Pretty much everyone has heard this phrase at one time or another: “Take it one day at a time.” It’s advice that we might get at a yoga class, from a therapist, or a sympathetic friend. When we come into the rooms of recovery, we are likely to hear it more than ever before. Everybody seems to be saying it. It’s probably even on a plaque or sign somewhere in the meeting room.
When we hear something often, and from multiple sources, sometimes we actually end up understanding it less. We subconsciously tune it out and ignore it without even thinking. We certainly don’t think about it or try to understand or bother taking it to heart. When something is repeated often, we start to take it for granted. “I hear it all the time, so we must all be doing it and know what it means. Right?”
Not exactly. Not at all, actually. Sometimes—perhaps more often than we’d like—all-too-common wisdom may hold more than we give it credit for. The advice to take it one day at a time has strong, deep roots in the literature of recovery, and it can help us in a lot of ways. Even if we’ve heard it too much, we might really benefit from taking the time to listen.
“One Day at a Time”
This is not just a catchphrase in recovery—it’s a powerful reminder of the truth. The things that contribute to the importance of taking it one day at a time are found throughout the book Alcoholics Anonymous. We live our lives in recovery one day at a time because we are not meant to handle any more than that. All we have is today in recovery. Yesterday is gone — we have taken inventory and let it go. Tomorrow is strictly up to our higher power and something we only have to deal with when it becomes today. We really only get to wake up and have this new day if we went to bed sober. It’s just this one day we have to focus on and just this one day when we can work the 12-Steps, contact our higher power, recover, and be of service.
What Is Taking It One Day at a Time?
The Big Book’s design for living works so well because 24 hours, one day at a time, is all it asks of us. We don’t have to try our best forever; we just have to try our best today. And one day at a time, we may just find that we’ve been walking the road of recovery for a good long while. But we don’t get there by time traveling. We get there by being present now, in the 24 hours we have today.
Taking it one day at a time means keeping our minds on today, keeping our actions in today, and keeping our thoughts and feelings in today as best as we can, just for today.
Why Should We Take It One Day at a Time?
The Big Book’s design for living begins with thinking only of the 24 hours ahead, and that’s it. Nothing more is available to us right now. Far too often, fear or apprehension about the future can easily take out alcoholics and addicts like us. Staring into the future is a recipe for disaster. We only have here and now in this present moment. We can’t work the 12-Steps at any other moment than this one right now. We can’t be of service to people at any other moment than this one right now. And we can’t consciously contact our higher power in the future or the past, only at this moment right now.
Whether we think the phrase is overused or not, we simply cannot live our lives in any broader frame than one day. If the future is what concerns us, then we must understand that our future is determined by the choices we make and the actions we take today. Tomorrow never comes because every day is today. And that’s all we ever have. If the past troubles us, the only things we can do to heal the past or make it right or let it go are the choices and actions we take in the present moment.
Our minds, hearts, or memories may try to trick us into feeling like there is something from the past to regret or something in the future to fear. But we’re feeling that regret now, and we’re feeling that fear now. All we have is now, one day at a time, to let go of our regret and break free from our fear.
How Can We Take It One Day at a Time?
The 12-Steps are a great place to start! One day at a time, we can work the 12-Steps, attend meetings, participate in fellowship, and be of service. As we work the 12-Steps, we can also practice our prayer and meditation. These practices help us stay calm, present, and rooted in the here and now.
And all of this begins with reading Alcoholics Anonymous, the Big Book. That’s where we’ll see the 12-Steps to take with our sponsor and learn how important and beneficial it is for alcoholics and addicts to try our best to take it one day at a time.
Alcoholics and addicts like us are prone to reflection, which can often be detrimental. We get stuck in feelings of regret and remorse about the past, and we wither under fear and dread of the future. We are so rarely present with ourselves in the here and now. The mind of an alcoholic or addict needs a lot of help finding calm and quiet, and our attention needs constant reminders to stay present. The 12-Step program of recovery not only has the tools to help us find freedom and recovery from alcoholism and addiction, but it contains many useful practices for keeping our attention, and our presence focused on one day at a time. We only have this 24-hour period—the past is gone, and the future isn’t here yet. All possibilities, all work, and all solutions are only in the here and now, one day at a time. If you are ready to begin the journey of a lifetime, Jaywalker Lodge is here to help you get off to the best possible start. Call us now at (866) 529-9255.
As Chief Executive Officer Bill provides leadership and manage all day-to-day operations of Jaywalker Lodge, an extended care residential addiction treatment program for adult men.