I have a date that comes up annually on my Microsoft Outlook calendar every November 1st. It is set to remind me of my nephew's sobriety anniversary. I think this is his 4th or 5th year of being clean and sober and I have the calendar set because, in my mind, this is a significant date that needs to be recognized. It needs to be recognized annually. This guy knows how ugly he was as a drinker. He could be mean, nasty and a completely different person when he was on a bender. He was great to talk to and really funny to be around when he was sober, but if he had a few, look out. I wanted no part of being around him. Now that he's recovered, it's like he's a different person.
I say its important to recognize these people for their achievement on an annual basis. However, in their own lives, every day is a day that needs to be recognized, at least for them, unto themselves. One of the foundations of AA and other programs is "one day at a time". While no one wants a label, the old adage of once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, is more true than not. They have helped themselves up, but realize that they could fall back into self destructive ways with the downing of one drink or the popping of one pill. They live with themselves and their temptations every day.
I want to make one thing very clear. They are all heroes to me. They had the guts to see what they were doing to themselves, their families and friends and take control of it. They had the guts to say NO. They continue to say no in a society where drinking (and drug use) is everywhere. I cannot fathom the pressure they must deal with to say no to cultural norms to "fit in" by having a "social" drink.
I've have a few people in my life who I look up to for these reasons of admission, abstinence, and resolve. I have a relative who went through drug treatment after struggling with stimulants for a number of years. She has been clean for quite some time, went back to college, is raising a daughter and has a good job in the social work field. She has a good network beneath her of people that support her. People struggling with addiction addicts are each others' best friends. She also has our entire family supporting her with encouraging words and love. She doesn't know how much I look up to her. She is a hero and she doesn't even know it.
I have a close friend who went through treatment almost thirty years ago after wrecking a car. Luckily, no one was hurt. It was a blessing in disguise, the accident, as it brought him to the realization that he had a problem. I remember things were always different when we were out at a party or whatever. He never quite knew when to say when. He always wanted to go a little farther with it. It was almost like it took over him. In the end, it caught up to him. He was fortunate to have a deep faith and it carried him through as he went through treatment and he's been clean and sober ever since. He's a hero to me and he doesn't even know it.
Then there is another grade school friend that I have reconnected with through facebook. I found out through facebook that he went through treatment with the female relative I talked about above. He has been clean and sober for quite a while and just recently quit smoking. He still loves rock n roll and rides a Harley but he does it all clean. I haven't seen this guy for 35+ years but in all the same ways as above, I look up to him.
So if you know someone who's been through treatment, I encourage you to acknowledge them for the good they've done for themselves. Your encouragement might be exactly what they need to hear at that moment.