Day 187: Sobriety Accumulates

My husband has a surfing buddy who has been sober for 20-plus years, and he said something great the other day about how the effects of sobriety are cumulative, even if the practice of it can be very one-day-at-a-time. (Surfers are surprisingly philosophical people–it turns out Point Break is exactly like real life, except for the Nixon masks.) When we first get sober, he said, we can see lots of quick benefits–better sleep, better waking up, clearer thoughts, and so on. And those benefits, along with the sense of finally having turned a corner, can keep us going for a while. But eventually (and this is about where I am now, at 6 months), we may not wake up every morning and think ‘wow, I don’t have a hangover! How fantastic!’ because being hangover-free is the new normal. Or because it’s no longer a challenge to simply get through the day without drinking, we start to ask why not everything has fallen into place the way we imagined. (Why haven’t I lost fifteen pounds yet? Why did the office holiday party feel awkward and tiring, when I’ve had plenty of practice with sober evenings out? Why hasn’t sobriety magically removed all dread from the impending visit to my parents–shouldn’t being sober for 6 months make me feel like I can handle anything?) 

According to Bodhi (his Point Break name), this is when it’s important to have patience and a long view. Sure, he said, the 6-months version of you may not have lost 15 pounds, but think of what the healthier you will be like over time. In another six months you’ll be a 44-year-old who hasn’t drunk alcohol in a year. In 2023 you’ll be a 53-year-old who hasn’t had a drink in a decade–just think how much healthier that person is likely to be than the version of you that kept on drinking. Think of the old version of you with her career doubts and dissatisfactions that she’s just beginning to seriously work through–the 45-year-old you will have had two solid years of really showing up in her own life to have figured some of that stuff out, and the 48-year-old will have five years of clear thinking (well, sober thinking at least) under her belt. Think about turning 50 with almost eight years of sobriety in your body, your work, your relationships. It really adds up, he said–it’s just hard to see that in the middle, just like at times it was probably hard to see what a mess your drinking was gradually making of your life. You’ve just got to have faith that all these good changes are happening all the time while you’re just going about your new sober life, doing the best you can. 

I loved this–I found it so smart and practical and above all reassuring. I hope it will help someone else out there too. 

10 thoughts on “Day 187: Sobriety Accumulates

  1. Well, I like this dude already. He speaks truth. There is a point, as you mentioned, where we stop waking up exclaiming “yay! another hangover free day!” as it’s the norm now. Don’t get me wrong, for the first few months, I *did* wake up like that. and it was a miracle. I don’t wake up like that now, but now focus on other aspects of my life, with sobriety coming along for the ride, driving the train in a way.

    Now while many do the one day at a time philosophy, it is long term stuff that your hubby’s friend is talking about. And that is said with the benefit of someone who has the ability to look back after a long time sober. That’s why I love hanging out with old timers. The panicky situations I find myself in these days is something that they give me proper perspective on, having gone through a lot. It awesome. Doesn’t mean life is peachy all the time, but having sobriety and awareness and all sorts of tools at my disposal gives me another perspective. And that’s what it’s about – perspective.

    Great stuff 🙂


  2. Oh, I love this perspective so much. Thank you for sharing it with us. It can be so easy to get caught up in day-to-day stuff and forget to look at the bigger picture. I try to remind myself that a few years of feeling slightly uncomfortable because of quitting drinking is a drop in the bucket of my whole life experience. It is wonderful to know that all of our hard work will be met with rewards over time. 🙂

    1. Jen, I love this thought: ‘a few years of feeling slightly uncomfortable because of quitting drinking is a drop in the bucket of my whole life experience.’ Filing that away for when I need a good thought! Thank you. 🙂

  3. Paul, there *is* something great about talking to old-timers (sobriety-wise, that is), isn’t there? When I first got sober that meant people with 100 days, and now that I have 6 months it’s people like you with double-digit months or a few years. But I’m already starting to see where the wisdom of *long* long-timers will come in handy. (Maybe a good argument for me starting to visit a meeting now and then?)


  4. Hello Kristi
    Thanks for the insight. I’ve only just made 30 days and feeling proud of myself. That being said, I’m not underestimating the journey ahead. As you just mentioned to Paul, it’s good to have perspectives from those who are further along than I am. It will certainly help me ‘see’ the journey more clearly and be gentle with myself. Thanks!

  5. I loved this post! It was exactly what I needed to hear to gain a little perspective. My six month soberversary is in a few days and I’ve been feeling so blah about it all. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Happy six month soberversary! I’m at just over a year now and I can tell you that while the blahs don’t disappear entirely (because that’s just life), you have all kinds of goodness awaiting you! It gets better and better. XO, Kristi

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