Recovery Coins

Numerous people have been talking about recovery coins, recently. Whether or not they are important in your sobriety journey seems to be an issue of some debate. Though they aren't important in mine, it's easy to see why one would want the commemorative chip to celebrate their journey. Although, I think some of us should keep in mind that a token or any item you choose is simply that; an item.

Try not to let these symbolic celebrations become the focal point of your recovery.

Recovery Chips = Cherry on top

In the 1940's AA co founder, Bill Wilson pens a letter in which he makes reference to giving out "tokens" or "chips". Simultaneously, Sister Mary Ignatia was working with Robert Smith (Dr. Bob), the other co-founder of AA to provide an incentive type coin system. This seems like a very blatant attempt to keep alcoholics sober and to keep them coming back to meetings, a ploy that would later be replaced outright coin celebration.

Sister Mary would give sacred heart medallions to her newly released patients with the request they would return them before their next drink. These coins became a symbol of one's commitment to God, recovery, and alcoholics anonymous. The thought process being, they would then have the presence of mind to return the coin before choosing to drink, breaking their commitment to God and sobriety. That is was their moral responsibility to do such.

It is also the belief, that had they not returned these medallions, the coins would instill a sense of pride and success in the recovering addict. Clearly, they weren't wrong in this regard. People get chips for the one month, two month, three months, and so on, providing further motivation to maintain sobriety. Some people find these chips pertinent to a successful recovery, but are they the cornerstone of the building or the fresh coat of paint?


Is it just about the recognition? Or the accolade of having the tokens? Some people have thrown around the term 'coin collectors' as a derogatory term for when people seem to make a habit of 'relapsing for the easy token'.

To me, this is as ridiculous as it sounds and for that reason will not even explore the reasons why one would fake an addiction/relapse in order to collect some sobriety coins. What I am going to go into is bullying in recovery.

Recovery programs are for support and help, not to bully or tear down fellow addicts about coins or any other reason. There are many people who feel they are the living embodiment of successful recovery and therefore get to talk as insensitive as they want to anyone who isn't walking the same exactly sobriety path. While I don't personally go to rooms, many say the support you get from AA and other alcoholics, is fundamental to understanding your own triggers and succeeding in the sober side of life.

Which brings me back to chips and tokens; a sense of recognition.

Really, who doesn't want some recognition for doing something difficult? The answer is, everyone. Everyone wants to be recognized, for something difficult or otherwise!

Milestones or meddling?

Clearly, you don't need recovery chips in order to stay sober, which bears the inevitable question, 'are they helping or hurting?' When we mark these milestones, it's meant to be a symbol of our commitment and sobriety; nothing to do with other people.

On one of the Facebook recovery pages I follow, a public question was asked about recovery coins; who all had them, who didn't. As it is a support group, I offered my two cents on recovery chips, in that they mean something to those who earn them. Much like money, they feel they've worked for this. For those who don't we easily substitute tokens for anything else.

I commented about someone I've read about who collects milestone watches. I think this idea is great, and share it with anyone who doesn't go to 'rooms'.

A simple way to reward yourself for the milestone you've reached. The response to my comment, 'does she get her money back when she relapses, asking for a friend who needs watches'.

Yes folks, you read that right. Snarky and condescending jest and all.

My jaw dropped! Not only do we face scrutiny from everyone else in the world, but now we are tearing each other down in our own recovery groups?!


We are living proof that we can recover and live a healthy happy sober life. No, we don't need recovery coins: tokens aren't what keep people sober.

Support keeps people sober and that's what we need right now. Coins are nice, and the watches are good too, but the biggest thing we need in recovery is a safe place. The medallions were meant to keep people coming back to the safe place, not to tear each other down for not needing the same exact safe place. At the end of the day the coins are just items, small pieces letting you know the bigger puzzle is still intact.

Keep in mind, we are in this together -here on the sober side.

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