SOBERTHDAYS! How To Celebrate A Sober Sweet 16 Anniversary 80s Style

Celebrating my Soberthday didn’t use to be a big deal to me. It was something I celebrated quietly, usually with acknowledgment from my parents with a card and a plant. Those in my sober circles might give me a funny card and a coin. It was never something I celebrated on social media and not the type of event I’d consider hosting a party. At most, I’d maybe go out to dinner with my son or some friends. I would always use it as an excuse to buy something special. Usually, saying to myself, “You deserve it! Just think about how much money you’ve saved not wasted on drugs and alcohol.”

On my first sober birthday, I sweet-talked my parents into buying me this huge-ass piece of art. It’s a square-shaped canvas that is almost as tall as I am (5’4″) with the ginormous letter “A” on it and the words Life, Celebrate, Abundance. I still have it to this day. My friend Kate, who I had fondly nicknamed Kate Spade, sent me chocolate-dipped fruit to the office on my second sober birthday. At the time, I was working at a lifestyle magazine in Seattle, and everyone in the office thought the REAL Kate Spade had sent them to me. If not for the pesky “rigorous honesty” practice I’d picked up in recovery, I would have liked to have let everyone believe this office rumor. For my fifth sober anniversary, I was in Chicago for a work conference and decided to treat myself to a pair of Chanel earrings to celebrate my “Chanel No. 5”.

These are a few of the sober anniversaries that stand out in my memory. Last year was the first year I went big, in an online super public social media sort of way. My dear friend and photographer Barbie Hull spent an afternoon with me in the historic Pioneer Square neighborhood in downtown Seattle snapping photos as I changed outfits in alleys and attempted to model with balloons. (Fun fact: Modeling with balloons is NOT as easy as it may appear.)

Since we were still basically smack in the middle of the pandemic, I celebrated the actual day at home with custom Jones Soda Birthday Cake flavored soda, a special cake from Carlos Bakery via the Gold Belly website, and a Zoom party with my sober friends, sober supportive friends, and family. You can read all about my big Quinceañera coming out party here.


Tips To Go Big For Your Soberthday!

Of course, how you choose to celebrate your significant milestone is totally up to you. And while I’ve gone bigger with my own celebrations over the last two years, I don’t know that I will every year going forward. For now, I’m still taking it one day and one anniversary at a time. To me, it’s become a day to celebrate the new life I’ve built in recovery. So why not have fun with it, in whatever ways float your sober boat?

This year, since it was my Sober Sweet 16 and my sobriety was now old enough to get a driver’s license, I decided to lean all the way into the Sweet 16 theme and have some fun with it, 80s style.

Find a Special AirBnb & Make It a Weekend Getaway!

With the popularity of Airbnb, it’s a fun and easy way to make your sober celebration just that much more special by planning an overnight or weekend-long celebration. Think about how much money you’ve saved by giving up booze and substances! You deserve to splurge anytime you reach a milestone or anniversary because you’re sober, not boring!

This super fun 80s Time Capsule three-bedroom, two-bath daylight basement apartment with private entry & street parking was the perfect backdrop to my Sober Sweet 16 80s theme. Staying here gave my guests the chance to see the world’s best 80’s memorabilia collection! The huge sectional in the living room with 60 inch TV included an awesome 80’s movie library!. (We ended up watching Pretty in Pink and The Goonies.)

Plus, they had Donkey Kong & Ms. PacMan full-size arcade games that everyone took a few turns playing. This unique rental included a full kitchen, laundry room, & huge backyard with a patio, dining area, & BBQ and had enough beds for eight adults. Plus, it was only 11 miles from the Sea-Tac airport & 20 miles south of downtown Seattle.


Sober Theme Parties = Sober Theme Costumes!

Sober Curator & Walk Your Talk Fashion Editor Kate Vitela showed up to celebrate with not just one, but three 80s outfits! When you’re hosting a theme party, encourage guests to pack their party-best theme outfits and have fun with them! Sober Curator Pro Tip: Select a party theme that is easy for your guests to either shop their own closet at home or swing by a thrift shop to shop sustainably. We’ve all got to do our part to keep clothing out of landfills!

And remember… you are sober and NOT BORING. This means ANY long hallway or open space can immediately turn into your runway. (And if it does, plus send us your photos or videos because without a doubt Kate and I want to see them!)


Surprise Your Special Sober Someone with a Celebrity Cameo Video

Cameo videos are the perfect gift idea for anyone celebrating a special sober anniversary or milestone. Surprise your special sober someone with a fun video featuring their favorite celebrity. Cameo is where you connect with your favorite stars. Access thousands of celebrities and request a personalized video message for any occasion. If you’ve never visited the Cameo site before, go in slow. Their roster of celebs is vast!

But don’t you worry you’re pretty little sober head. I did the work for you and curated a list of sober favs along with addiction/mental health awareness supporters currently showing available at the time of this post. (Please note, I can’t actually confirm anyone on this list is sober, I’m just basing this info on current google searches and TMZ updates. Don’t come at me if they aren’t sober or aren’t currently available.)  Each talent has individual pricing and restrictions.

My jaw dropped to the shag carpet flooring when my friends surprised me with this over a one-minute custom message from the Cameo Miss Piggy Impersonator. Not only was it totally on theme with the 80s sober sweet sixteen vibes, but I’m actually an honorary Muppet. Let me explain. My mom’s cousin Polly Smith was the original clothing designer for the first 20 years of Miss Piggy’s life. Given this closer than Kevin Bacon level of separation, I determined years ago this makes me Muppet royalty by default.


Soberthday Potluck Party!

Parties don’t have to be expensive, especially when you make it a potluck! Whether you’re throwing yourself the party or you’re throwing it for someone else, your guests want to be asked how they can help and what they can bring. Make sure to ask everyone attending if they have any special dietary needs and let yourself indulge by bringing in all of your favorite dishes and desserts.

In this particular case, throwing an 80s theme party is a cheap way to also theme out the food. Keep it simple with pizza, salads, fruits, and veggies. Go ahead and splurge on that old-school candy bar and get your best bakers to whip up their signature cookies and cupcakes.

As for your booze-free bevies, #ADDTOCART edible glitter in a variety of colors. Just a dash will do ya and it’s a fun and easy way to dress up any flavored beverage of choice and make it sparkle. Feeling extra fancy? Splurge on non-alcoholic spirit alternatives, NA craft beer, and/or alcohol-removed wine. Head on over to our HAPPY EVERY HOUR section to check out our curated reviews on a multitude of brands.


Plan Party Games! (even if you never get to them…)

Party games are always fun and can be an easy way to get a party going or even wind it down. In this particular case, I wanted to stay on theme with our 80s vibes. So, I brought my own personal collection of board games, card games, coloring books, and toys from my childhood. We never actually played with any of it because we were far too busy eating, laughing, gabbing, doing outfit changes, and making Instagram reels. But, I was still glad to have them there as a backup in case the party didn’t end up taking on a life of its own.


The Sober Center of Attention

Don’t be afraid to stand center stage in your sober celebration. If getting sober was easy, then everyone would do it. Dealing with life on life’s terms sober takes hard work and determination. However you choose to celebrate, don’t shy away from going big! Buy the tiara or party hat, and treat yourself to a fun and meaningful gift or experience. Do the photo shoots and invite your friends and family to celebrate with you.


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