In the beginning days of my sobriety, I vividly remember an interaction I consider to be partly responsible for my, not so normal, take on sobriety. I was hosting some sober meetings (not AA, just sober) and a new gentleman showed up I did not yet know. He shared how he had been struggling greatly with his sobriety and was looking everywhere for a meeting. He then shared he was thirty-five years sober. What affected me was not his time sober, it was the fact that he was still so deeply bound to the accountability of his sobriety. I made a promise to myself that day. I promised myself I would not be forever sober. I promised myself I would heal and live free from the label of sobriety and addiction.
For those of you who are not familiar with the beginning of my journey, you may not know I started writing my blog on day one of sobriety. I hoped it would be a way to keep myself accountable while I embarked on an unknown adventure. My plan was to write a blog every day for the first thirty days. I did that. When it was over, I realized I was enjoying it too much to stop, so I decided to keep writing. I continued writing a blog every day for the first one hundred and one days of my sobriety. When day one hundred and one arrived, again, I felt I was not ready to quit writing. Subsequently, here I am today, still writing my sober blog. Somewhere around one hundred and fifty days, I decided to scale back and write only two days a week. This, I have been doing for a while now, and I have included with my blog a podcast option too. In many ways, I owe my new life and freedom to this blog.
I religiously kept track of my sobriety days for the first one hundred and one days of my sobriety. I couldn't help it because I named each blog the day of my sobriety. Sober - Day 1, etc... Throughout those days, I remember feeling really good about several milestones along the way. Day thirty was a big deal for me. Day 60 felt like I had reached a pivotal point in my sobriety. In the past, I had quit for a month several times before just to ensure I didn't have a "problem." Pushing past a month felt real. Of course, day one hundred felt unachievable at first, but then it was not such a big deal when it finally arrived. After writing my one hundred and first blog, I stopped titling my blogs in accordance with my sober day. It was at that point I lost track and never cared to think about it again. I mean, I remember the month, that's hard to forget. It was January for me. Other than that, I couldn't care less what day I am on. I think when I reach a year, I will feel pretty good about it. Nevertheless, what I have come to realize is not caring about my number of days sober does one very important thing for me. It takes my focus off alcohol and allows me to place my focus on other, more important aspects of my life.
Sober - Day ...
Now, I know the number of days sober is a pretty big deal for many people, and I understand how it can play an important role in our sober journey. With that said, I have to ask whether the role of counting days is a positive or negative role. The immediate response from most people will be it is positive. It's a celebration. Of course, it plays a positive role. Fair enough. As many of you know, I tend to believe the mind is an incredibly powerful tool. If we tell ourselves something enough times we will begin to believe it. My concern is not about celebrating our successful completion of strung together days of continuous sobriety. My concern is about where we are placing our focus while on our journey. I believe, our focus should not be on the number of days we have with the absence of alcohol. Why? Because in doing so, we are maintaining a focus on the very thing we have worked so hard to eradicate. Alcohol, or the absence of alcohol. Each day we track is a constant reminder of a period of our lives we might be better off letting go. I am not saying we should forget our past, but I am saying we may benefit from focusing our time and energy on the more positive aspect of moving forward with our new lives.
I have to be completely honest with you about something. The day I stopped labeling my blogs by my sober day, was one of the most freeing days of my journey. I will also be honest in saying I was nervous to do so. I mean, I spent one hundred and one days focusing on my days sober by writing an in-depth blog about each one. I spent a lot of time focusing my attention on alcohol or the absence of alcohol. The day I stopped labeling my sober days (the first blog after was titled "After 101 days") was the day I began focusing on the present and the future. Even though my blogs are mostly about the sober condition, I no longer see my journey as a sober journey. I see myself as someone looking back and writing about my sober journey in an effort to help those who still find themselves on theirs. I learn new things every day, and I incorporate those things I learn in these blogs as well. I will continue to share what I learn via my writing, podcasting, and personal interaction with people in the sober community. I do not count or share my sober days any longer because that would imply I still need to hold myself accountable. I no longer need to hold myself accountable for alcohol any more than I need to hold myself accountable for thieving. I don't drink, and I don't steal, so there is no reason to try and hold myself accountable for either.
After the Counting
What's next? What do we do after we let go of our sobriety days and move forward into our better days? Truthfully, this is the best part. This is when we can focus our attention on what it is we want to do instead of what it is we do not want to do. I am fairly confident, most of us have given up some important aspect of ourselves while following our addiction. I am even more confident most of us gave up some of our hopes, dreams, and goals while chasing down our addictive demons. When we stop chasing the negative, we can start following the positive. We can begin learning our truths. We can remember who we are and what we want. We can start taking steps in a positive forward direction rather than chasing our tails in an endless cycle of dead ends. It is in this place we can find true happiness, joy, and peace.
Here is what I found after I let go of counting what I do not want. I found writing to be my truest passion. I have written more over the past year than I have my entire life. I am growing as a writer and following my desire to write professionally. I am not only dreaming, I am also certain I will achieve my goal. I have learned to be a better communicator and therefore partner. My partner and I have grown more in this past year than at any other time in our relationship. We listen, support, and challenge each other to be better versions of ourselves. I have learned to be a better, more patient, and present father. My son sees it too. He knows I am there for him, and he knows I am not perpetuating the lies of alcohol. Because of this, I believe he too will be more aware and able to make better choices. I have learned I am dedicated, loyal, and hardworking in my career. Even though I know my current career is temporary, I am better at what I do. Most importantly, I have learned how to live well and with intention.
While I am aware my views are not always well received in the sober community, I know and am confident my views are valid and true, to me. How we perceive ourselves and the world around us are always true, to us. If there is one thing I would pass on to those who are still finding their way in sobriety, it is this; we have the ability and power to change the way we perceive ourselves and the world around us. We simply have to choose to see and believe things differently. Ironically, it's making the choice to live better that is hard for us, not the addiction. We lived a long time believing we did not deserve happiness.
Guess what? We do. You do. We all deserve to live happy, joyous, and peaceful lives. We all deserve to live without the constraints of self-deprecating labels, doubt, and stigmas. We all deserve to live without a clock and calendar telling us we are okay. We all deserve to be free, to move forward, and to succeed on every step through and after sobriety.
What day of my journey is it for me? It's Thursday, and I am living the wonderful life that I not only choose but also deserve. What day is it for you?