The Value of Day Counting

Someday this is what my sobriety calculator will read; for now, it is just an example!

I had a coincidental (except that there are no coincidences) thing happen yesterday that I thought I’d share about.  Yesterday morning I was getting caught up with all my favorite bloggers, and Running On Sober published a beautiful piece talking about the value of sober time from the perspective of loved ones.  In this post she shared that did not bother to collect her 2-year coin, and described the reasons she did not feel like she needed it.

I finished up reading her post (and a few others, I don’t want to be too melodramatic in the telling of this story), but I logged off, said goodbye to the kids and headed off to a brand new AA meeting that I wanted to support.  It was a free-flow type of meeting, think more of a discussion rather than a formal meeting, but the topic was:  is keeping track of sober time important?

So, given the proximity of these two events, I figured this might be a sign that I should at least think about the topic, and while I’m thinking, I might as well write about it!

Before I give my thoughts, the general consensus of yesterday’s meeting was this:  we all only have today, so whether you have 1 day, 1 year, 1 decade or more, we all have the same amount of time (today).

And, of course, that is all any of us have… today.  We certainly can’t bring back yesterday, and we can’t fast forward into tomorrow, so we as human beings all have one thing, which is the present.  I am not taking exception to that position at all.

However, I do hold a different position on my accumulated sober time than the people in yesterday’s meeting did.  The naysayers of keeping track of sober time said it did nothing but cause them anxiety, and set them up to fail.  And several of them did fail… one woman shared that she felt a need to celebrate every time she got her 30-day coin (three guesses how she celebrated), and she wound up having a drawer full of 30-day coins!  So now she focuses on one day at a time, and that seems to be working for her.

Here’s my position as it relates to sober time:  it matters very much to me, I keep track of it, in my own mind, monthly, I thank God for it daily, and I ask Him to give me another day of it each and every morning.

The first few weeks of my sobriety, I was operating on only one emotion, and that emotion was fear.  I did not pick up a drink or a drug for any reason other than my life had gone to hell in a handbasket, and so fear and fear alone was driving the bus.

But that kind of abject fear can only last for so long.  About 4 or 5 weeks into sobriety, my life hadn’t improved too much, but I was at least more comfortable with my “new” routine.  And then it happened:  the obsession came knocking at my door.  I was on my way to a meeting, sitting at a red light, and I was at a literal and metaphorical fork in the road:  to the left was the meeting I planned to attend, to the right was the opportunity for relapse.

Let me back up a little in this story and say this:  when I was in active addiction, the biggest and most regular bullshit line I told myself was “if no one knows, it doesn’t matter.”  Variations of this:  if you don’t get caught, it didn’t happen; you’re not hurting anyone else, so why should anyone else care; It’s nobody’s business but your own… you get the picture.  I really and truly and really lived life with these mantras playing in my head.

So, back to the fork in the road.  I’m at the light and the voice in my head is back:

no one would know

there is no reason you can’t do this

your life it total shit right now anyway

you might as well go for it

That, of course, is the bad news:  the way an addict’s mind works.  Here is the unbelievably good news:  for the first time in my life, in my car, on that cold morning, another voice talked back.  It said two things that I carry around with me to this day.  The first:

But YOU will know

Sounds almost ridiculous, but that is the first time I have ever even considered that, much less cared… I will know that I did this.  I will know that I screwed up.  And for the first time, it mattered to me that I knew.

The second thing the voice said:

But if you do this, you will lose your sober time

Again, miraculous thinking for this alcoholic and addict.  The 30-odd days had somehow, some way, come to mean something to me, meant enough to at least give me pause when I contemplated relapsing.

Given that I am writing this in a blog I started at 90 days sober over a year ago, you can guess which direction my car turned that morning.

When I share my story at meetings, I will often say that the incident I just described is equally as important to me as my actual sobriety date, because it is the date I decided, with no outside influences whatsoever, that I choose recovery.

Today‘s Miracle:

Thanks to the choice I made in my car, on that cold morning, I am celebrating 566 days sober today.

Posted on August 15, 2013, in Recovery. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. runningfromthebooze

    The timing of this post is perfect for me. Today I have 60 days. Internally, counting is good for me, it’s my security blanket. When I see the number it sometimes has the opposite effect because it seems like such a small number compared to how big the sober feeling is inside of me. Does that make sense?


    • Happy 60 days. Those first weeks and months are so confrontational. It’s no small feat. Congratulations!


    • It does make sense, but I also believe that 60 being a small number is your perception of it, and you can turn that around. Have you ever had 60 days sober before? Usually if I look at my sober time, and am disappointed in it, it is because I am comparing myself to someone else, which is silly! How can I possibly compare my sobriety to someone else’s?

      Personally, I think 60 days is a HUGE milestone. I remember my 60 days milestone very well (I participate in AA, so I remember getting the coin), and I believe that number should represent just how big it feels inside, because it is a huge, huge goal achieved! Believe me, there is someone with not even one day, reading your comment, and wishing so badly they had 60 days (I know this because, again, I remember it well).

      I am so happy for you, and I want to congratulate you on what is now 61 days! You are an inspiration to many people!


  2. Even in relapse dreams, the first thought that comes to my (sleeping) mind is “but I’ll have to start counting days all over again.” I never was good at tracking days but getting coins helped that. I felt like an idiot raising my hand to take one, but that self-consciousness melted away with the applause and warm encouragement from the rooms. I agree it is important to track time, though I do it much looser now that I have more under my belt. Wow, to have have 26.81 years one day! What a thought. Great post, J.


  3. Ahhhh … the non-science of what works in recovery. For some counting is a trigger for others counting is a Godsend. I love this process you shared because you are showing both sides of the coin. I think for me what worked was “getting a permanent sobriety date” + “keeping it” … this solved a few problems. There was no “start-overs” so I could count or not count. My sick alcoholic head tried to talk me out of that date so many times, it was ridiculous! Trying to not change that sobriety date was my first lesson in how sick I really was. Done, I just wanted and needed to be done… for good! And, like you …. I am only sober this day. What a nice feeling that I do not need to worry about tomorrow and a drink, just right now.


    • It is definitely an interesting subject, I am actually hoping to have a comment from somebody who feels differently from me, I like hearing the perspective opposite of mine. I could not agree with you more, Lisa. For 8 months before I got my sobriety date I tried and failed, I remember that time well, and the thought of starting over feels like it would kill me so… no start-overs for me either! Thanks for the comment (as always), and thanks for congratulating runningfromthebooze, I’m sure she needed that!


  4. For me, counting days has been important. I am the kind of person that needs to see results right away, or I won’t stick to things (that explains the extra 20 lbs I’m carrying). So watching the number of my sober days increase has helped me to keep going. I also have had the thought that if I choose to drink I have to change my sobriety date, and I definitely don’t want to have to do that! Next week I will have 9 months, and I have looked at my phone app (the one you have above) nearly every single day both to celebrate my sobriety and to motivate myself to keep going.
    Thanks for the post!


    • Jami, congratulations on 8 months and 3 weeks! That is astounding! And I totally agree with you (and Lisa)… changing that date would be so horribly demoralizing, it is just easier not to drink. And, oh man, am I with you on the instant gratification thing, both with diet, exercise and sobriety! Hopefully the recovery process gives us a better perspective on the others!


  5. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon

    And I TOO needed this today! EVEN having 6yrs in Recovery, the DRAMA I’m going through right now brought on by our landlord trying to Evict us has TESTED MY recovery to go GAMBLE & TRY to make some FAST MONEY, or NOT to GAMBLE and just be the 1st Homeless published Author in the world!….LOL….OH HOW TEMPTING IT IS……But…I know that it won’t CHANGE A THING! I’ve had to REALLY rely on my Recovery Friends these past 2 weeks, and use all my tools in my recovery tool box as well!! If you could share my fundraiser link I would be very GRATEFUL 🙂 We only have 2 1/2 weeks for my goal….. God Bless, Catherine Lyon 🙂


  6. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon

    OOPS!! I forgot!! I have NOMINATED YOU & Your Blog for *THE INNER PEACE AWARD*!! Details on my blog post *Another Fabulous Award* if you chose to pass on the LUV!! God Bless, Catherine 🙂


  7. I like days accumulated. I like a sobriety date. I like keeping track (not every day like I used to…bit different now). I like sober time accounted for. And for those who see it as folly and silly, then it’s folly and silly. Public opinion holds no sway for me on this. I have heard on person say that what’s the point of celebrating something (landmarks, anniversaries) that we should have been doing all along? ugh. To each their own.

    Anyway, I apologize if I sound a bit negative…didn’t mean for this to be! But I am with you – I enjoy cheering someone on and love medallions (other people’s). And I think we are in the majority – why else are there countless sobriety calculators on the web and apps for phones doing this? We may not admit it, but we loves us a countin’.

    Great stuff 🙂

    Tick Tock


  8. I like counting too! I think it is soooo very important, because every day is a miracle! And wow 566 miracles! Awesome! I remember my sponsor took me to a sobriety countdown celebration so as they were counting down, now by days after 1 month, 29, 28, ….4, 3 – I stood up like the others, I was so overwhelmed! – they said I was the most important person in the room! So powerful. And seeing all those people was absolutely inspiring- ahh I’ll never forget that night! – Thanks, great post! – Maggie


    • Oh shoot, something happened, there is a paragraph missing – I said that at the celebration, I had 3 days and I felt like a peanut (really small like) and absolutely overwhelmed. – ok sorry, that was an important part of my little story 🙂


      • I really hope runningfromthebooze is reading the follow-up comments, Maggie, you said everything I wanted to say earlier! Thank you so much (as always) for commenting, I think it is so important for people in early sobriety to hear (myself included!). And I agree, every single day is a miracle!


  9. I love counting my days! I used to count the hours until I could sit with my glass of wine in the evening. I used to count the days before a big celebration or event where there would be a free wine bar. Now I count the days that I have kept my promise to MYSELF. These are all much better days to count. I am day 68…and counting! Hugs!


    • Oh my… you just took me back… I completely forgot about counting hours until I could chemically alter myself. Thank you so much for writing this comment, you really, really helped me today!

      And, more important… CONGRATULATIONS on what is now 69 days! That is so awesome! You have achieved something many, many people cannot!


  10. Counting in sobriety is important for me too but it’s not so important in other things I’ve stopped (or curbed). When I did a no-yelling-at-my-kids challenge, I never would’ve finished the 30 days if I had to start over each time I slipped! For my sobriety date, it’s different. If I drank today, it would be like going back to day 1 all over again. The last two years would feel meaningless, regardless of how much I’ve learned. What I don’t like about that line of thinking is that it’s excessively hard on myself. I take my sobriety date seriously because I don’t want to give myself an “out” but if I ever relapse, I hope I’ll show myself the kind of forgiveness I deserve.


    • Karen, I am so with you on this comment! I have tried to employ the exact same tools of recovery to other things that I am trying to stop (or curb), and you’re right, starting over just isn’t the same with exercise or eating or anything else. Drinking is different, which is why my sobriety date is so important to me, and why my days accumulated mean so much. I really appreciate your thoughts on this, because I have been beating myself up over a leg injury, and you really helped me to put it in perspective, so thank you!


  11. CONGRATULATIONS! 100….365…..566 all of the days are reason to celebrate. So proud of you and your accomplishments. Also, thank you for always giving me something to think about. Your observations and realizations can be applied to many of life’s circumstances.


  12. I count the days and the weeks too, currently 522 and approaching 75 weeks, every day is important for me to mark and each week a mini celebration. I have had dreams where even though I don’t remember drinking I’m convinced I have and when I write my journal at night and note the SoberDay number down, the despair hits me so hard I wake straight away, it takes a few moments then to come back around and realise it’s a dream.
    Keep counting, as long as I can count I know I’m still on this journey and I’m still walking with God and the strength he gives me to keep fighting.


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