Why You Need to Start Celebrating Every Win (Especially the Small Ones)!

goal setting Apr 06, 2023

A big part of recovery involves creating new associations in the brain. For someone living with a substance use or addiction concern, their brain has created strong neural pathways associating substance use with reward for positive behaviour or as a way to “manage” big emotions in the short-term in an unhelpful manner. In recovery, there will be moments of wins and some slips though today, we are going to focus on the triumphs in recovery. In order to continue on the trajectory of positive change, it is imperative to celebrate growth areas, improvements, and successes in recovery. This includes those seemingly “small wins”.


Celebrating small wins is an important part of the recovery process as it can assist in motivation, continued progress and reinforcement that the positive choices we are making are worthwhile.  Seeing changes and growth areas such as tracking the addictive behaviour, practicing a deep breathing technique in the morning, or choosing to use more helpful language can be considered small wins, though it’s important to acknowledge them and celebrate them. We can only continue to engage in helpful behaviours if we are identifying and recognising them.


Here's a simple system to follow to start creating the new brain associations with celebrating recovery wins:


  1.  Mindful awareness:

This first step of mindful acknowledgement means that we have brought the win to our awareness and noticing it for what it is…a win!



  1.  Praise and validation:

The next step is to give ourselves the praise and validation we deserve. Through affirmation, we can engage in positive statements that promote change and shifts in our beliefs and identity. Praise yourself for having made the changes needed!



  1.  Considered evaluation:

By acknowledging this area of growth we can zoom out and see what we did to support this improvement and what obstacles we overcome to get there. That way we are engaging with change in a proactive and considered manner. Be a detective and use analytical investigative work to discover what supported you in this process. The value of anything including recovery is often linked to the outcome (although recovery isn’t destination- this is something we’ll look at later). If we do not celebrate the process of recovery and small wins along the way, we lose track of why we are doing this (recovery) in the first place. That’s why evaluating the win and noticing it’s overall value in your recovery goals and lifestyle changes is imperative.



To maintain momentum and motivation, celebrating even the small wins is essential. Viewing all improvements as successes means that we are acknowledging growth and not looking out for setbacks or slips.


Remember, recovery isn’t something we get, it’s something we do. Recovery is an active process, which means that there will be moments that you will have slips and moments that you do well. While it’s common for people in recovery to focus their attention on their lessons (as it may confirm their belief that recovery is impossible), the truth is, that recovery is very much possible. It takes considered proactive steps and acknowledgement of improvements to work through recovery.


Be mindful of hinderances such as doubt which could ignore wins and focus its attention on slip ups. While it’s important to acknowledge slip ups to view them as lessons, it is equally important to perceive wins as lessons and acknowledge them rightfully so.




Side Note: If you’re starting to make active changes in your recovery, this could mean that you’re at a higher risk of a lesson because things have been going so well and your guard may slowly come down and previously learned brain associations of using or acting out as a reward may creep back in. Be sure to tune into our blog post in a couple weeks to learn how you can effectively celebrate wins without reverting back to previously learned behaviours.