Day 262: I’ve been counting each day of my sobriety / recovery ever since I entered hospital and accepted it was time to get help. I’m proud of getting to the end of each day and waking at the start of the next and I keep a written note of how many days sober I am. I record this on my Instagram Bio, Twitter Bio (@The_HappyDaddy), on this blog whenever I post and in my own personal diary. For me, the visible recording of how long I’ve been sober gives me that extra push to keep at it. I’m an analytical and process driven person so I take comfort in seeing how long the process has lasted and I don’t want to break that chain. I’m on 262 days of a journey where I’ve worked bloody hard to keep going, improve my life and overcome so many demons. If I drank today I’d be back to Day 0 again and I’d be devastated with myself for two reasons – I’ve succumbed to alcohol again AND my counting of days was reset. I really cling on to my number of days when I’m having a bad day and the devil creeps back into my mindset. I can currently say to myself “you’ve come so far and proved you can go without it so don’t break the chain’ – and that little pep talk is enough. Will it be enough in the future? Nobody knows, but at the moment it is enough and I will continue to count days and cling to my days earned because it works for me.
That said, there is many a discussion within the sober community about ‘counting days’.
It’s a long standing practice to count sober days and celebrate milestones such as 1 month, 50 days, 90 days, 100 days, etc. Some people call the day you took your last drink or drug a “birthday.” I’ve never used AA in any depth to speak on a personal level but I know newcomers to Alcoholics Anonymous receive a coin for their 30 days, then 60, then 90. If I was a member of AA that would be something I’d be very much into!
The reasons for counting will vary from person to person but I suspect that for many the reason is not wanting to lose “time” earned. Seeing those days of sobriety rack up can be gratifying, and keep people motivated to do what it takes to achieve their goals. Reporting sobriety time in meetings, on social media or to friends and family can be a happy occasion. The congratulations and positive reaction you receive reinforces why going sober was the right decision. People’s lives can be destroyed by drink and drugs so to come out of that wreckage and have an evident figure of positivity to showcase must feel so good!
I haven’t drank a drop of alcohol for 262 days. I have had 0.0% beer but I don’t even consume the 0.5% beers on the market. Some people may have a sip of wine, or a small glass of champagne at a wedding etc and still consider that not to be a ‘break’ of their soberful chain. That is up to the person but I know AA regard even a few sips of alcohol as a relapse. Even a person with 30 years continuous abstinence from alcohol is considered a “newcomer” if they drink even one drink. You “lose all your time.”
I’ve not been in that position yet and hope I never am so it’s difficult for me to really expand on what I’ve already said but even just thinking about having one sip of wine makes me feel really vulnerable because I know I would consider the time I’ve abstained to be thrown away because that poison is back in my body. Am I being extreme? I dunno, but the fact it even crosses my mind enough to write about it today is a sign that counting days is a HUGE part of my recovery and at the moment it is helping me, not hindering me with my sobriety
Recovery.org has a good list of Pros / Cons to counting days so I wanted to share this in today’s post;
They say counting helps when:
- It provides motivation for sticking to one’s plan
- It gives a sense of achievement for achieving one’s goals
- If a person decides to share their count, they enjoy social support and encouragement
- The individual is counting out of excitement at beginning a new life, not fear of falling back into old patterns
Counting hurts when:
- A slip becomes a full blown relapse because the person figures, “I’ve lost my time anyway, may as well go all out!”
- Fear of public humiliation deters a person from seeking help and support after a slip or relapse
- Counting is imposed by an outside authority, which will eventually lead to rebellion
- A person bases their entire self-worth on the number of days on the sobriety calculator or the number of AA/NA chips collected. Just as dietitians recommend against basing feelings of self-worth entirely on the number on the scale, professionally trained therapists (not those whose only training is participation in 12 Step programs) warn against believing that more sobriety equals being a better person. Or worse, that having a drink or drug reduces a person to worthlessness. Such feelings can lead to severe relapse and even suicide
I do think there is a danger of becoming too absorbed in the number attached to sobriety but thankfully for me at present I put a lot of emphasis on my quality of life and lifestyle changes made by being sober – I read more, I’ve lost weight, I’m less angry and agitated, my anxiety is milder, my depressive episodes last for much less time, I’ve found Yoga, I’ve saved money and I sleep better.
I look forward to updating my Instagram and twitter Bios to ‘Day 263’ in the morning…