Have you ever noticed how much we seem to like to turn just about everything in life into a competition?
There are obvious examples like sports and games and political races, of course. But that is just scratching the surface of our competitive nature. We turn the arts into competitions. We turn academics into competitions. We turn cooking into competitions.
And those are just examples of the highly visible ways folks compete with one another. There are other competitions going on all the time as well—students competing for scholarships, workers competing for promotions, researchers competing for grants, and more.
Individuals compete. Companies compete. Countries compete. It almost seems as if there are no human activities that are not steeped in competition—some of it friendly and some of it antagonistic. We like to know who is winning and who is losing. We like to root for superstars at the top of their game, and we like to root for underdogs who shock everyone by beating superstars. We like to gossip about the players involved in the quieter competitions happening in classrooms and offices and labs.
But one thing that should never be thought of as a competition? Sobriety.
Resist the Temptation to Keep Score
Wait a minute, you might be thinking to yourself. If sobriety is not a competition, why do we keep track of the number of days we have been sober? That’s nothing but scorekeeping, right?
We understand how you might arrive at that conclusion. But we would argue that scorekeeping is the wrong way to look at things when it comes to sobriety.
If you are keeping track of how many days you have been sober, we would encourage you to use that number not as a way to compare yourself to others, but as a reminder of your ability to stay sober one day at a time. Your number is a collection of individual days you made it through without drugs or alcohol. It has nothing to do with anyone else—and everything to do with you.
Remember That You Are Always Rooting For and Never Against
When we buck the trend of treating everything like a competition, we have the opportunity to think of sobriety as a cooperative activity. That is to say that when it comes to sobriety, a person in recovery is always rooting for every other person in recovery. And when everyone is rooting for everyone else to succeed, it is easier to build communities of support that help everyone keep working toward the goal of lasting sobriety.
Compassion Can Replace Competition
When you are participating in a competition, the fact that you are trying to win means that you are working to ensure that someone else loses. That is not a recipe for compassion or empathy.
But since sobriety is not a competition, it can engender compassion—for one another and for oneself. For example, when you are focused on compassion rather than competition, a relapse is an opportunity to be supportive and nonjudgmental rather than an opportunity to take pride in the fact that you are still sober but someone else is not. Similarly, you can have compassion for yourself when you don’t frame your sobriety in terms of winning or losing.
When you are able to frame your recovery in terms of compassion and cooperation rather than competition, you give yourself the gift of less stress and anxiety. Any competitive activity amps up stress, and stress, it must be said, is not the best foundation for ongoing sobriety. Not having to stress over who might be “beating” you at being sober is good for your mental health and increases the likelihood that you won’t turn back to drugs or alcohol.
Getting Treatment for a Substance Use Disorder is a Winning Move
So, despite our insistence that sobriety is not a competition, we are going to close with a sports metaphor. Imagine the clock ticking down toward zero at the end of a basketball game. Your team is down by a point, and you have the ball in your hands. If you make the shot at the buzzer, your team wins. If you miss, you lose.
Deciding whether or not to get treatment for a substance use disorder is that same key moment. If you decide to get help, you win. If you decide not to, you lose. And you stand to lose a lot. Your health, your financial security, your relationships, and more can all be lost if you leave a substance use disorder untreated.
On the flip side, getting the help you need at The Aviary Recovery Center, near St. Louis, Missouri, is like sinking that final shot and then celebrating a hard-fought victory. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol, we are here to help.