I know I mentioned in my recent post about drinking that I would not count days of sobriety. That I need to focus my life on other things, and let alcohol go the way of the do-do.
The focusing part I am doing… at least trying, anyway.
The counting days? Well, I do see some advantage in that. First and foremost, it is a reminder that wine is a problem for me. I need to remember what happens when I let myself drink. And one way to keep that memory fresh is to keep reminding myself of my most recent foray into drunkenness.
If I can remember that today, for example, is 14 days since I tried to reupholster my friend’s car with half-digested pizza and three gallons of wine, then it will help me fight the craving.
And I have had cravings. Passing by a sign advertising $5 wines for happy hour, or reading about a character’s choice of wine in a book, has kicked off the longing more than once in the past 14 days. The desire to have one glass. Just one.
But we all know how that “one glass” turns out.
And when I remember that it has been so many days since that now-infamous Sunday, the voice in my head pleading for one glass of wine goes quiet. At least for that moment.
On the flip side, I can also view counting days as a measure of success. Every day that I don’t drink wine is a win. It is another day of sobriety; another day of living the life I want to live. I don’t want to be a drunk. I don’t know why I drink to excess because stumbling around in a state of half-sleep with a constant headache and queasy stomach for company is not something I aspire to. What I want is to be happy and fulfilled, loving my fiancé, my job, my dog, and my hobbies. Feeling like I am in a good place, and relishing that feeling.
But give me a glass of wine, and all this goes straight down the gullet. And next thing I know, I’m reupholstering my friend’s car with half-digested pizza and three gallons of wine.
So, it is okay to celebrate. To praise myself for getting through another day without wine. To acknowledge that every day I will struggle to not give into the craving, and when I don’t – when I make it through that day without wine – I have succeeded in my fight.
And let’s get real: counting days also gives me a chance to go back to my reward system I had on my last bout of sobriety. For every 7 days I go without a glass of wine, I will treat myself to a new book.
Funnily enough, that reward system was really doing the trick. As I mentioned, I was on a pretty strong run the last time around. 82 days. And I only caved when I got together with a drinking buddy. Part of what made that run successful was this treat system. When I felt the cravings start, I would immediately think, “if you have a glass of wine, no book this coming Monday!” And that wouldn’t necessarily kill the craving, but it certainly helped.
It gave me something to shoot for, a goal to achieve.
Today, I took advantage of the fact I have been sober for 14 days, and bought two books at Barnes and Noble: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. And it felt good. It felt real good to acknowledge what I am working hard to do.
So yeah, I’m going to count days. I’m going to treat myself to a new book every 7 days I go without wine… until going without wine becomes the habit. Until the cravings quiet down. I know they will never stop entirely, but quiet down at least.
Until the focus I want directed away from alcohol becomes the reality.