One day at a time. I have come to embrace this phrase, though initially not willingly. I first started hearing it around recovering alcoholics and addicts. Newly sober and with little solid footing, emotional or other, I still had the nerve to find it a bit simplistic and rather annoying. One day at a time? Bleh!! ODAT? Yeah, easy for you to say.
Life was complicated and I was full of past regrets and future fears. I wasn’t all that thrilled with my life or myself. Many of my todays were painful. And now you are suggesting I stay in this painful day? No thanks! I prefer escape of the liquid variety. Some days and nights I was barely hanging on, yet I had the ego, audacity, and lack of understanding about alcoholism as a disease, to think I was managing well.
Slowly I realized, with the help and patience of others and a Great Spirit, that I was applying faulty thought processes. And the time and energy I was giving to my regrets and fears were feeding a harmful selfishness, which was in turn continuing to keep me stuck. Really stuck in a negative and self-abusive cycle. A cycle with repetitive thoughts like: “Not good enough” and “I should know better and do better” and actions like looking in the mirror and hating who and what I saw looking back.
It was the kind of stinking thinking that could only find a few hours of escape via alcohol and drunkenness. Alcohol was the relief valve for a tortured existence. Maybe not tortured on the outside, but certainly on the inside.
When an alcoholic or addict seeks sobriety, thinking in terms of “I can NEVER drink again” can be enough to drive us right back to a drink. There were many mornings I woke up, badly hungover and fully remorseful, and pledged to NEVER drink again. Sometimes that would last days or weeks. Sadly, it also often lasted but a few hours.
This is where the ultimate wisdom of trying to take life one day at a time first starts to make some sense. Don’t drink or use today. You can make it 24 hours. Then wake up tomorrow and do the same.
Slowly, I absorbed this wisdom and sense, at least on some days. Only after hearing people who certainly sounded more stable and sane than I did suggest it repeatedly. Those days got a little easier to get through. The volume of my negative thoughts got turned down a little. I actually gained clarity and some perspective. Sobriety also meant fewer regrets and more hope, making it possible to actually focus on this day, this moment.
It took years before I fully grasped that one day at a time is not simplistic, but rather profound. Practicing gratitude has been crucial to further developing this daily presence. Gratitude is felt in the here and now. Practicing gratefulness keeps me more grounded right here, right now.
One moment at a time. One hour at a time. One day at a time. My alcoholic mind fought it fully at first. Now, I seek to honor it fully, just for today.