Many people are men and women of extremes. When things are going well we are the most agreeable of people. However, if we are having one of those days where everything just seems to go wrong, then you had best get out of our way. As the day unfolds we get more and more into our negativity. This state of mind can be found in individuals both in and outside the program. There are some differences however.
The average person will have a bad day and just chalk it up to a series of unfortunate circumstances. At day’s end they will look forward to a better day tomorrow. For someone in the fellowship, a bad day can be a trigger for a person to have a slip and return to their drug of choice. The reasons for this are more complicated than simple cause and effect. When an alcoholic or addict has a bad day, they can let their negative thoughts overrun them. Their cascading thoughts lead them to the conclusion that not only is this day a bad one, but their entire life is one long failure and disappointment. When this type of thinking predominates, it is easy to understand how a person could despair and revert to old behaviors. The founders of the program understood this when they advised us to remember, “one day at a time”.
Personal Reflection: Do I still jump from bad day thinking to bad life thinking?
Fear is a constant companion for most of us. Sometimes of course, fear serves an important purpose. It can protect us when danger is imminent. We should certainly listen to that inner voice telling us to cross the street when we see a large stray dog approaching us. For our distant ancestors, fear probably saved them from many perils.
Today however, fear often plays a less than productive role. Perhaps you’ve gone to the doctor and he tells you he has seen something that he doesn’t like the looks of. He sends you for a battery of tests for which you need to wait a week for the results. That week of waiting becomes your worst nightmare. Literally every 5 minutes your mind races to the worst possible scenario. You tell yourself you are going to die from some rare incurable disease. You lie awake in bed at night full of worry. Your eating habits become disrupted. When you finally see the doctor at the end of the week he tells you it was nothing to worry about. It was just a false alarm. You spent a week worrying about something that never happened
In the program we understand how fear can totally take over our life. In the past it was so powerful we turned to alcohol, drugs, and food to cope. Today, we have truly begun to live one day at a time. We don’t allow fear of the future enter into our today.
Personal Reflection: Do I allow fear of the future to seep into my present?
We cannot undue the past. Quite frankly, many of us wasted weeks months and years due to our addictive actions. It is for that reason that we realize the importance of each and every day. Each day we are presented with a blank slate. We can choose how to fill it. We value the importance of work and are diligent regarding it. Family is now very important to us and we make efforts to solidify our relationships. Due to our past addictive behavior we recognize the importance of going to meetings regardless of how much time we have. Of course there is a lot of gratitude towards the program which got us sober. We give back through service at meetings and sponsoring others. In recovery, we have discovered many healthy and productive outlets for spending our free time. Rather than collapsing on the couch and watching television for hours on end, we exercise, go to museums and plays, travel and explore everything that life has to offer. At the end of the day we self reflect to see if we lived as fully as we could. We resolve that if we are granted another day tomorrow, we will make it a meaningful,one as well.
Personal Reflection: Did I live fully today?
A program saying that has become almost universal is “one day at a time”. Along with many other concepts we found this particular one confusing in early sobriety. Part of our disease was that we were impulsive and had not given any thought to the consequences of each day’s actions. But now, at almost every meeting we heard someone repeating that “one day” quote. It sounded to us that you were saying we could continue our daily program of self-will run riot.
As our minds and spirits cleared, we began to awaken to what was really being said. Now, as responsible members of society, of course we needed to make plans for the future. Like others we saved monies for home purchases, went back to school to further our education and planned out family vacations. What had changed was our letting go of trying to control the future. We were able to drop all of our obsessive rumination about outcome. We would make all the necessary efforts, but the results were in the hands of our Higher Power. We didn’t need to “look too far down the road”, because ultimately we realized that we were powerless over it anyway.
Personal Reflection: Do I still think I need to look down the road?
The newcomer is often blown away early on in meetings. When people mention how much sobriety they have, the newcomer can hardly believe his or her ears. “You mean to tell me that you haven’t had a drink or a drug in 2 years, 10 years or 25 years?” To a person new to sobriety, the thought of never having their drug of choice again is beyond their comprehension or belief system. All the more so after repeated attempts to put down their substance.
At this point in the conversation, an old timer will usually say something along the lines of, “now you’re beginning to understand what we mean when we say one day at a time”. All you have to do is stay sober today. We will worry about tomorrow when it comes. Sometimes it’s one hour or even one minute at a time. As the newcomer gains some time, they realize that this philosophy extends far beyond their drug of choice. It is the key to emotional sobriety as well. We begin to see each day as a separate opportunity for emotional, spiritual and psychological growth.
Personal Reflection: How do I make each day more manageable?