Yesterday, during a Facebook transaction, I said that I had been sober 56 months. Up until recently, I would have said I’d been sober four and a half years. To say as much today is basically right, even though I am two months beyond that point. For all intents and purposes, and to save anyone from the requirement of math, it works to say that I have been sober for four and a half years.
When you think about it, I have been sober for four and a half years; yes, I’ve been sober two months longer than that, but it isn’t incorrect to say I’ve been sober four and a half years; it just sells me a bit short.
Once again, I’m reminded of Mitch Hedberg. “I use’ta do drugs; I’ll still do, but I use’ta too.” Well. I use’ta drink, but I don’t drink no more,” except in this case it’s more like “I use’ta drink, but I don’t drink no more…more.”
Sometimes it’s enough for me to say four and a half years, but when the statement serves as the validation for three goodly-sized tumblers of grape soda over ice after midnight, the extra padding can’t hurt.
But sobriety does age like a baby. Early on, every day is proudly counted; they mean so much. You hear a new parent, especially with a first child, and when they’re asked they’ll say that a child is eight days or eleven days. This is one of the quintessential conversations in life where the question answered really doesn’t line up with the question asked. It does by denotation–the question and answer work together just fine–but not when it comes to connotation.
When someone asks how old a new-born is, he or she is essentially asking the parents how long has been since a point of excruciating pain and nerve-wracking stress, which brought about another point when they could breathe a little easier…for a few seconds. The response, especially for those first time parents is eight days or eleven days, and then the unspoken testament to that measurement is…and he haven’t broken it yet.
As off-putting as the thought might be, that’s all you’re really doing with a new-born. Cute onesies are awesome, and that’s the perfect color for the nursery, just make sure your main focus is on not letting the baby get broken in any way.
The same is true of sobriety; when the question of how long someone has been sober, the underlying question is “How long has it been since you did bad enough shit to make you have to quit drinking?” The answer answers two questions; it first answers how long it has been and it also says that that’s how long the person has kept it together and abstained from the desire to just get a bottle and blow it out.
Both the baby and the sobriety have to be cared for, and the longer we are successful at doing so, the stronger and more durable they become.
I think these are good thoughts for a person new to the sober life to have. You have to treat your sobriety like a baby; it’s so fragile that just about everything can harm it, and the job of caring for it and protecting it has fallen on you.
Also, just like with a baby, it gets easier as time passes and it does get stronger and more durable; fewer things can damage it than those which once could. And it’s so satisfying to see it grow, strengthen, and learn. My sobriety is four years and eight months old, which is old enough to give it some freedoms I would not allow it when it was younger. Still, I haven’t stopped holding its hand when we cross a busy street.