It’s That Time Again: Anniversary Issues and Recovery

MarilynDavisatTIERSStarred Page By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 23rd Jul 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Recovery & Coping

“Songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time more than anything else. It’s amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes of a song or a solitary whiff of a room. A song you didn’t even pay attention to at the time, a place that you didn’t even know had a particular smell.” ― Emily Giffin, Something Borrowed

Some Subtle Triggers

All of us in recovery have triggers, whether they are physical, mental or emotional. Some we are aware of; watching other people enjoy a glass of wine at dinner; some are more subtle, the scent of flowers or perfume, reminding us of a friendship destroyed by our actions in our addiciton.

Another type that can take us by surprise is the Anniversary Issue. With planning and awareness, these do not have to create confusion and prompt a relapse.

That Nagging Hard to Pinpoint Feeling

There are days when the situations in your life are running smoothly, you no longer crave drugs or alcohol, you have dealt with family matters and you feel good about where you are in your life. Yet, there is this nagging feeling that something is wrong, or you are just uneasy. You have sadness or are experiencing some guilt and cannot pinpoint the reasons. Conversely, you may be experiencing some joy and happiness and there is not anything that would prompt these feelings.

When these conflicting feelings happen, it can be an Anniversary Issue. Our emotional system remembers circumstances and events where we had that same feeling before. Certainly, we are aware of the significant anniversaries, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce or a birthday. However, other Anniversary Issues can prompt conflicting feelings.

Old Feelings Return

For instance, if you were in recovery before and then relapsed, how do you think you might feel on the anniversary of your previous recovery date? You might feel sadness that you are not celebrating another year of recovery, along with disappointment or guilt. It is difficult to reconcile the positive feelings that you have about your life today with the other conflicting feelings.

When you isolate your Anniversary Issues, it can help you separate your past issues from your present circumstances. This helps you reconcile the conflicting feelings and often shows you where you might not have found closure and resolution on the issue.

Start with Significant Life Issues

What issues would recur? Start with the general categories of significant events in people’s lives.

Next: Create Your Anniversary Calendar

When you create an Anniversary Calendar, you see how these important events can influence your present feelings and thoughts. First, list each month, January through December. Next, note the day if you remember it. Sometimes, we are only aware that an event took place in the fall or winter or sometime during a particular month; that is okay for this, it will still give you a head’s up that there is an event that might have an effect on your feelings and thoughts. Jot them down until you have your year reviewed.

Then, write a brief description of what you were feeling and thinking about the event.

Author’s Example Calendar for Februarys

My Februarys have significant Anniversaries; some are joyous and others are painful. Certainly, over time, I have reconciled my divorce and have come to terms with my father’s death; however, it does not mean that I do not have feelings about those events on the corresponding days. With my calendars, I can understand why I am having conflicting feeling today.

Some anniversaries are also opposites, like opening the recovery home and experiencing the excitement, versus the sadness that I felt later in the day when my father had his stroke. Knowing that these conflicting feelings are difficult to process helps me see where if I am aware of the events, I can put the feelings into perspective and not be overwhelmed or confused by them currently.

Anticipatory Nature of Anniversary Issues

Just as we are all aware of significant holidays a few days or weeks before, it is the same with Anniversary Issues. When you have them written down, it is easy to separate past feelings and thoughts and not let interfere with your current feelings.

For instance, that person with a past recovery date; often times, a few days prior to the date, they may experience restlessness, anxiety, guilt, anger or sadness – in other words, all the feelings that they felt prior to recovery.

Yet, their life today is going well, they have employment, a solid relationship with family and friends and they are doing well in their recovery. Their current life situations prompt feelings of gratitude, pride and hope.

Simply being able to define an old feeling attached to an Anniversary Issue means that people will not have to wonder why they are having such conflicting feelings. Reviewing their calendars at the beginning of the month alerts them to any Anniversary Issues and reduces the interference of past thoughts and feelings, and frankly, we have enough feelings today without the past intruding and setting up a possible relapse for unresolved feelings.

How Your Recovery Can Help Others

Each person has a unique perspective on addiction and recovery. Writing about your experiences may just be the encouragement that someone else needs to recover. Consider writing on Wikinut to spread the word that recovery is possible. It may just be your perspective on recovery or your story that helps someone embrace recovery.

For additional articles on Addiction and Recovery by Marilyn Davis


Roses and perfume: Wikimedia Commons
Charts: Marilyn Davis for TIERS
Calendar and running woman: Microsoft clip-art


Addicts And Triggers, Anniversary Issues, Anniversary Triggers, Issues In Recovery, Significant Life Events, Triggers In Recovery

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
24th Jul 2014 (#)

Good evening, Mark; thank you for the moderation and star. We're all working late tonight, I see. ~Marilyn

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author avatar snerfu
24th Jul 2014 (#)

Hello Ms Davis, It is great reading your article. Anniversaries unite people and that feeling is something special. Reading about it brings back memories.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
24th Jul 2014 (#)

Good morning, Snerfu; thank you for another take on anniversaries and hopefully, your memories were enjoyable. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Retired
25th Jul 2014 (#)

Marilyn, I know exactly what you're talking about. I quit smoking 12 yrs. ago, cold turkey, and have had no relapses. But every once in awhile, I'll have a moment of feeling I absolutely NEED that cigarette. Now I understand "why". Great writing.

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
25th Jul 2014 (#)

Good evening, lavenderblu; prompts, triggers, anniversaries, all are in some ways part of the category of "memory" and we respond when the stimulus is present - whether we are cognizant of it or not. So who knows why exactly that 12 years later you have to do something that you haven't done in 11 years and 364 days (give or take)....the "system" is just reacting, but you don't need to smoke over it. She smiles. Thanks for your observations about the subject. I appreciate the comment. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Phyl Campbell
13th Aug 2014 (#)

This is so interesting. I just looked up a young woman I went to camp with in 1992. We were pen pals after for maybe a year or two -- maybe more, I don't remember. But I have just been feeling that I needed to reach out to her. She hasn't responded yet, but I'll bet I started thinking about her because it's the anniversary of our initial pen pal exchange.
Also odd was the decision to watch both RW stand-up videos the day before his death was announced. It feels like premonition. It may not be anything that strong, but it is something. If we can unlock what that something is we would be brilliant dangerous people!! ;)

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
13th Aug 2014 (#)

Good afternoon Phyl; you are already brilliant - dangerous - not sure. However, I do know that our system remembers so if it was the anniversary for the pen pal, on some level you knew it. The RW aspect, I am not certain, except to say I am sorry he could not get what he needed. Addiction and depression are both formidable.

Enjoyed talking the other day....have to do so again, soon. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Margaret Michel
14th Aug 2014 (#)

Interesting piece! Thanks for sharing!

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
14th Aug 2014 (#)

Good morning, Margaret; thank you for commenting. ~Marilyn

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