Today would have been day 15 but she relapsed. My new friend, the one who asked me to help her stay sober got 15 days in and started her morning off with a drink. When I got the text I knew it was going to be all bad. “I been up since 3 am and I feel like I wanna drink this morning.”

I called her and we talked for a while but I knew all along that it probably would not be enough to steady her. Less than an hour later she called me.

“Man I fucked up, I drank my granddad’s beer. Now I’m sitting at the bus stop in front of the liquor store with a 1/2 pint of Kamchatka in my pocket.”

I didn’t panic. No need to. I pretty much figured that she was going to drink that 1/2 and probably had already started. I was right.

“I just don’t understand why I keep doing this. Why I have to be a drunk. Why I love the burning sensation I get in my gut when I drink. Why would I ruin 15 days of doing good for this?” I just let her vent for a few minutes and then offered up a simple solution.

“Make a choice to drink it or don’t drink it. Nothing is going to happen either way if you do or don’t. At least not today. Whatever you decide is fine.”

Yep, I said it. Sure did. And yes, I want to be a sober coach. And yes this is how I feel about it. And no, I didn’t push her to an AA meeting.

Because as far as I’m concerned she isn’t starting over just because she drank today. And that’s what AA would tell her. That she is back at the beginning. Starting all over again with a new count — Zero.

I hate counting days, which is probably why after a few milestone tokens from AA I stopped counting. Counting days is not something I actually recommend. Don’t get me wrong, I know that it will be two years in February but I can’t tell you how many days, hours, minutes and seconds I’ve been sober. For me, it’s not relevant.

What is relevant is the quality of my life and what I choose to focus on. What I choose to work on. How I decide to be better each and every day. It’s the journey that’s relevant, not the number of days sober.

I was able to quit for good when I stopped viewing drugs and alcohol as my enemy; as the root of my problem. My problem wasn’t drugs and alcohol. My problem was that I couldn’t reconcile drugs and alcohol with having a life of purpose, success and self-actualization. That was my problem. I couldn’t be drunk and successful; high and accomplished; Blacked-out and full-filled. Drugs and alcohol put limits on my life that I wasn’t happy with.

Life wasn’t shit as long as I drank and used so I had to choose.

It was a choice. A choice for more. Not a choice not to drink or use but a choice to live life on another level.

I wish I could explain to my new friend that she can choose even in the midst of a relapse. That she doesn’t lose ground. That she can simply make better choices as she goes along. Even in the midst of it all.

I wish I could get her to see that she’s still ahead.

The score is 14-1.

 

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2 comments

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This was amazing to read. As someone who recently went back out for a very short time after having nearly 8 years sober, I’ve felt like I’very thrown all that clean time away. Thank you for your perspective on this….

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Absolutely. It’s so hard because we are programmed to believe that it’s all or nothing but I’m learning that it’s neither. Rather, I’m choosing every day. And one bad choice doesn’t erase all the positive choices. Progress made over time — sometimes with tiny steps, no steps, or even a few steps back — is what matters. It’s why I stopped counting the days. Counting days had me consumed with the fear of “relapsing” and having to start over at zero. Now it’s just sober living, with an emphasis on living.

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