They say that “time heals all wounds.” We think that's a half-truth. We believe time and effort progress us to the point of being better. Not healed, but better.
On a recent podcast of sober.coffee, Mike and Glenn tackled a popular Google search sentence: “how long does it take to get sober? You can hear that podcast here.
The question of how long it takes can go in two different directions, as we need to know the underlying reason why somebody is asking.
Direction number 1 “I've got to be at work in three hours, and I'm wasted. How long will it take to get me acting like a human again?” we can answer this one quickly and move on. The answer is it takes roughly one hour to reduce your blood alcohol content (BAC) by .01. So simple math is that if you are legally drunk, which is a blood alcohol level of.08%, it will take 8 hours before that alcohol is out of your system.
Let’s back this one up to the bar: For every drink; your BAC goes up by about 0.02 percent, so reaching a BAC of 0.08 percent takes about four to five drinks.
However, for the point of this blog, we are going to look at direction number 2, which, we think, is, “All right, I have quit drinking, but how long is it going to take for me to reach a level of “sober” that it's talked about in the world of recovery?”
What follows is our simple take on how long it takes until one has transformed into a sober lifestyle noticeable to ourselves and others. This includes an intense change in all dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental, and occupational.
We will start with the “in summary first”; We believe the benchmark to sobriety boils down to daily progress. There is no finish line and no complex timetables. We also believe that it is available to all. Whether it happens quickly or happens slowly, we feel there is a path for everybody to arrive sober.
What we have seen with our own eyes are two drastically different accounts of transformation; either a sudden and immediate change (the lightning bolt) - where unanticipated psychological and behavioral change seemingly affect us instantly, OR an efforts-based program of action that brings us to the same place.
It is important to interject here that it doesn't matter how quickly or slowly your journey is taking. We have found it damaging to compare our program with somebody else's. The only thing that counts is how one is doing on their path to recovery, as somebody else's recovery doesn't impact ours.
We are all one drink away from returning to a lifestyle that caused us pain and misery. What matters is what we are doing today to protect the gift we have been given over the last 24 hours.
So let's wrap up with some real answers to the question of “how long does it take to get sober?”
Whether you're a lightning bolt dude or a progress-over-time dude? The probable answer is somewhere between 1 in 3 years. That's just our experience talking. This is how long it takes to build a foundation that will support growth for the rest of our lives. A high activity level occurs during the first 36 months of working toward sobriety. We have broken it down into three major categories:
A season of firsts
The first year of abstinence is arguably the most challenging as old habits, memories, and traditions are challenged. One must get through their first golf outing, fishing trip, birthday celebration, holidays, et cetera to prove to themselves that they can make it through without using. Confidence builds as each event is checked off. The real linchpin is the change being pursued: if abstinence is the only goal, we are missing the point. It is more about experiencing these events in a new light and taking our unique way of thinking and behaving out to the open market. Are we exchanging our grip on the glass for a grip on a good time? Because if we are still gripping (white-knuckling) and not drawing to this new-found good, then we have missed the boat, as they say.
Resolving the past
We believe this category is best tackled using the time-proven methodology of 12-step recovery. We have learned that cleaning up the past wreckage is a requirement for a full recovery. Be cautioned that this process cannot be rushed. Your spouse, for example, doesn't necessarily want to hear the words I'm sorry, again. They wish to see change before hearing the apology. The tendency is to patch cracks in the foundation when the real answer is to rebuild that same foundation. This is best done with the council of somebody successful, namely a sponsor.
Building for the future
The future we relate to focuses on the 24 hours in front of us. The questions we found pertinent are: What can I do today to be better than I was yesterday? Will I integrate what I've learned in AA in the next 24 hours? We are not oblivious to the fact that, as humans, we need to plan for the future. This coming weekend, next month, next year, retirement, etc. But once these goals have been established, it is important to stay in the moment. We have found that breaking down our future into easily digestible 24 hours is easier to manage and simpler to review and adjust.
So, though the timeline is one to three years for some, we beg you not to be discouraged if it takes you longer to be in that same place. Presumably, you are getting glimpses of that physical and emotional plateaus as you journey. The point is that you will get better. We can effectively guarantee you will reach this desired state if you are plugged into a solid program that points you in this desired direction.
Time, truth, and effort will transform the battered into betterment.
Thoughts and ideas for this blog post were taken and built upon from sober.coffee podcast #99 #Trending Series: Pt 9: How Long Does it Take to Get Sober. The podcast dropped on 2/15/2023 Click here to hear the podcast.
Alcoholics Anonymous and AA are registered trademarks of Alcoholics World Service. Inc. References to AA, the 12 steps, and 12 traditions does not mean that AA has reviewed or approved the contents of this publication nor that AA agrees with the views expressed herein. This publication is intended to support personal growth and should not be considered a substitute for healthcare professionals' advice. The author’s advice and viewpoints are their own.