Last Tuesday I celebrated an alcoholic milestone: I hit exactly 1000 days sober. I’m not sure what’s more impressive, the 1000 days or when I hit 1001. I mean, it is my first four-digit palindrome.
I like to celebrate these occasions publicly because for every person hitting 1000 days, there’s a thousand people trying to get through one day.
Often I’ll take to social media, especially Facebook, anywhere where I have closer connections (AKA the higher probability of meeting/knowing people in real life) and I’ll express my way as honest as possible. I have no problem talking about sobriety but I am adamantly against spinning wheels. I believe in real change. I would rather a sliver of real change than a pocket full of promises and declarations.
Often when people want help, I let them know that I am here as a support circle but they must help themselves. I then give them a list of phone numbers and e-mails for all possible recovery resources in their area. I point to online sources, groups, subreddits, apps, etc. There’s so many practical applications available, seeking help has never been this easy. It’s a true societal gift. An abundance of resources means many of us who hit rock bottom will come across a second chance.
Last Tuesday, here’s what posted to my Facebook:
Warning….. long post but worth it
Today marks a unique milestone for me. Today is 1000 days sober. I got my three year anniversary coming up in October but something about hitting 1000 days means more to me because from my alcoholic viewpoint, I see days as miles. And especially at the beginning it sort of felt like everyday was like walking a hundred miles just to stay sober for one day. Kind of reminds me of that song from Inside Llewelyn Davis:
“Lord, I’m one, Lord, I‘m two,
Lord, I’m three, Lord, I’m four
Lord, I’m five hundred miles away from home
Away from home, away from home,
Away from home, away from home
Lord, I’m five hundred miles away from home”
Addiction distances you. It makes you feel far away from yourself and your loved ones and the best way to put it is sobriety feels a lot like returning home. Where you return to old familiarities and remember how you lived and functioned before you got sucked into the wrong thing.
I write about this stuff online only because I know other people are dealing with it, right now, as I’m writing this. Someone reading this is struggling to shake whatever addiction ails them. And I kind of want to act as a reminder, no matter how cheesy or cliche it is, that you can’t hit a thousand days without hitting one day first.
Growing up, anytime I was in a bind, anytime things were going bad, my mom would say, “One day at a time, one day at a time.” And it’s a sentiment I hear in recovery a lot. The problem with cliches is they sometimes saturate good advice. One day at a time is good advice. Don’t think about tomorrow, think about today, deal with what’s in front of you.
I don’t post overly-personal stuff too often anymore, simply due to a cultural trend of faux-vulnerability where we feel empowered because we are open about our struggles. That’s just a different addiction. That’s validation addiction where we spill vulnerable, honest parts of ourselves for acknowledgment that we exist through likes and shares and comments. You don’t need to do any of that. If you’ve read this far, thanks, but this is more of a reminder just to be there.
Be there for your friends and family when they need you no matter what they’re dealing with because without a support circle, I would have never hit 1000 days. Would have never walked all those miles.
Importantly, this is for the alcoholics and drug addicts on my Facebook, a lot of you have reached out to me already and I’ve seen a mix of growth and setbacks, but collectively we have the resources to help free each other. You can 100% be free of whatever is holding you down. You can. You can be free. I can’t say it enough. This can and will happen for you. Just believe it.
Everyone deserves to come home.
(Message me if you need to talk…. take care, nothing but love, Clifford.)
What followed was an outpour of love and honest self-evaluation from addicts at all stages, writing me, sharing their experiences, talking about their strategies, their failings and their victories.
It was a full day.
My inbox filled up. Exploded like popcorn in the microwave.
But I love it. It’s these moments when I feel really alive because I see my words got to people and something about those specific words are instigating change in someone else’s life. THAT’S AMAZING.
I took great delight responding to everyone. There was one question I got in particular time and time again and I thought it’d be best to write a post dedicated to this one question.
The Question Being: “How are you able to work in bars as a recovering alcoholic?”
I’m a standup comedian. Anywhere from 4 to 8 times a week you can find me in a club, hall, bar, pub, theatre where they are of course serving alcohol. I wish I could say that it’s easy and that I don’t even notice the liquor on the walls or the smell of local craft ales sticking to the tables. But I do notice. I notice everything, all the time.
It gets worse.
Sometimes I’m having a great set. The stars aligned and these people like me. No one walked or went out of their way to disrupt the show. Everyone’s holding their bellies and wiping their tears. These shows are once in a blue moon but when they happen, you never forget them.
But something that’s sure to occur during one of these sets, is an audience member, reaching towards the stage to hand me a shot of whiskey.
It’s difficult when this happens. Do I derail the show to explain why I’m going to be a party pooper? Is there a better way to let this guy down? Hey, it’s just one shot, why not just for the show?
I usually play it off that I don’t drink. “If I drank this, it’d end up in her hair about 10 seconds later!” And then like a crooner I narrow in on the birthday boy or girl and pass them the shot. Wish them a happy birthday and get everyone to cheer in ecstasy as I’ve successfully created the world’s largest collective orgasm between all these beautiful strangers.
The easy answer to this is simple: I choose not to drink. I just make that choice over and over again and I like doing it in succession because then I have rewards to look back on like hitting a 1000 days and can see how far I’ve come in my personal growth.
I Have a Realistic Approach
I jokingly/half-jokingly talk about a “Relapse Plan” where I have to be 100 pounds lighter, around a camp fire, with a beer or cider in my hand, no whiskey allowed. It bleeds into my whole anti-authority thing because I don’t like being told what to do or forced to follow a rule. Even if I’m the one telling myself what to do and I’m the one writing the rules. I need to leave room to rebel against myself so I don’t actually rebel against myself and undo years of focus and control.
I Teach to Learn
I will never turn someone away who is looking to escape addiction and change their life. The more I talk to people about sobriety and recovery, positive mindsets and change… the more I learn about the process through the stories being shared with me. Remember: The person with two days sobriety is equipped to help the person with one day sobriety. It’s one foot in front of the other. So I will freely teach and mentor to continue striving through the learning process.
I Share My Success
Sometimes people need to see, “Hey, if he can do it, then I can too!” It’s just a eureka moment that happens in a snap. Sometimes when voices advocating against alcohol and drug abuse take a rest, the message can be lost. Just because you hush your voice doesn’t mean someone else is going to speak up. If it matters to you, you’ll keep your voice loud and make sure your voice is heard.
Thank you for reading today’s blog. Share your success stories in the comments below! What did it take for you to finally get sober? How many days are you at and what’s your best advice for new people taking on sobriety for the very first time?