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.

7 responses to “Reflections on Counting Days after Four Years of Sobriety”

  1. Hey D.
    Always becoming “growing” changing ~ moving!
    Life is truly a wonder.
    As time goes by ~ passing one day at a time into weeks, months, years. . . . my life sober has become more & more about simply living life as best I can from day to the next.
    The “war” with myself, the daily struggle to survive living each day sober and not get loaded or harm myself eventually became much much easier. I still have bad days and dark periods but less frequently and usually much less intensely than the early days (years 1-13 in my case 🙂 “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly”). Life events have nudged me along forcefully: going sober to a minimum security facility fire camp in CA the spring of my 1st year of recovery, the gulf war, “finishing” college a second time, becoming the primary caregiver for my wife, when both my parents were no longer alive on this planet, the death of a close friend in recovery, the death of a close friend that lost their recovery, doing 30 yrs dry as a bone, giving much of my time and energy to helping children with severe disabilities and their families navigate our educational system.
    I often wish the Buddha had walked off after the flower sermon and never said a word ever about anything to anyone – more about that another time perhaps LOL!
    Four years is amazing! THANK YOU SO MUCH DAMIEN ~ FOR SHARING YOUR JOURNEY SO OPENLY AND HONESTLY WITH SO MANY OF US! I can’t wait to see what happens next!
    JFT Paul

    Liked by 2 people

  2. 9,807. I wouldn’t lose the knowledge gained over the last 26 years… I’d just give away the stuff that actually matters to stay drunk. I don’t care about the date as much as I stay sober to keep my life!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think we do what we have to as we grow. We don’t need the same today after 4 years sober than what we needed at the beginning. I certainly counted my days and counted others days. I use to feel overwhelmed when someone said hundreds or thousands of days they had. After a while I stopped counting and lately I almost always realize it’s been one more month after the actual date. I appreciate when people count proudly their time because it is important for them. I respect that we hold on to a sober journey the way we better know or using what it is best for each one. Congrats on your sobriety.

    Liked by 1 person

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