Sunday, January 17, 2010

One Day at a Time

We are all staying sober, one day at a time. At least that is what we say. And then we quickly qualify it by adding just how many days / months / years / decades we have been sober. Don't get me wrong, I am a big believer in the value of sober experience. I am a big believer in the value of staying sober through thick and thin, year after year, no matter what.

Here's what I am not a big believer in: the danger of long term sobriety. Oh yes, I am sorry to tell you, there is danger in it. And like a lot of dangers, it is very seductive.

Lately I have noticed on my blog that people will come by and make disparaging remarks - always prefaced by "I have been sober for 19 years!" "I have been sober for nearly 23 years!" whatever amount of time. As if that length of time makes them right. It is the trump card, the end of every argument. I guess it works quite well with someone who is sober a couple of years. And I guess their reading comprehension is not really good, my header tells you my sobriety date. Playing their game, I guess I am right and they are wrong. But I don't play it that way.

I have heard the expression "the road gets narrower" and to me that means that the longer I stay sober the more I have to live by a prescribed set of spiritual principles. I cannot deviate from these. I will know right away when I do. I will be off the paved trail and on the rocky shoulder - ready to stumble and fall. I have heard others claim that "the road gets narrower" means that they need to judge others and only keep the most wonderful people in their life - to me it means the opposite.

So, here's the thing... I have been sober for 25 years. Oh, that's wonderful, you may say. And I would agree. It is a blessing. One I don't think I could have earned in a thousand lifetimes. I have a sponsor who will have been sober for 37 years on February 5. I can talk to her (now that her health has improved). Many people who have been sober for over 20 years no longer have sponsors. And they no longer have anyone who is willing to talk to them about how they are "really" doing. And not take their length of sobriety for an answer for how they are doing.

It is easy to believe that if I have gotten away with some aberrant behavior for the last 25 years that it just might be OK. But it might just be a matter of time before it is going to catch up to me, and with a vengeance.

We're all in this boat together. We ALL need to care about each other. Not just old timers caring about newcomers. But all of us watching out for each other.

A few years ago, I had a problem with a group and left it for a while. I talked with a member of the group and expressed my dismay that not one person from that group called me to see how I was. She was incredulous at the concept of someone calling someone who is sober over 20 years to see if they are OK. But why?

I guess I was fortunate when I got sober. I was around a bunch of people who didn't behave as if you reached a certain point in sobriety when you could no longer be questioned or worried about.

We are all in this together. We all are staying sober one day at a time. We do not get to a certain point when we are immune from needing to take care on a daily basis of this gift we have been so freely given.

When we rest on our laurels they get wrinkled.


Ed G. said...

Here's to keeping our laurels fit and wrinkle free.

Blessings and aloha...

Syd said...

I have wondered whether it's time that is important or how we spend it. I think that you answered that.

dAAve said...

I believe continuous sobriety is significant because...
A) more clarity of thought, uniterrupted by drugs or alcohol
B) for most of us, once a relapse occurs, it is VERY difficult to make it back

Scott said...

My experience is also that the road does narrow, but not to preclude me from walking with a wide collection of friends. I feel that the further I am from my last drink, the closer I could be to my next if I begin to get too comfy and wander away from the principles and practices that have kept me sober to this point.

The Big Book warns us of this... "It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do for alcohol is a subtle foe." and so forth, pg 85.

Scott W said...

En garde!

Kim A. said...

If I had your phone number, I would call. I have those days, and weeks, sometimes, when loneliness can sneak up on me. Those people who pick up the phone and call me are God's way of telling me I matter and am loved. I am going to pick up the phone today.


Lou said...

Good points. I feel sometimes that oldtimers are judgemental (in AlAnon too). It makes me not want to ask questions, or I'll be chastised for making a mistake. Maybe it is human nature to get smug after a time.

This made me think.

chitowngreg said...

Thanks for the thoughtful piece. While time in the program is a wonderful thing, I think it can also be dangerous. It can make us complacent and not as mindful of the program. Sure, the more time we have the more likely others benefit from us rather than the other way around, but we're all only one event away from being on the other side of things. It doesn't have to, but time can threaten our humility, and finding humility has played an important role in getting most of us to where we are today.

Anonymous said...

staying sober is hard work. 25 years down the line it's still hard work but like a body builder at first 150kgs is difficult to lift but as the body/mind gets stronger it becomes easier to lift but if you drop the weight it does as much damage to the beginner as it does to the veteran

Anonymous said...

I am at the first stage of trying to defeat the creature that is alcoholism. I am professionally employed, respected in what i do yet no one in my circle knows I drink half a bottle of Vodka/Brandy/scotch most nights to feel normal.
Your blog will help me.