According to Jason Vale (the author of ‘Kick the Drink …Easily!’) the concept of “Just For Today” and also counting our days sober is a bunch of crap apparently. Someone in one of the sobriety groups I’m part of put this to the rest of us today and asked what we think about it. I must confess I did start reading Vale’s book but felt it was just a rip-off of and a copy based on Allen Carr’s Easyway and therefore tossed it aside. Lots of people praise Vale for the same reasons as they praise Carr and also Annie Grace who wrote ‘This Naked Mind’. I suppose all three come at it from the same angle and Carr just happened to be the first. Anyway, this is not a book review so that’s neither here nor there. The question was what people thought about the idea of approaching sobriety with “Just For Today” in mind and counting our days sober.
Funny that – when I started my sober blog the title I used was precisely that: Just For Today. And I did go into it that way in the very early days of my sobriety. Over the first couple of months I went to AA meetings and the just-for-today philosophy is very much part of the AA approach.
The way I see it, is that it’s a really healthy way to go about the things that overwhelm us and sobriety when you first take the plunge on to dry land can absolutely seem like the most daunting of tasks. OK, I was petrified, filled with self doubt and hand on heart I didn’t actually believe for a teeny-tiny little second that I’d be able to kick the booze. So instead of floundering at the thought of A WHOLE LIFETIME SOBER [insert dramatic horror movie classical music here], a more manageable bite size day at a time feels more like something we are able to do. It’s easier to say that, and hell, I still do! I finish every damn blog entry that way, with that little line that is my little way of expressing gratitude and reaffirming my choice: today I’m not going to drink. The majority of days at this point, sobriety feels easy and light – more like a gift than something I have to do or work at – but it feels good to say it and it keeps me accountable to ME. A simple statement that reaffirms how I now live my life and intend to live it for its duration. And not drinking today isn’t so scary!
It’s a good way to approach a whole number of things – anything that feels too big or too much when we look at the end goal. My running app is based on the very same approach! You don’t run the full 10k in under an hour the first time. You start with running for 90 seconds, walking for 90 seconds and repeating a handful of times. I think the first time you only end up actually running for seven and a half minutes! See? That’s not that scary, right? A couple of weeks later you’ve built up to running for five minutes, walking for two. Last night I ran 15 minutes, walked one minute and repeated three times. 45 minutes!! YEAH! Next time it’s 17 minutes times three and that’s… hang on… 51 minutes – holy smoke! In three weeks, according to the app, I’ll be ready to run 60 minutes in one stretch and after that it’ll be speed intervals until I not only run continuously for the full hour but also cover those full 10k too. See? A tiny bit at a time. Running for 90 seconds to start off with doesn’t seem so bad, right? That’s something we can probably do even when we’re desperately out of shape! At that point, running 10k seems impossible and it probably would be, but when you do a little bit at a time and stick with it that way, all of a sudden you can do it. Although there is nothing sudden about it – you worked your way there and it wasn’t easy but you did it gradually, breaking the bigger task into smaller chunks. And there’s that quote, think it’s by Martin Luther King about how you don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step. You get my drift. It makes sense and I do think it’s a really great way to overcome and succeed at those things that at first glance seem too difficult and too overwhelming.
So I guess for me personally it was a really helpful way of looking at it when I first stood there staring at the battle ahead of me and absolutely paralysed at the idea that I would have to be sober for the rest of my life. When that still seemed like an insurmountable challenge, it massively helped to break it down and just think to myself that to hell with tomorrow and I don’t know what will happen then but TODAY I’ll be sober.
Before long, however, sobriety got hold of me and I hopped on to the Pink Cloud, where I’ve pretty much stayed – it was only a matter of a couple of weeks before I felt better than I had in over a decade just physically speaking. And mentally, well, if you stop drinking a depressant I suppose you can’t help but feel happy as fucking Larry, right? And so when I sat in AA meetings and people would say “just for today” and “one day at a time” I realised that it wasn’t sobriety that I lived through one day at a time, but actually my drinking days. THEN it really was a struggle to get through each day and all I could focus on was only that – tomorrow I had no energy to consider because all my strength was used to get through today with the crippling hangover and insane anxiety. So although it helped get me started, I soon discovered that AA’s approach did apply but in the exact opposite way to how they seemed to use it. Funny that, but then I’ve always been a very contrary little madam. Each to her own though, and I can only account for my own experience.
And what about counting days? Same thing really. Hitting one week was amazing. Getting into double digits at ten days was pretty cool. One month – champion! For me it’s been joyous and a real celebration to see that number confirming the time I’ve been on this awesome sober path. Now, however, unless I actually check my app, I couldn’t tell you the exact number of days but it’s in the region of 260. OK, I just checked: 261. It feels as good to see that number as it did to see two and 26. But I’m further in now and sober is the new black. It no longer feels odd to not drink every evening and I find I forget about it all most of the time. But whilst I couldn’t accurately tell you the exact number of days, I have my eyes firmly on the 23rd of each month and in just under two weeks I’ll hit the nine month mark. Perhaps in the future, I’ll forget and the 23rd will slip me by and it turns out I celebrate the year milestones only. I dunno, we’ll see. Anyway, when you manage to stick at it and sobriety feels goooooooood, counting the days is a victory and it feels great to see the number grow.
However, what if you’re struggling? Perhaps counting just gets you feeling shitty and defeated and deflated? Get to whatever number and then there’s a zero all over again. Well, I guess we all find our own way.
Actually, I don’t think it matters so long as we do what works for us. I think I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the moment someone tells you that their way is the only way, smile politely and thank them and then WALK THE OTHER WAY. Alright? There are lots of ways that have worked for lots of people. There’s the obvious, and perhaps best known, AA and I think it’s freaking awesome that the Fellowship has helped thousands upon thousands of people find their way to a sober life. But it’s not the only way and it’s doesn’t work for everyone – I only need to look around me to see proof of that. Don’t for a second pay any attention to “it works if you work it” – that’s bollocks on a grand scale. Of course it bloody works if you work it! Sorry AA, but this is ridiculous. If this were true, then I have a 100% success guaranteed method too and it works if you work it! Here it is: don’t drink alcohol! Tah-dahm! If you fail it’s only because you’re not following my instructions and so there’s something wrong with you, not my method. Each to her own. Every goddamn time.
A bit of criticism aimed at AA there, but show me any philosophy, method or ideology that is just pure perfection? We’re all different. And for the record, I think AA is fucking awesome and it works for a lot of people. So there. Just that one little line I don’t agree with but I know lots of people who achieved a very Happy Sober Ever After by following AA’s method, and I don’t really have anything other to say than it’s an awesome organisation.
That’s probably enough waffle for now – gosh, this really got me going. Baby steps when we feel overwhelmed = good. Counting days = mostly good too. I suppose that sums up my thoughts on the matter.
And here we go:
Today I’m not going to drink.