Human beings live their lives in three different "times," that are the focus of all of our mental energy and attention.
The future is unknowable and uncontrollable, and that can easily bring feelings of fear.
The past is also uncontrollable, and can often bring feelings of guilt or regret. Pasts cannot be changed, no amount of wishing things were different can change what has already happened. The only thing you do have control over is the present, you can only change things by responding well to whatever is right in front of you.
Many people have a tendency to get stuck in regret about the past, or fear about the future, and would do well to learn how to let go of those unproductive emotions, instead bringing their attention to the present moment.
Living Today While in Recovery
While everyone could benefit from developing awareness of the present moment, it is an especially important skill for the addict in recovery. When first attempting to go "cold turkey," it can feel easy to make pronouncements of wanting to stay sober forever.
However, quickly, as you realize what a challenge sobriety can be, and how hard it can be to remain strong against triggering situations, "forever" quickly becomes too overwhelming. Instead, you should bring your focus to "one day at a time." Every day you wake up, make a new pledge to be the person you want to be, to live in sobriety, and then live out of that intentionality.
Sobriety should not be thought of as a "forever" decision, but rather the act of collecting a lot of sober days together in a row. The past and the future are distractions, taking your mind away from thinking about the right thing you can do in the present moment.
Building Appreciation For The Present Moment
At first, it can be a struggle to even make it through an entire day. In that case, try to make it through the next hour, or the next minute. It will get easier over time. The important thing is to learn how to become aware of what is going on within you at each moment.
If you are having a bad feeling about the past, or the future, dig within yourself to ask what you can do now about it. Try to figure out where your feelings are coming from, and try to figure out what you can do to help yourself feel better, whether it's holding on to something said at a meeting, calling a sponsor, making a gratitude list, or do something refreshing as a way forgive yourself.
Medication practitioners refer to "mindfulness," as a state of awareness of whatever is going on in the present moment. The goal is to learn how, without judgment and without internal distractions, to recognize whatever you are doing in the present as something worth paying attention to.
Starting with your own breath, and the moment of your hands, learn how to turn your anxious thoughts off and just focus on moving within what is going on now. Then, move onto your own thoughts and feelings, not judging them, but hearing them, and becoming aware of what internal need it's reflecting.
The Past is The Past
In the past drinking or drugs could have been a way to drown out bad feelings of stress. By taking away that option, you can learn better ways of understanding these feelings, and then make a choice to respond to them in an intentional way.
That could mean expressing your frustrations to a trusted friend, it could mean doing or saying something to fix a frustrating situation, or it could mean praying or meditating until the overpowering feeling slips away. Whatever you choose, know you are choosing it, and making a choice that listens to your needs for today.