“I have been sober for one year, eight months, three weeks and four days,” he told me with visible pride.
I was sitting across from him at one of those ubiquitous coffee places that every city seems to have in a 1:1 ratio with its citizenry.
He had called me a few days earlier and told me that a friend had given him a copy of my book “Life sinks or soars – the choice is yours” which he had finished reading the previous evening and would I mind meeting him for coffee? And would I also please bring along seven copies that he could buy and give to a few friends?
I listened intently as he described his “descent into hell” that unfettered alcoholism had caused in his life. He talked of the years of denial, the daily rationalization that provided permission to continue drinking, the loss of a marriage, a career and almost a life (his own) the night he crashed his car while trying to navigate a corner through the thick drunken fog caused by “one for the road.”
His life is now back on track, he and his ex-wife are working on reconciliation, he is in a job that he loves and has become a regular attendee at the gym he joined seven months ago.
His tale is a common but fascinating one. I have always had great admiration for those who overcome adversity and I never tire of hearing their stories.
But I was intrigued by one thing he said and so I asked him (as I have asked many others) why recovering addicts can always cite to the day the exact amount of time they have been sober?
And he gave me the exact same answer I have received each time I have asked others that question.
He told me that it is an enormous source of pride to be able to say that he has been sober for one year, eight months, three weeks and four days. He went on to say that tomorrow he will be able to say that he has been sober for one year, eight months, three weeks and five days.
Unless he has a drink today.
In that case he will only be able to tell the world that he has been sober for one day. The count of one year, eight months, three weeks and four days will be lost forever and the pain of its loss will be far greater, and will last far longer, than any pleasure that a drink would provide.
And to me that makes an inordinate amount of sense. The longer we have done something worthwhile, the more we have to lose if we quit.
It speaks so loudly to why we do what we do. We have spoken of this in many previous blogs but it is so important that we grasp it that it is worth discussing again.
We only ever do one thing. We do what is important to us in the moment. Period.
And that one thing is governed by the two opposing forces that “motivate” us to do what we do. We do what we do in order to gain pleasure or to avoid pain.
And most of us have low pain thresholds and the moment we become aware of pain we begin wondering what we need to do to make it go away./
Like, for example, craving that drink so badly that we talk ourselves into pouring and drinking it even though we know we shouldn’t.
Because the pain of resisting that drink is immediate. The pleasure of being a non-drinker is distant.
Unless you’re like my new friend. He sucked up the pain because no matter how much he desperately craved a drink in those early days and weeks, the pain of having to go back to day one of sobriety was more than he was willing to endure.
I met him on Monday. Today is Saturday which means he has now been sober for one year, eight months, three weeks and nine days.
David, my friend, I am so proud of you.
Till we read again
P.S. A few years ago Gimalle, my wife, published a terrific book called “Destiny by Design” a leadership parable for women. Both of our books are now available at Chapters in Dalhousie and tomorrow we will be having Chapters first ever husband and wife book signing. If you’re in the neighbourhood please drop by and if you only buy one book, please buy mine. If her book outsells mine, she will be unbearable to live with. Rael