“On a day-at-a-time basis, I am confident I can stay away from a drink for one day. So, I set out with confidence. At the end of the day, I have the reward of achievement. Achievement feels good and that makes me want more!” – Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous
The phrase of taking one day at a time is synonymous with the AA philosophy and will be familiar to anyone who has undergone drug or alcohol addiction treatment. This phrase is not simply an encouragement but a meaningful guide to allow for gratitude, celebration, and long-term sobriety.
It is estimated that up to 80% of people who have achieved long-term sobriety relapse at least once along the journey. In this blog, we aim to unearth the meaning behind living one day at a time in recovery, along with steps an individual can take to ensure lifelong health and happiness.
Living One Day at a Time Through AA
The AA’s 12-step program focuses on a person achieving sobriety for twenty-four hours. Each day of sobriety is recognized as an accomplishment, with milestones celebrated and congratulated. Addiction does not have a cure per se; instead, each individual has an obligation to manage their sobriety each day. Taking one day at a time is a more straightforward goal to achieve when compared to lifelong abstinence from drugs or alcohol. The present moment is what counts, and each individual needs to fulfill their sense of self through spirituality, healthy lifestyle choices, and friendship.
Living in the Present
Humans tend to spend their time either fretting about or planning for the future or reminiscing about the past. The past can be a painful place to inhabit for those struggling with substance abuse, and the future incredibly daunting as it’s unknown. Those in recovery frequently struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, and fear which can trigger a relapse. We can control the present as long as our expectations are realistic and our actions are healthy and conducive to positive change. The goal is to develop useful coping mechanisms that mean the future is prepared for, the past is resolved, and the present is a bearable place to be.
Mindfulness as a Tool
Mindfulness is a wonderful tool that requires an individual to pay attention to the present moment with an attitude devoid of expectation or judgment. By letting go of all past or future concerns, the reality of the present moment becomes clear and creates a sense of empowerment.
Mindfulness meditation helps clear negative memories and stories, false views, cravings, and frustrations. In its place, there is space for warmth, connection, gratitude, and personal growth to be cultivated.
Mindfulness takes practice and requires effort and a willingness to stay focused and committed to self-transformation. As with any practice, it becomes easier over time and has become an invaluable tool for those in recovery to reconnect with their purpose and allow an integrated shift in their thoughts and perceptions of the world around them.
A day of sobriety appears much simpler when we recognize our power to change and see the simplicity and joy the world can offer us.
Tips to Live one Day at a Time
A person may commit to staying sober for the next twenty-four hours, but this is not always an easy goal to achieve. In order to succeed, the individual must have compassion for themselves and remain accountable for their actions and state of mind. They will also need a wealth of tools and resources to help them stay committed to see the day through. The following tips can help:
- Identify personal triggers and recognize them when they arise
- Stay positive and work through negative mental states
- Avoid old habits, people, places, and situations that are unhelpful
- Overcome one problem at a time rather than trying to do everything at once
- Develop a structured daily schedule to stay busy
- Get educated on substance misuse and mental health issues
- Establish rewarding friendships
- Practice healthy living through diet, sleep, and exercise
- Engage with a support network of encouraging peers and professionals
- Help others in need
- Cultivate self-love and self-worth
- Practice meditation, yoga, breathwork, or other meditative somatic practices
- Spend time in nature
- Start a new hobby or pick an old one back up
- Step outside of comfort zones and try new things
- Celebrate milestones
The key here is to recognize that each of us has choices that allow us to maintain control. If any area of a recovering addict’s life is out of control or affects their mental health negatively, it will be harder to maintain lasting sobriety.
Start Living One Day at a Time
This philosophy can be applied to all those suffering from addiction, their family members, and those struggling with mental health disorders who find the future too uncertain and overwhelming.
Substance misuse causes chronic debilitating issues both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not only does it have a negative impact on the sufferer’s life, but it causes harm for those around them too. It is never too late to seek help, and with the one day at a time philosophy, a life free from addiction and fear of the future is within reach.