Let's begin to talk about recovery slogans often used in 12 Step Programs. These slogans are really tools that can be used to support one's recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Perhaps one of the most important practical concepts for early recovery is the well-known, and therefore, perhaps not fully appreciated, idea of living one day at a time. For the individual beginning recovery, there are so many areas of stress that the individual can easily become overwhelmed at the seemingly insurmountable goal of staying abstinent from the use of alcohol or other drugs. Commonly the newly recovering person will worry about staying away from drug or alcohol use in many situations that will arise in life, such as, a wedding anniversary coming up in a few months, or New Years Eve (8 months away), or giving a toast at a child's wedding (child now 3 years old). Or, how will I eat crabs without a beer, go to a football or baseball game, go on a date, etc. Abstinence in recovery can become an achievable, manageable goal by reducing the task to just not picking the substance up TODAY. Today is truly the only day you have, and is the only day you have to stay clean and sober. You don't have to not use the rest of your life. You need only decide to not use for today. Whatever future situation you are concerned about is not happening today.
The Alcoholics Anonymous basic text (Big Book) states:
"We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God’s will into all of our activities (page 85)."
Similarly, the Narcotics Anonymous basic text states:
"Stop using for today. Most of us can do for eight or twelve hours what seems impossible for a longer period of time. If the obsession or compulsion becomes too great, put yourself on a five-minute basis of not using. Minutes will grow to hours, and hours to days, so you will break the habit and gain some peace of mind."
Another way to think about living in the now is this: Today is your past of tomorrow. Facing each day's challenges without using drugs or alcohol will build a solid foundation for recovery that is based on your own personal experience. One day at a time, using all the recovery tools at your disposal, including attendance of 12 Step meetings, finding a source of spiritual strength, getting a sponsor (mentor) in recovery, seeing a counselor or a therapist, and, of course, not drinking or drugging, will not only result in days abstinent but also the evidence based on your own experience that your recovery tools work. Faith based on experience rather than the words of others can be truly powerful. I will end the subject of living one day at a time with a quote from the 12 Step literature that I love. "I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do something for twelve hours that would appall me if I felt that I had to keep it up for a lifetime (Al-Anon-Alateen, Just for Today)."
As always, comments are invited. Jan Edward Williams, www.alcoholdrugsos.com. 08/12/2013.