3456 days

Sober time apps counting down the seconds to inevitable relapse.

That is not a nihilistic statement that relapses in general are inevitable so why bother, and there are some good apps and resources out there that go beyond counting days (here). I am coming up to 10 years in my own personal and self determined recovery, but it is a perhaps disputable observation of those that focus on that alone as an arbitrary measure of success or achievement.

At the risk of alienating half of my friends. I have never understood the logic or obsession with counting days of ‘sober’ time. I stopped many years ago. Working towards a goal is great and can motivate us but when it becomes the sole focus we can forget the ‘why’. The reasons we are making the change and the benefits of it. Our energy can be taken up by ‘white knuckling’ our recovery and avoiding the thing until the next milestone.

Little bits of plastic i had a few, many of the white ones and a couple of the blue. Even a glow in the dark one of i recall, which came just before i had a great fall.

Celebrating milestones can undoubtedly be a motivating factor for many, however i have come across just as many people that have been triggered by sober anniversaries, or just plain become complacent about their recovery and stopped working whatever program that got them there in the first place.

I have encountered individuals that just seem to make their sober days up, and its different at every meeting. Those that don’t count the days on prescribed meds, those that do. Those that deny a lapse to carry on their “sober” streak. Those that don’t come back to the rooms because the shame of coming back is greater than the pain of staying out there, and those that get (and cover up) “clean date” tattoos to name but a few.

We talk of stigma in recovery coming from those outside ‘the rooms’ but do we ever really consider the stigma and impact of those that use this metric to measure their own and others success?

I remember clearly how difficult it was for me to get one day without my fix, and when the going is good the streaks (and bits of plastic) fill you up with gratitude and excitement that for the first time ever recovery is possible. It truly is. The applause and the plaudits flood your system with dopamine hits. But when it gets hard as we know it does, when that pink fluffy cloud starts to fuzz. When the meetings start to become monotonous, mantras on repeat and not enough of what’s next, it is time to reassess where your focus lies. I wasted way too much time focusing on NOT wanting to relapse, or on avoidance, and not enough on believing i could create a whole new life where ‘the thing’ no longer controlled my thoughts or actions.

If you focus all your energy on avoiding something that thing still has a power over you. It may be a subtle difference but try NOT thinking of a pink elephant, our brains inevitably shift to actively imagining the thing we do not want to focus on.

The last step in the 12 step programme and one of the 5 ways to wellbeing are about ‘carrying the message’ and ‘giving back’. Finding a purpose greater than yourself. Herein lies the beauty of recovery. 💜

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