My sober odometer is about to roll over. (Soberdometer? Nah. Too clumsy.)
Today, July 17, 2015, I am 9,999 days sober. (There's an app. on my phone that tallies it all up. What, you thought I had a stack of calendars and a calculator? Child, please.)
But as anyone with some time sober will tell you, "Time is not a tool."
(Or that other chestnut: "I am not my time.")
Because although I'm 9,999 days sober (and to be fair, that is a loooong time between cocktails) all I have is today.
When I was newly sober and counting days (five... thirteen... thirty - chip! - forty-two...fifty-seven... sixty - chip!...) and people would say that "I only have today" stuff I usually thought, "Yeah, easy for you to say, you've got blankety-blank time sober and your life is looking pretty good." or "They're just saying that so the new people don't feel bad. Inside I bet they are crowing. Crowing!"
And maybe they were. Maybe that was true for them. I can't say (but I doubt it about the crowing).
In my experience, as the days accrue, not quite unnoticed but eventually not greatly noted (like loose change in a jar or all those days in the middle of February) the solidity of AA recovery and the fragility of sobriety become equally apparent.
All those days (it was too weird to type "all those thousands of days" and consider I'm talking about myself) don't mean shit if I don't still, today, do what I did (well I guess now I have to say it) thousands of days ago.
You don't stay clean on yesterday's shower.
You don't stay fit on last month's workout. (This one is a theory-based example for me. I would have had to have worked out last month to be able to write it with real integrity.)
I don't stay sober today on what I did when I was 4,999 days sober, unless I am doing today what I did when I was 4,999 days sober. (Or whatever day. Pick a number.)
Balancing that is the obvious truth that (obviously) the last thirty days of my sobriety are in many ways a substantively different experience than the first thirty days of my sobriety. With practice anyone can become fairly fluent in anything.
With enough utilization of the spiritual toolkit AA lays at our feet a selfish, self-centered, self-deluded and self-destructive Pinocchio of an alcoholic can actually become a real live sober boy.
But there is no way in hell this puppet, so tied by the strings of my addiction to alcohol and drugs (wow, that metaphor really took off for me once I threw it out there in that last sentence. Nice!) could have any kind of grace or sobriety or recovery at all without the help of the great extended 12 Step family accessed through going to AA meetings.
I do not believe I would be sober and happy (and grateful -- which is pretty much Happiness's somewhat quieter twin sister) without AA's 12 Steps and suggestions for living.
I'm probably supposed to thank God for my sobriety as well -- and I do, sincerely -- but God's always worked on me most directly through other people, and so I know that I absolutely would be a far poorer example of a sober man without the sponsors I've had along the way: Roger C., John P., Linda B., Michael S., Robert K.... and most importantly, John S., whose fingerprints are all over my Program and the memory of whom can make me either chuckle or choke up with very little provocation -- and whose wise counsel I still miss every single day. The time and experience and love and guidance and patience (oh dear God, the patience those people had with me) still serves to humble and inspire me.
And there is no doubt at all in my mind, as I am as predisposed to self obsession as any alcoholic (I might tentatively suggest perhaps even more predisposed than most, but then I can easily imagine John S. laughing at the ego and grandiosity of such a statement) that without the people who have allowed me the privilege of sponsoring them I would absolutely not be here and sober today.
Milestones -- big and public or small and private -- prompt in me reflection made up of both comparisons and sentimentality.
So with both in my heart (but no crowing. Honest.) I will watch the odometer roll over and be profoundly grateful to have had those sober days. I sure as hell wouldn't want to repeat some of them, but I sure as hell really am truly grateful for every single one of them.
And most especially of course, coming full circle -- cliche but it couldn't be more true -- I'm grateful for today.
If you are alcoholic, struggling in any way, remember: All you have to do is not pick up the first drink, no matter what. And then, if by the time your head hits the pillow you haven't had a drink, or a drug, or tried to kill yourself, then YOU WIN, and the rest of that shit -- whatever is torturing you right now (which is really just your alcoholism working on you, but more on that another time) -- will just have to work itself out till tomorrow. Today, just for today, I don't pick up the first drink.
I did that, just for today, 9,999 times, yes.
But one of the Great Truths of AA is that if I can do it for just ONE day, then so