It was helpful for me to tally the years from birth to about 35 and include them in my sober time, an idea I kind of gleaned (perhaps taking some liberties with the intended concept) when I read Empowering Your Sober Self shortly after finishing an intensive outpatient program a couple of years ago, at age 55. In hindsight, I would say it was helpful not so much in terms of thinking of those 35 years as “sober time” but as “what was I doing, and enjoying doing” during that time.
I went to a knitting workshop by Canadian knitter Sally Melville some years ago, shortly after I moved to Salt Lake City. I was feeling very alone, and cuddling up every night with Mr. Smirnoff at the time. In the workshop, Melville talked about her life’s work and her realization that she was doing what she loved doing when she was a girl/young woman: designing, drawing, creating, and, she noted, “playing teacher.” While that idea struck me at the time, it wasn’t until I was thinking about “what I was doing, and enjoying doing” between say, age 10 and 35 that I started to get a better picture of which threads of my life I wanted to pick up and start weaving together again in my recovery life.
It was that concept, more than accumulating sober time, that helped propel me through the first months of recovery, and still, quite frankly, keeps me going today. When I lose track of “ideas and creative works I want to produce and weave together in new and meaningful ways,” I end up in the weeds. Not, these days, with Mr. Smirnoff, but with the shell of the woman he left behind. She’s not nearly as much fun to be with (for me, or anyone around me) as the woman-with-dreams-and-ideas that require abstinence to accomplish, but aren’t the product of having such-and-such number of days, months, or years of sobriety.
– Mahala Kephart