One day at a time. Isn’t that really the only way we can live? When we were in our addiction, we were caught up in our past aches, resentments and fears. But that wasn’t enough. We had to worry about the future! What will tomorrow bring? Will I still have my job? What about a place to live?
Since I am inherently skeptical, this whole one day at a time thing puzzled me. After all, I was a being who only thought about what would become of me along with all the crap of yesterday. Well, I couldn’t change yesterday and had no control over tomorrow. Still don’t. Never will.
Before I got sober, I remember thinking about never being able to drink (or drug) again. That thought overwhelmed me to the point of anxiety. How would I function? Where would I hang out? What about my friends? All of these are serious questions to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.
The first couple weeks of my sobriety were a rough lot. I lived one minute at a time rather than one day at a time. I could not think about the future. Again, it was entirely too overwhelming. And holding onto the past was what got me in such a shit storm. So I focused on keeping my brain occupied. I should have kept a journal, but I didn’t. Instead I consumed mass quantities of Pop Tarts and watched the Military Channel. I only left my apartment to get cigarettes.
But it worked for me.
Of course these days, I do think about the future and there are times when the past creeps in or I see something that brings back a fond (or not so fond) memory. But when it comes to not picking up, one day at a time, one minute at a time, even one second at a time is the best way to live.
How do we live one day at a time in recovery?
We go to meetings. We get a sponsor. We read approved literature. We talk to people in recovery (this is so important). We share at meetings (this is something I need to do more). We keep our minds occupied with things besides drinking (or drugging).
I have met so many creative people in the rooms of AA. I have met many artists, writers and generally people who are doing what they want to do with their lives. How cool is that? Maybe they were always creative or maybe they found their creativity while living one day at a time.
Keeping it simple may seem pretty, well, simple for the average human being, but for us alcoholics and addicts, it can be anything but. We just have a way of complicating the most uncomplicated things. Things like: working, driving and even food shopping become daunting because that’s what we do. Where this becomes a danger is when we complicate our sobriety. Complicating life complicates our sobriety.
I was at a meeting last night and one of the gentlemen there used this phrase. I wrote it in my little notebook because I felt like, “yeah, I want to talk about this.”
When I first got sober, I did not keep it simple. I would create drama, over-analyze things and make problems out to be bigger than they actually were. I was still stuck in the, “Poor me, look what I have to deal with! Why can’t everything just be easy?” phase.
Living life on life’s terms is definitely a struggle for someone who always escaped with drugs and alcohol. The reality of an active alcoholic/addict is that they abhor reality. The cycle is: we screw up, we get drunk, we feel resentment, we screw up, we get drunk and we wind up doing dumb stuff.
I am no longer new to sobriety, and yeah, in the beginning I was trying to hold onto the old way of thinking (complicated) while maintaining my sobriety.
When I realized keeping things simple made my life simple, I started catching on.
Ways to keep things simple:
Write up a budget
Go to work
Tell the truth
Do the next right thing
Taking a break
Keeping it simple isn’t just for people in recovery. What are some ways you keep it simple?
My good friend Heather introduced me to this phrase: “Just be.” She has an awesome blog about alternative therapies. Go check it out! I’ll be here when you get back.
Back to “just being.” It took me a little while to really grasp what exactly that meant. I’m really good at nodding at people when they start talking about things I may not understand, this is true. I am even better, however, at nodding at things I want to understand.
And I desperately wanted to understand and learn how to “just be.” So I gave it some thought. Okay, I gave it a lot of thought teetering on the brink of mildly consumed. And then one day…
I was sitting on my front step, drinking my coffee, smoking my cigarette (bad girl!) and listening to the birds while feeling the wind on my face and watching the stars in the sky twinkle brighter than ever (stars seem their brightest between four am – five am).
And then like a sparrow nearly smashing into my face it hit me. In that moment, on my step surrounded by nature, stars and cars in the parking lot… I was just being. My head was not racing with thoughts, deadlines, my kids, money or writing. I was just a body on the step with a blank mind enjoying my environment.
How awesome is that? Let me tell you, it was so awesome that I try to “just be” at least 3-5 times a week now. And it helps. A lot. There is great peace and growth in just being. It is one of my favorite things to do.