A common affirmation in AA is ‘My worst day sober Is still better than my best day drinking’.
It’s a worthy sentiment but it strikes some people as disingenuous. Can your worst day sober really be better than your best day drinking?
Plenty of terrible things can happen regardless of sobriety. On the other side of the coin, some drugs can make you feel better than is humanly possible without drugs, and often there are no immediate consequences. So why does this affirmation persist?
One reason is that people in alcohol recovery often remember events during active addiction as being much better than they actually were. Once you have been sober for a little while, you forget how bad life had gotten and a few positive memories start poking through.
Affirming that ‘My worst day sober Is still better than my best day drinking’ is a way of reminding yourself that whatever it is you think you miss was not as good as you remember it. Your memories of even your best times are filtered by alcohol and drugs.
That means, you might have had a great day from your perspective at the time, but from any other perspective, it might have been pretty bad. The classic example is someone who gets drunk and imagines he was the life of the party when in reality he embarrassed himself and alienated his friends.
When you have an alcohol addiction, your best day drinking is necessarily connected to your worst day drinking.
There is no separating the two, which means you can’t pick and choose. You can’t only have good days drinking, and they will gradually get worse and worse. By the time people are ready to get sober, they are only having bad days.
It may be more accurate to say ‘The average day sober steadily diverges over time from the average day drinking, resulting in many more good days sober’, but that doesn’t really have the same rhetorical impact.
‘My worst day sober Is still better than my best day drinking’ also has a more subtle meaning.
It’s true that drinking and drugs can be pleasurable, but pleasure is not the same as happiness. Pleasure is a sort of borrowed happiness that you often have to pay back with interest. Pleasure comes from the outside and is fleeting, while happiness comes from within and is more robust.
While sobriety may not be able to compete with drugs and drinking for pleasure, it’s far superior for happiness. It allows for the kind of emotional stability, social connection, and meaningful action that contribute to real happiness.