

As the old timers used to say, “if you got up before me today, you’ve got more time sober than I do!”
Maintain your daily disciplines, continue to hit meetings, continue to get out of yourself and find gratitude!

The first year is just the beginning!

Lastly, we’ll leave you with this: the first year of sobriety is just the beginning! Surely you know some people in meetings who have been sober for five, ten, or even twenty years! If you ask any of them what life has been like since they got a year sober, they’ll all tell you basically the same thing:

Lots of ups and downs, lots of learning, and a life full of gratitude that couldn’t have been planned!

Continue to stay sober, one day at a time, and:

“great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us.”

- Alcoholics Anonymous, pg 164.