For someone who has been abusing mind-altering substances for a long time but wants to get sober, the idea of staying sober forever can seem overwhelming or even impossible. Living “one day at a time” is a concept that many people struggle with, whether they are an addict in recovery or not.
The slogan “one day at a time” is said to be traced back to just a few days after co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Dr. Bob had his last drink of alcohol. It proved to be effective advice for newcomers to addiction recovery. So what does the slogan actually mean?
To live one day at a time means to live in the present moment. You hear the term “mindfulness” used a lot today, and it essentially means the same thing. The Merriam-Webster definition of taking it “one day at a time” is “to deal with each day’s problems as they come instead of worrying about the future.
Our society in general moves at a fast pace. Constant working, internet usage, and lack of sleep have been linked to poor mental health conditions, including addiction. Remembering to live one day at a time can help you take a step back, slow down, and enjoy something simple, like the fragrance of a flower.
So even though the phrase can be helpful to all people, why is living one day at a time such good advice for addicts in recovery?
The disease of addiction is an incredibly selfish condition. If you or someone you know is an addict, then you know all too well. Once you are truly addicted to a substance or substances, getting more becomes your number one priority.
Daily life becomes extremely chaotic, and there is no stopping until you get drugs or alcohol. Since drugs and alcohol give you an instant rush of euphoria, getting what you want when you want it is also a common mindset for many addicts.
When you decide to get sober, this “I want what I want when I want it” mindset doesn’t always subside. You may want to always be in control of what’s going to happen next or wonder why you aren’t feeling better quickly enough.
Recovery is a marathon, not a race.
A great way to start practicing living one day at a time in recovery is to start making a daily schedule. If you start your recovery journey in an inpatient facility, they will help you do this.
Since, as mentioned, the life of an addict is chaotic and revolves solely around getting more drugs or alcohol, set times to do things such as waking up, eating meals, and going to sleep pretty much go out of the window.
Boredom is also a big trigger, especially when you are first trying to get sober. Having a weekly schedule planned out will make sure that you always have something to do and a purpose. This can help your mind from wandering into obsessing about getting high or drunk.
This is also why 12-step fellowships suggest you attend 90 meetings in 90 days. There are so many meetings today (especially on Zoom) that you can attend more than one a day if you choose.
“Recovery is a journey, not a destination,” is also a good recovery slogan that falls in line with living “one day at a time.” It’s good to throw yourself into recovery as hard as you possibly can.
Here are some key things to focus on right when you get sober:
Doing all of these things together is a surefire recipe for success in recovery.
So, pace yourself in recovery. Don’t get burned out.
For many, having a meditation practice is a vital part of their recovery. 12-step literature suggests doing it every morning right when you wake up and every evening right before you go to bed.
In the morning, it gives you a chance to get centered and connect to a higher power or your higher self. There are many good recovery prayers that can accompany your meditation practice.
One of the oldest meditation techniques known to man is the action of focusing on your breathing.
Watch yourself breathe in and breathe out. You can count numbers as you do this, which can help your mind to calm down. Once you are able to get centered and slow your thought processes down, you’ll have a better chance at navigating a successful day sober.
A meditation practice at night gives you time to recap your day. What did you do during the day and how are you feeling? What can you do better the next day? What fear or resentments do you have that need to be dealt with now so you don’t have an “emotional hangover”?
Starting and ending your day with a meditation practice frames every day so you can truly live “one day at a time.”
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