In the recovery community, we take our sobriety very seriously. We like to encourage and celebrate each milestone. At the beginning, in Alcoholics Anonymous, when you first go to a meeting, the secretary will usually ask if there are any “newcomers”. “This is not to embarrass you, but so we can get to know you better”. Often you come up to the front and say, “I’m Mark and I’m an alcoholic and I have 24 days” the meeting usually goes wild with applause, and you are given what is called a “newcomer chip”. In your first year, it’s encouraged that you find regular meetings that resonate with you, where you can take chips as you begin to get some time under your belt. The fellowship of AA is extremely supportive and have been where you are!
Often there is a “chip commitment” where someone has a box of chips celebrating newcomers, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 6 months, 9 months and then finally one year! That is why it’s recommended that you find a few meetings that you can commit to going to every week. When people see you consistently and watch you take chips as you cobble together days, weeks, and months sober, they are genuinely excited to see you take the journey to your new life sober. The chips are mementos for you to add to your keychain or keep in your pocket.
It is at the year mark that many meetings give you a cake. Some meetings have a display cake they use over and over and light candles and sing. Other meetings will have a cake commitment that involves bringing a real cake or cupcake for the birthday person. Often you have a moment to say a few words to the group about how you’ve managed to stay sober. The group is usually a mix of newcomers, and then folks with varying degrees of time in the program. It is suggested, again, that you take a cake at all your meetings. That way you are celebrating in front of the group, they get to hear your message of hope, and in being vulnerable - you ingratiate yourself to the group and find the common bond of sobriety to be a target you are all aiming at together.
It is important that you find a sponsor when you first come to a meeting. This might not happen right away, but the sooner you find someone who has some time and has been through the Big Book and done the steps, the sooner you will begin to get into the 12 steps which is where the healing is.
There are many different types of gifts you can give to someone celebrating another year of sobriety. Often, sponsors will give their sponsees a “medallion” with an AA saying and the number of years in the center. But there are other gifts that are equally meaningful and can be used to help you start new habits, such as praying and meditation. Step 11 talks about the spiritual connection we must find and often it takes some physical item to prompt you in your good new habits.
The God Box, which is basically a box with a slot on top, is used as a portal to God as you understand (or don’t understand) him. Many of us come to AA with a bad taste in our mouths when it comes to the “G” word. However, there is no need to worry about what exactly that means - at first God is just not YOU. The God Box is meant to be a place where you can write down your problems and struggles on a piece of paper and literally fold it up and put in in the God Box. The action of doing this represents a new way of thinking about faith and willingness to believe in a higher power. You are literally “giving it to God”. Then move on and let it go. At the end of a year, sit down, and open the box and read all your notes and reflect on how these insurmountable problems were solved, and often in ways you would never consider if left to your own ideas.
The Serenity Box is a wood light box with a beautiful design carved out and an LED candle inside. Outside around each panel is a word that will remind you of the Serenity Prayer. This box is meant to be on a table and even more interesting against a wall as it projects the patterns onto the wall and around the base of the box. It can also be used as a piece to put next to your bed or on a fireplace mantle. Wherever you need to place it to remind yourself to take the time to sit still every day for 5-10 minutes and just breathe.
Sobriety Rocks are hand painted stones that offer images and words of hope and joy. They can be personalized by adding number of years sober on some of them. The fact that there are no two alike make them especially personal and will likely be kept and cherished.
The AA symbol of the circle with the triangle inside has become a world recognized symbol of sobriety. Giving a gift with the symbol is a lovely way to show how proud you are of your sober friend. Earrings with the symbol are subtly designed but noticeable enough that people will notice them and either you will meet other AA’s on the same journey as you, OR often, someone will say they like your earrings and you can decide if you want to talk about what the symbol is or not! It’s amazing how many people are somewhere in the process themselves, either by knowing a family member who has a problem, or perhaps even they have an addiction they have not dealt with… The fact is alcohol and drug addiction are an unfortunate norm in society. Any excuse to talk to someone who may need help is a great way to be of service.