Reflections on Counting Days after Four Years of Sobriety

Lets talk about counting days. Opinions vary about whether or not counting the number of days one has been sober is useful or not, just as opinions vary on so many other things in the recovery community.

When I first got sober, I counted my days. I think most people do. As the days stacked up there was a sense of accomplishment. When I got my 30 day chip, it felt like an unbelievable milestone, because it was! I mean, in the previous twenty five years there hadn’t been a week that went by without getting smashed and in the previous seven it was a daily thing. Going 30 days without a drink was a miracle. And the same was true for my 60 day chip, and my 90 day chip, and my 6 month chip, and a year! A whole year without a drink!

But somewhere along the way counting days lost its shine. I certainly felt a sense of accomplishment with each passing milestone and I’d never belittle anyone for counting their days, but it just started not to matter to me. Perhaps it was that I’d become comfortable in my own skin, perhaps it no longer felt so miraculous — though to be fair, any day that someone like me gets through without a drink is miraculous — perhaps I just lost count.

I have not relapsed or slipped or whatever you want to call having a drink after a long period of abstinence. I suspect that I’d feel overwhelmed. I might feel shame. I might feel guilt. I might feel like I’d wasted my sober time. That I’d thrown it away.

That’s one way to look at it. But it’s zero sum. It’s fixed mindset. It’s black and white. Binary.

I believe that there is growth in sobriety. I believe that we become more fully ourselves in sobriety. I know that I’m not the same person I was 1461 days ago (I had to do the math on that). If I took a drink today, all that growth is still there. It doesn’t get obliterated. My perspective has shifted and I am more conscious of myself and others. One drink, one night of drinking, one week of drinking even wouldn’t change all of that. I might backslide but I don’t believe the narrative that I lose all my growth.

Sure I’d reset my sobriety date, but resetting ones sobriety date doesn’t set us back to square one. It’s just a number of days strung together.

What really matters is today. That’s why we talk about one day at a time. That’s why the Buddha spoke about the impermanence of everything.

That’s not to say that there wouldn’t be consequences if I were to take a drink. There surely would be consequences. They may be minor or they may be huge. It’s not something that I could predict. And that’s why I won’t be taking a drink today, just as I haven’t for the last 4 years of continuous sobriety, one day at a time.