People ask me how long I’ve been sober quite often.
I always answer honestly and I never round up. I feel like I’d be jinxing myself if I did.
As of this writing I have a little over seven and a half years.
Why don’t I know the exact length of my sobriety?
I’m sure I could figure it out if I did the math but I just don’t feel like it right now. It’s a moot point anyway, because today is all I have.
I know my sobriety date is October 4, 2009. I know that much. I woke up on a futon, crammed into the boiler room of my brother’s basement. I was crying. I couldn’t believe I was waking up hung over. Again.
So I surrendered to alcohol and did the work I needed to do.
But anything beyond my sobriety date and today doesn’t matter.
I know people who have been sober for less than a year who are extremely focused and on point. Their recovery is amazing. They’re doing the work they need to do to change themselves and they’re giving back. They’re centered and calm and open-minded and accepting of others. They admit their faults, apologize when necessary and are active and contributing members of society-quite a big change from the people they were when they were active in their addiction.
I also know people who have been sober for a long time, who are lost. Sure, they put the drink or the drug down, but they never took an honest look at themselves and grew into the person they have the potential to be.
One of the first people I met in recovery had been sober for almost fifteen years. After spending a few hours with him, I realized he was a paranoid, racist, sex addict who judged almost everyone who crossed our path in the short time we spent together.
Needless to say, I stopped talking to him.
I met another guy about six months after taking my last drink that had seventeen years of sobriety. He was a decent guy, although a little self-centered (aren’t all of us alcoholics?) but was almost always late when we met out in a social setting.
I was helping him lose weight and one day I waited over 45 minutes for him. When he didn’t show up, I worked out alone. He showed up just as I was finishing (almost two hours after we were supposed to meet) and got mad when I said I was done and was leaving. He threw a tantrum, insulted my integrity and stormed out of the gym.
I chalked it off to him having a bad day and forgot about it.
A few days later we were at a drive-thru. His nine-year-old son asked for a donut and the guy said, “Shut your fucking mouth before I smack your head off your neck.”
I stopped hanging out with him that day.
But (and here’s the important part), I had to “clean my side of the street”, so to speak. I had to tell each of these guys that I couldn’t hang out with them anymore.
I didn’t have to tell them the specific reasons, nor did I have to be derogatory or accusatory when I said it. I simply told them I had to focus on myself, wished them the best, and left it at that.
I’ve since seen both of them on separate occasions. One has changed quite a bit and one is still the same paranoid, racist, sex addict I met almost eight years ago.
But that’s on him.
I want him to change. I want him to grow. I want him to do the work that other people suggested of me so he can have the freedom myself and countless others have.
It’s not easy work, and it can certainly be exhausting, but I know it changed my life.
But no matter what I want for other people I can’t do anything about it. I can’t make anyone drink and I can’t keep anyone sober. All I can do is focus on myself and continue to grow.
Nothing changes if nothing changes, they say, and although it took me a while to understand the meaning of it, today I do.
And guess what?
Today is all I have and it’s also all that matters.
Jay Keefe, Director of Happiness and Staff Writer at The Addictions Academy
National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer
Published Author of “And Drink I Did”
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