Recovering from addiction is hard work. That’s why celebrating a sober anniversary can be so significant: it gives someone in recovery and the people closest to them a milestone to celebrate.
And it’s especially sweet when a sober “birthday” celebration comes in the form of a child’s unambiguous joy.
On Wednesday, Kristen Bell shared a sign one of her two daughters made for their dad, Bell’s husband Dax Shepard. The little girl even managed the tricky spelling of “sobriety,” although she gave “Daddy” only two Ds.
“My daughter woke him up with this sign,” Bell wrote. “Thank you for dedicating your life to the hard and wonderful work of sobriety, so that we could share it with you.”
Shepard, 45, has been open about his battle with addiction, and Bell has repeatedly been supportive of the work he does to stay sober.
“I will forever be in awe of your dedication, and the level of fierce moral inventory you perform on yourself, like an emotional surgery, every single night,” she wrote in a long caption celebrating his sober anniversary two years ago.
Celebrating sober milestones is an important way people in recovery can be reminded of their progress, according to experts. Promises, a treatment centre in Malibu, Calif., writes on its website: “If passive events such as another year of life are worthy of cards, cake, balloons and confetti, then certainly hard-won achievements such as sobriety deserve attention too.”
And talking to kids in age-appropriate ways about addiction and sobriety can help them see their parents as people who are flawed, but who work hard to do better. The National Association for Children of Alcoholics recommends that kids understand first and foremost that alcoholism is a disease.
“When we try to hide things from kids, they know that there’s something going on,” California-based therapist John Sovec previously told HuffPost. “And if we don’t validate that information or explain what addiction looks like in a person, family or community, we’re doing them a disservice in their own personal development.”
Last year, Bell told People that celebrating the day Shepard got sober means a lot to her and to their family. The couple has two daughters, seven-year-old Lincoln and five-year-old Delta. They’re fairly private about their family, blocking out their daughters’ faces when they share photos of them on social media.
“I’m very happy he was born so I celebrate his birthday,” she said. “But I’m extraordinarily [happy] that he has stayed sober because that’s what allows me to have him in my life as a husband and as a father.”