When you encounter other people struggling with recovery, in a support group, you may often hear the phrase "One Day at a Time." By this they mean, keeping your attention on the present moment.
Whenever you feel tempted to feel either regret about the past or fear about the future, "one day at a time" brings you attention back to the reality in front of you, because that is the only thing over which you have any control. Trying to think about a lifetime of sobriety is too big and overwhelming, but it is possible if you think about just making it through one day, sticking to the changes and goals to which you have committed.
Perhaps songwriter and addict in recovery Kris Kristofferson put it best in his song "One Day at a Time":
Give me the strength to do everything what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone, and tomorrow may never be mine.
Lord, help me today. Show me the way, one day at a time.
Here are a few ways learning to live "one day at a time" can be deeply helpful in your life, and practices that can encourage you to remember to live focused on now.
Focusing our attention on today
As the Kristofferson song says, there is nothing we can do about our past, or our future. So, our mental energy must be focused on the only thing we can control – that which is right in front of us, how to live in the present moment.
A mantra is a simple phrase that you can say over and over again in your mind, to fight against negative and untrue thoughts and quickly remind yourself of your commitment to live as your most empowered and healthiest self. "One day at a time" is a great mantra, especially for people in recovery.
Not getting distracted by yesterday or tomorrow
As an addict, you may have had many experiences of hitting bottom, and doing things you wish you hadn't. Also, you may feel fearful or worried about your future, worried about how you're going to be able to fix the problems your addiction caused to your health, your career, or your loved ones.
While both of these thoughts are understandable, in the end they will not do you any good, because there is nothing you can do about them. Repeating to yourself "one day at a time" can remind yourself to focus your energy and work towards doing the best you can in the present moment.
Some days you are going to feel really bad, having a lot of hard feelings you don't know what to do with. However, no matter how bothered or anxious you feel, today can be a victory if you can just focus on getting through it.
If you can just put one foot in front of the other, try to focus on positive things to feel grateful for, and just make it through the day sober, it will be a huge victory.
Ways to live "one day at a time"
Learning how to concentrate on the day right in front of you, not caught up the worries or regrets running around in your head, is a skill that can be learned and improved. Like any skill, it often takes a lot of work at first.
Try to focus as much as you can on the present moment, using the mantra to draw your attention back whenever you need to. Set daily routines and regular schedules of sleep, exercise, reading, journaling, conversing with a friend, and other activities that can help you take care of yourself and enjoy life.
If a regret about the past comes up, ask yourself what you can learn from that in order to do better today. If a worry about the future comes up, ask yourself what you can do today to prepare for it.
Be gentle and grace-filled with yourself, and slowly you will find yourself growing in the ability to appreciate truly living each day. All of those "todays" will add up to a new lifetime of healthy, happy, empowered sobriety.