Debunking the Myth of Sobriety's 'Day One' Saved My Life

June 12, 2023 Kelsi Cronkright

One of the most harmful myths surrounding alcohol addiction recovery is the idea of relapse and day one. Mainstream recovery modalities and the criminal justice system use fear to ignite abstinence, preaching that perfection is the only acceptable path forward. It is normal and expected to relapse and return to day one after a slip. 

For many years, while I was on probation, jail time loomed over my head if I relapsed. Day one meant harsher punishment. Even after I completed probation, it felt like my worth as a human being solely depended on my sober day count. Returning to day one made me feel like a failure whose progress disappeared. Collecting a 24-hour chip was a soul-crushing walk of shame. Eventually, after almost 10 years of self-defeating day ones, I wondered if there was a better way. 

Shifting from Day One to Data Collection

During the first year of my current stretch of sobriety, I drank three times. Instead of further punishing myself with words like relapse or failure, I shifted the rhetoric. Those drinking episodes became data collection points to help me learn and strengthen my recovery. Data collection created space to compassionately ask myself what lessons I could take from that experience. What pushed me over the edge and back to the bottle? What needs to change so this won't happen again? What if this data collection point is here to help me move forward? What if I celebrated a day won instead of returning to day one? 

Sure, drinking three times during that first year meant my journey was imperfect, but I still had a 99.18 percent success rate. I significantly reduced the amount of harm that alcohol was causing, which was worth celebrating. Collecting marbles also helped me during that first year. If I went a day without drinking, I would put a marble in a jar. If I drank, I would skip that day. But all the previous marbles I had collected were still there, along with my progress and self-worth. 

Debunking Alcohol Relapse and Day One Is Life-Saving

The messages I received about alcohol relapse and day one kept me in an unnecessary and perpetual cycle of self-harm. To cultivate self-love and build a life worth living, I needed to hear that it was okay to be imperfect. Data collection is a natural part of any sobriety journey. To expect perfection is unrealistic. 

It is not an exaggeration to say that debunking the myth of alcohol relapse and day one saved my life. After 10 years of beating myself up for struggling with relapse, I finally cut myself a little slack, and eventually, sobriety stuck. 

Tags: day one

APA Reference
Cronkright, K. (2023, June 12). Debunking the Myth of Sobriety's 'Day One' Saved My Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Kelsi Cronkright

You can find Kelsi on Instagram and Substack.

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