By Rose Lockinger
“One day at a time” is a well-worn phrase in any twelve step program.
It’s probably one of the most enduring, and it can be found on t-shirts, plaques, stickers and even tattoos. Why is this phrase so important, and what does it mean? This idea of living one day at a time is based on the thought that in recovery we are granted a daily reprieve from our addiction. This is based on our relationship with a higher power.
I don’t know about you, but for a good portion of my life I lived in either constant fear of the future, or gut-wrenching regret of the past. When I was going through something difficult, it felt as though the problem was so huge and overwhelming that I couldn’t possibly overcome it. When I had powerful feelings of anger, sadness, fear, grief or anxiety, it felt as though they were permanent feelings that would never leave me. When I was presented with a challenge or a problem to solve, I took immediate action, often to manipulate or force the outcome to my liking, rather than slowing down, waiting, doing what I could in the moment and letting it go. I moved through life as a constant ball of tension, worry and stress.
How Recovery Has Changed My Perspective
Sitting in my first meeting, I watched as people came up to get their clean time chips. 30 days, 90, six months, a year. It baffled me. With just a handful of days clean, it floored me that someone could put together 30 full days, let alone a year.
I was just learning to get through one single day clean and sober. What I found though, is that was all I needed to do. That and establish and build a spiritual relationship with a “higher power”. These were two tenets upon which I would begin to build a foundation for long term recovery.
Each of us is given the same 24 hour day to work with. We get that, and it’s up to us how we spend it, for the most part. Yesterday is done. Tomorrow doesn’t even exist yet. We just have today. However, what I choose to do today directly impacts what unfolds tomorrow and in the days to come.
Some days I do really well. I stay in the here and now, without “time traveling” to the future or the past. There are days when it’s easy, and then there are days when it’s not so easy.
During challenging times, it’s more difficult. Going through a divorce and custody battle, for example. It’s tough to stay in today. I want to know the outcome, I want to know how long, exactly, it will take for me to “feel better” or “get over it.” I go back through the past, trying to analyze it and pick it apart, as though I can actually do something to change it.
That’s not how life works, though. When you stop living one day at a time, there is no possibility of peace. You will drive yourself and the people around you crazy.
One Moment At A Time
Days are made of moments. One moment can change your day. There are still days when I seriously consider a drink, where I struggle to accept my powerlessness. The urge was overwhelming. The first thing I did was pray, I asked that the obsession be removed. The next thing I did was talk about it with my sponsor. That was a decision I made, in a brief moment, that helped me stay clean for that day. My experience has taught me that prayer and talking about the situation will keep me sober. I understand that as someone who has this disease I am not responsible for my first thought, I am however responsible for the second and third. I need not feel ashamed of this as it’s natural for my brain to go there. What I have to do though is be open and honest about the experience.
Life is full of those moments, when you make a decision to stay clean and sober, or do the next right thing. Each day, we have that choice. When you get up in the morning and do the things you need to do to take care of yourself, a vital component for me has been establishing a daily routine. Especially when it comes to a time of prayer and meditation, I have some daily reading books that help to set the tone for my day. I can tell you that every time I skip this I am reminded why I need this. When you take care of business, work on your recovery and work on yourself, life gets better, you stay clean and sober, and before you know it, you are celebrating ten years of sobriety. That’s how one day at a time works.
Staying In Today
It’s not always easy to live one day at a time. We naturally tend to “future trip” and get stuck in the past. It doesn’t serve us, though, to do this. Staying in today is a decision you must constantly recommit yourself to. Here are some ways to do it:
● Only do what’s in front of you. Multi-tasking is an illusion, you can’t do more than one thing at
a time effectively. Do only what you can do, today, and leave the rest.
● Practice meditation each day. Even if it’s only a few minutes, it will help.
● If you catch yourself stressing about the past or the future, come up with a “stop word” or some
other strategy to get yourself grounded in the present. Tell yourself “No” or repeat the serenity
prayer. Whatever interrupts your thought process and brings you back into the now.
● When you feel overwhelmed with a situation that feels to big or out of your control, sit down and make a list of what you can do in the moment. Just write it out. Come up with all the actions you can think of. Then call your sponsor or a trusted friend, and share it with them. We can’t always come up with the best solutions when we are overwhelmed and upset, so it’s a good idea to get a second opinion from a healthy person who isn’t too close to the situation.
Living Just For Today
When you live one day at a time, life is less stressful, more peaceful and far more productive. It isn’t always easy to achieve, and no one does it perfectly, but with practice it becomes possible.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.
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