Taking recovery “one day at a time” is a familiar idea. There are several layers built into it. The most important meaning is that you don’t have to quit using forever; you only have to quit for today. It’s the first step on a journey of a thousand miles.
Of course, “one day at a time” is the only way to do anything. It’s physically impossible to do it any other way. We need the reminder because the brain likes to play tricks on us. Our brains immediately want to deal with every problem we may face in the future. Most people have only vague anxieties about the future but recovering addicts, in addition to these vague anxieties, have a specific fear–that they will relapse.
You know the danger will be there every day for the foreseeable future and it takes a bit of practice to remember that you don’t face a lifetime’s worth of danger all at once. You can face today’s danger today and tomorrow’s danger tomorrow.
“One day at a time” is not just looking forward but backward as well. Or rather, not looking backward. Shame, regret, and failure are in the past. It’s important to learn from failure to the extent that it may help you avoid familiar traps, but don’t dwell on past failures and rationalize it as “learning.” Addiction is in the past and today is something else.
Maybe yesterday didn’t go so well; just start again today. Recovery, like any long-term effort, will have good days and bad days. The bad days make you feel like it will never get easier and the good days make you feel like there will never be any more bad days. Neither is true. It will get easier in the long run but day to day is up and down.
Dealing with what’s happening today will moderate the extremes. A bad day today does not mean all future days will also be bad. A good day yesterday does not set too high a bar. Dealing with today allows you focus your mental resources on your immediate challenges without being distracted by worries about the future.
All this is not to say the future doesn’t exist. It does–or at least we hope it does. For recovery purposes, the future matters in two ways. Recovery is a skill and skills get better with practice. Imagine practicing the piano every day for a year, for five years, for ten years. Improvement is inevitable. What was hard at first will soon become easy and what was impossible eventually becomes possible. You need that belief that you will improve with practice.
At Serenity Oaks Wellness, we are working to adorn each individual’s life with recovery. By making life more beautiful, we believe sobriety can be sustained. Call us today for information on our treatment programs for addiction and alcoholism: 855.652.2683