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 for the first 13 months I’ve kept a written note of how many days sober I am. I’ve recorded 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 for gave 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. Especially during that first year in recovery I really needed reminders that I’ve worked bloody hard to keep going, improve my life and overcome so many demons. The shame of drinking and being back to Day 0 again would have been devastating.
I really clinged onto my number of days in the early months when I was having a bad day and the beast crept back into my mindset.
That said, I’ve made the decision to stop counting days. I’ve been sober since 17 February 2021 and that date will remain an important part of my life but I see no value in continuing to remind myself of my recovery every day by updating my sober days accumulated.
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 have been very much into!
It served a purpose and I don’t regret counting days because I stayed sober but do I want to do that for the rest of my life? Where do you draw the line? A daily reminder that I stopped drinking. I don’t want to be seen as somebody in recovery in 5 years time. I just want to be a bloke who doesn’t drink alcohol. Yes a major event in my life lead me to stop drinking but should my past define me for the rest of my life? It can shape you yes, but I don’t want to be defined as an ex alcohol dependant bloke who had a breakdown.
You might find that ironic considering I’m writing in a blog which pretty much focuses on my past which was filled with the thing I want to put to bed. I see it as two separate things though – My past was a difficult period of my life which I need closure with therefore writing helps me do that. I also think it is important for people like myself to share and normalise what we have been through to encourage others to talk or seek help.
As for me now, and going forward I focus on my mental and physical health along with being a good husband and dad a day at a time and part of improving that way of life is slowly but surely removing the barriers I’ve put up around alcohol. It isn’t going anywhere so I need to be strong enough to ignore it and not let it bother me.
Finally, because it’s a good debate (and I’ve had people from both sides of the fence respond to me on social media about it) here is a list I’ve shared previously from Recovery.org
Pros / Cons to counting days
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
Who knows if counting days will return but I feel happy in this moment to stop doing it and instead enjoy each day for what it is on it’s own merit – not just another tally against that fateful day.