The “one day at a time” mantra is used frequently in the world of recovery, particularly among people who follow the 12-Step principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. Its purpose is to remind them to stay in the day/moment and not think too far ahead about ones sobriety. Because the saying has become so ubiquitous, it can be easy to lose sight of the technique’s effectiveness. In fact, even studies have shown that it really works. Here are some reasons why living one day at a time, and the 24-hour rule are key to long term sobriety.
Addicts and alcoholics have the same amount of anxiety and depression as so called “normal drinkers.” The difference between the two is the way these mental illnesses manifest themselves. For those with a predisposition to using substances to cope with anxiety and depression, addiction is sure to follow once they set down the path of using to cope. It is this inherent danger that brings addicts to the forefront when we talk about living 24 hours at a time. For an addict/alcoholic, to drink/use is to die. So once abstinence is achieved, the must seek a new way to deal with their stress and anxiety. This is why 12-step programs place such an importance on living one day at a time. For, if one only focuses on living one day at a time, and sometimes one hour at a time, then stress and anxiety is manageable.
Living One Day at a Time Makes Sobriety Feel Less Overwhelming
For someone with a substance use disorder (clinical speak for addiction), the thought of giving up alcohol or drugs forever can be an overwhelming and seemingly unattainable thought. On the other hand, staying sober for just the next 24 hours typically feels like a much more doable task. Over time, those 24 hours add up to weeks, then months, then years of continuous sobriety.
Taking it one day at a time also gives you the opportunity to consciously recommit ones recovery. This can be especially helpful when life gets really challenging or when you’re forced to deal disappointing setbacks such as relapse.
Living One Day at a Time Makes Tough Situations Seem More Manageable
In addition to making abstinence feel doable, following the 24-hour rule can help ease the weight of everyday life stressors. As mentioned above, most people struggle with living life on life’s terms. But for addicts, the manifestation of being overwhelmed can be catastrophic. Ironically, everyone could do well to live by the 24 hour rule. Those who are able to wrest satisfaction out of this life understand that we are not promised today and that focusing on things out of their control is not a productive activity. Despite having been published in 1910, Arnold Bennett’s book How to Live on 24 Hours a Day remains a valuable resource on living a meaningful life within the constraints of time.
Living One Day at a Time Encourages Mindfulness
Worrying about the future, or regretting the past, makes it impossible to enjoy the present. Doing so can create uncomfortable feelings that trigger the temptation to drink or use. Utilizing the one-day-at-a-time technique can help mitigate this discomfort. After all, it requires us only to be concerned with the current 24 hours at hand. It’s much easier to ground yourself and stay sober when you’re living mindfully in the present, rather than regretfully in the past or fearful of the future. It was Walt Whitman who penned the words, ““Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” These words hold just as true today as they did then.
At San Diego Sober Living, we are in the business of helping others live one day at a time. If you, or a love one, are struggling with addiction/alcoholism, please call today. Life can be overwhelming, your addiction does not. We ware here to help!