To count or not to count….

… that is the question.

This topic bubbles around recovery communties constantly. Do you count your sober days?

Some of us love counting our days – especially when it’s so easy to do with the sobriety calculator here at Living Sober. We watch our little yellow box tick up and up and enjoy celebrating milestones. We see it as a motivation and very rewarding – a way of gauging achievement.

Others don’t like it at all. They find it pointless or anxiety inducing. Sometimes destructive it if keeps them in a pattern similar to drinking. I also once heard a member here describe it as unnatural saying “we don’t count days with anything else in life- unless we’re counting down to some particular date for some special event.”

I think like with everything else in recovery (and indeed all of life) it’s a case of each to their own. There is absolutely no right way and wrong way here. Either is fine and neither way can be seen as even slightly problematic. Do what works for you, what you want, and don’t be bothered by other’s choices.

What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

I’m constantly blown away by how different our drinking & sobriety stories are. The reasons why we drank alcohol are different, what alcohol did to us was different, the exact reasons why we decided to stop drinking are different, how we go about getting sober is different, what we learn about ourselves in recovery is different. It’s like the welcome note on this site says – “All of our stories regarding alcohol are different, but by sharing our individual truths, we are all immensely strengthened.”

So the bottom line is.. if you want to count days – count days. If you don’t want to count days – don’t count days.

I have to be honest, when I first quit I didn’t count. I think early on (like the first few weeks) I was aware of the days ticking over.. but I wasn’t consciously counting them. Every now and then I’d find a random sobriety calculator on the internet and check where I was at. And I always marked big milestones (90 days, 1 year, 5 years, 2000 days!). But I wasn’t a determined day-counter. It didn’t work for me. Sometimes the days moved too slowly in relation to how I felt I was ‘progressing’ in my recovery. And I didn’t want to be fixated on numbers. For me my whole mindset was “I’m now a non-drinker” and I set about adjusting to that.

But other people love that day-by-day focus and cling to their number of sober days, loving watching as it rises.. collecting each day like a pearl. I get that. And I have to admit that since we launched this site and I plugged my date into the sobriety calculator I’ve loved seeing my number climb higher every time I log in. It’s cool!

Use the calculator if you want to. You can have it permanently set to tick over each day if you like. Or you can check it sporadically. If you don’t want to see the days ticking over.. after you’ve checked where you are at hit ‘recalculate’ and it will clear the decks. Then just leave it alone until you feel like checking in again.

Or don’t use it at all. Whatever works for you is the right choice.

Love, Mrs D xxx

  1. grimbell 2 years ago

    I have counted weeks and months in the past (during previous attempts at permanent sobriety) and found it was my undoing ( or at least part of it). After a few weeks, or months, I start to convince myself that it has been so long now since I had a drink, that one night on the booze won’t matter.
    Now I just am sober, I don’t think about how long I have been, I just accept it as the state I am in now and want to stay in.

  2. Michael Wigand 5 years ago

    I counted for a month or so, but after that it felt pointless and counterproductive. I personally focus more on my future lifestyle choices, and not even giving mention to my previous choices. It’s there in a locked box in the back of my mind, never to be opened.

  3. John 6 years ago

    I am definitely a day counter, it is just something I am very proud of . However also I agree that we don’t count days for anything else , so that just reinforces how important my sober days are to me!

  4. IslandOne 6 years ago

    I followed the count quite closely at first, and it helped me. Later, it became less relevant on a day to day basis, but it really helps track major milestones. The problem with it s a motivational tool is that it’s all-or-nothing. You may have been sober for five years or ten days, but one drink and it’s back to zero. I think that may cause some people to adopt an “in for a penny, in for a pound” attitude that delays getting back on track.

  5. NoMore 6 years ago

    I’ve gone both ways about this. When it’s going well, it can be motivating, although I have been more focused on months than days. But when you relapse a few times and you are back at Day 1 it can be discouraging and send some people off on a bender. On the other hand, when pressed on another site to reveal how much sobriety I had, I felt uncomfortable. Bu, later, I thought that not counting or revealing could be a pre-cursor for self-sabotage, because if you haven’t told anyone you can always pretend to yourself that you haven’t started yet. I’m currently doing a challenge to be F for the rest of the year, so I don’ really need to count, but I check the calculator every now and then. Once you reach a year it probably has less meaning and I might not be bothered then

  6. Sparkle 6 years ago

    Hi again – I lost a portion of my post when I hit submit..
    I wanted to add that I am super encouraged by the way people feel and the way their lives have changed after being AF for 1 or 2 years.
    I just need to keep plodding – sooner or later I will turn a corner and those words “I don’t drink” will fit me like a comfortable pair of shoes. It is a bit
    Like acting on blind faith – but exciting

  7. Sparkle 6 years ago

    Hi @mrs-d – I’ve been thinking about your post, particularly the comment you made about re-establishing your identity as a non drinker. The words “I don’t drink” or “I am a non drinker” hit me like a sledge hammer. My brain hasn’t quite caught up with my words yet. In fact, they are a mile away. It makes me realise how early I am in my journey. Feelings of resentment and rebellion rise up like a snake out of a basket!!

  8. Mari135 6 years ago

    Love this! The best part is really something I’d like to remember more often:
    To each their own. No healing journey is the same.

    This post got me thinking about what my number means to my path. I love my number, but it does not define me or my path. I really liked how the number didn’t always match up what you felt was your level of progress. That’s a neat way to put it in perspective.


  9. Jenn1444 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m just starting out on my sobriety journey and have been struggling with this concept a little bit. Right now I’m counting days because I’m participating in a 30 day alcohol experiment. Counting right now is helping me understand what is happening in my mind and and body as it heals itself. Although I find myself thinking that I may not count continuously but just check the days occasionally, I feel like just knowing that I’m a non drinker everyday and concentrating on that will get me through. However, I will never forget the date of my last drink. I’ve never had this kind of resolve (thanks to this site). I love hearing what works for others who have so much sobriety under your belts. You all have no idea how much hearing these things adds to my belief that this is possible.

  10. Temperance 6 years ago

    I like counting the days, but I definitely see how it can negatively affect others and I’ve seen those negative effects too.
    For me, the counting of days slows down time, and this is a GOOD thing. We race around so much trying to fit so much in. The concept of slowing time is heaven to me.

  11. reena 6 years ago

    I also don’t like to think I am counting “sober” days just days that I enjoy life like everyday I hope. I also think coming onto the community area and feeling pressure to announce your “day count” as many people like to do is like comparing or one upping so once in awhile I do it but for the most part I like to just say how I am feeling and what I am doing to make it a great day.
    As in AA there is pressure if you have to “reset” sometimes if it keeps you sober great, but if it keeps you unhealthy or stuck because you can’t come back that sucks.
    To each his or her own but I really don’t want to think I will know my days sober in a few years, just the year or time I said “enough” and took some steps to get alcohol out of my life.
    Thanks as always Mrs. D. this place is warm and inviting forum and it seems as if you can take what you want and leave the rest.

  12. JM 6 years ago

    Thanks Mrs. D for writing about this! I am definitely tuned in to what day I’m on, and find it motivating to be hitting 1000 at the end of January. Knowing that I would reset to day 1 has kept me from drinking on various challenging evenings, determined to keep the numbers going up. I read a stern admonition about not counting days, because if you were a committed non-drinker, why would you count? But I find that sobriety has its phases, and learning how to live life on its own terms is endlessly interesting and challenging as hell sometimes. I find that the orange counter is acknowledgment for the occasional hard work it takes to be sober. And it provides needed accountability as well. : )

  13. Lauren 6 years ago

    You put it perfectly: “if you want to count days – count days. If you don’t want to count days – don’t count days.”

    I went back and forth in my early recovery as to whether or not I wanted to count days. Some days it seemed like a good thing and other days it seemed to be drawing out the process. But now I haven’t counted days in a really long time. Thanks to your calculator I’ve just learned that I have 571 days of continuous sobriety 🙂 Now while I don’t count days, I love seeing this as I can now look at it from the perspective that I have had 571 successful days in a row. No failures. 0 relapses. Some of those days were very hard and I didn’t think I was going to make it through. But regardless of which day those hard ones have been of the 571 is irrelevant now. Because they’re all just successful days to me because I stayed sober.

    Great post!

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