The Value of 500 Days

I originally wrote this on Medium when it had been 500 days since I quit drinking. At the time, I found that number to be incredibly intimidating, daunting, and deceiving.

Intimidating

September 4th, 2013 was the first day of my current streak of sobriety. I say current streak because there were many failed attempts over that summer to get to where I am now. I never thought I’d make it to 500 days without alcohol — five HUNDRED days?!

That’s also:
71 weeks and 3 days
12,000 hours
720,000 minutes
43,200,000 seconds

Pick your measurement of choice, it’s still intimidating. Getting past a week was intimidating, as was a month or a year. Hell, even some days seemed to crawl by with every tick of my clock’s second hand chanting “drink, drink, drink.” 43,200,000 seconds later, the chanting is gone and no longer stresses me out.

500 days are behind me but that doesn’t mean I’m not intimidated by the next 500. I know I could relapse at any time and it’s important that I keep that in mind, lest I get cocky and go down the slippery slope of “I can handle a drink, I’ll just stop at one.” No length of sobriety will magically grant me the ability to moderate.

Without intimidation, I wouldn’t be as motivated to stick with the challenge of sobriety.

Daunting

My decision to quit drinking didn’t come with an end date. This is a choice I plan on maintaining for the rest of my life. Compare 500 days to forever; 500 days is teeny-tiny when you stack it up next to an endless amount of time. I am only 24 years old; I could potentially live another 60 years without drinking! What’s a mere 500 days in the face of 60 years?

Well, to get to 60 years you’d have to get through 21,914.5 days and you can’t get to 21,914.5 days until you get to 500. Likewise, you can’t get to 500 days until you get to a year, you can’t get to a year until you get past a month, you can’t get past a month until you get past a week, you can’t get past a week until you get past a day, you can’t get past a day until you get past an hour, you can’t get past an hour until you get past a minute, and you can’t get past a minute until you get past a second.

500 is daunting, as is forever, but you can’t get there until you get past today, one second at a time.

Deceiving

Hitting 500 days doesn’t make it any easier. I still have cravings that send me down memory lane, romanticizing about the good ol’ days when I had booze to numb my feelings, filter out my thoughts, and provide me with the distance from myself that I needed. I was escaping reality and lying to myself by thinking drinking was making it any better. It was a dirty bandage placed upon a festering wound.

The real problem at hand isn’t that I have a penchant for binge drinking, it’s that I have unresolved issues manifesting themselves in a series of ways, one of which was through my affinity for intoxicating substances. In order to start the task of working through those issues, i.e. healing the metaphorical festering wound, I had to remove the bandage and figure out what the hell was going on so that healing could finally begin. This has been extremely hard and there are moments of self-reflection where I hate what I see and want to run back into the mind-numbing arms of a six-pack of Sam Adams. I don’t, of course, but the temptation is there no matter how many days are behind me.

Don’t let my accomplishment of 500 days deceive you, I’m still working hard everyday to fix myself from the inside out — something that can’t happen unless alcohol is out of the picture.

While the words “intimidating, daunting, and deceiving” sound negative, I should make it clear that I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to quit drinking. I have more hours in my days, I’m more clear-headed, I feel healthier, I’m saving lots of money, I don’t have to apologize for my blacked-out-drunk actions. That said, it’s also not all rainbows and butterflies. I have issues I need to work on; issues that, if left unresolved, would turn their ugly heads and make me wish I hadn’t left them out of sight for so long. Dealing with these issues sucks but it has to happen and it wasn’t ever going to happen if I didn’t stop drinking.