one day at a time

         This often quoted phrase is a bit of an addicts mantra; and as such has been very over used. I’ve got this on my sobriety pendant – but I have very mixed feelings about this innocuous little maxim.

In one way, when I initially felt compelled to quit drinking (because I didn’t do this voluntarily !) the very thought that I would not be able to drink again, at all,  EVER, was so horrific to me that I literally felt paralysed. How on earth would I manage Christmas, girls lunches out, celebrations, disasters? How would I cope with disappointment and frustration with out a bottle glass of wine to help me calm down. This was back in October 2013, when I hadn’t seriously tried to quit drinking for at least 15 years. The thought of NOT having wine was seriously scary to me (how completely fucked up is that ?) At that time I literally clung to the “one day at a time” .. Pretty often it was reduced to one hour (or less) at a time …

It saved me, I know, not looking too far ahead. The anxiety at having to cope with Christmas sober for example , freaked me out so much, if I had looked at it, I think I would have caved in right then. So I grimly refused to think about anything further than 24 hours ahead and navigated the initial acute withdrawal and the persistent, intrusive thoughts about alcohol, by coping in the minute.

As the days turned to weeks and the occasions I had been so afraid if passed despite me not drinking, (-and oddly seemed to be better sober) I still found myself unable to picture myself long term sober .. So I kept on with the “one day at a time” and that was ok – until it wasn’t.

It took me 22 months to get sober again. And again, this time I started, 132 days ago, by taking each small chunk of time and planning to say sober in the minute. But I think to achieve long term sobriety you have to let go of that at some point. I genuinely feel I am now able to do that. I do not consider drinking again to be an option for me, no matter what situation I find myself in. I can’t envisage any circumstance that would be improved by my drinking alcohol, and so, whilst I still plan, I don’t any longer feel I am lurching unsteadily from one fragile sober day to the next.

Which brings me to the negative connotations of the phrase. To me, it implies that every day will be a struggle, that there is no peace and no security in the choice to be sober; that the decision has to be revisited each day, that even years into sobriety it’s a hard thing to do. I disagree. I’m not expecting it to be always easy – but then nothing at all (worthwhile) is always easy. I anticipate days and events where I would like to drink alcohol, just as there are days when I struggle with my exciting, demanding stimulating job … But it doesn’t mean that the initial decision to take the job was wrong, or that I regret doing so, or that each day I consider again the decision to remain there… And so it is with sobriety. I chose it. And I will stick to it, for good …. Not just “one day at a time” …


9 comments

  1. That’s a very good point. I think we do enter dangerous territory once we start thinking “we will never drink again” because we can never know that – and that’s the start of the drift into relapse. But at some stage, years perhaps, (and I don’t speak on authority here) it must just come very easily to those people, and they still say “I’ll keep it in the day” thing despite having gone well beyond that and it’s just they feel they should say it, for newcomers or whatever. It’s an AA mantra I guess. Helps though when struggling with cravings.

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  2. Good thinking here, Batgirl…. I like ‘keep it in the day’ too. Another way of looking at it could be ‘doing today’s work today’ – an analogy that worked well for me in the early days was imagining if I had to do all the food shopping and storing cooking for all my future meals – even for a year’s future meals – all today. It would be impossible! There wouldn’t be room in the fridge, or enough cooking utensils, and not enough time in the day of course to do it all!

    We are not called to meet all future challenges in this current instant – just those that pertain to this moment.

    Keep up the excellent work – it’s good to hear everything that you are addressing in your journey. Prim x

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  3. I agree with you about the negative part in thinking that it will always be a struggle. I have to believe that it won’t be. I also have a hard time with the premise that “you are powerless over alcohol”. I think putting down the booze is a VERY powerful step! And, everyday has its challenges-that’s life. It’s just that drinking adds to them in the long run.

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    • I agree re the powerless thing. I accept that I can’t control his much I drink once I start. But I absolutely CAN control the decision to take the first drink … Lily 🌷x

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  4. I can’t– at this early point in my sobriety — grasp the concept of “never again”. I’m struggling with the thought of sober vacations and getting through holidays and concerts and weddings…. But honestly, I can’t let myself go there right now. The “deal with it in the moment” mantra is the only thing I can comprehend at this stage. But I totally agree that it can’t always be that way. At some point, we just have to move on and accept the new way of life. For example, I used to be a smoker. I quit more than 10 years ago and honestly, I have a hard time remembering what it was even like to be a smoker or that I was indeed a very heavy smoker. Quitting wasn’t easy and it took me a ton of times to finally get past it. But now, I wouldn’t even consider picking up a cigarette. I hope it’s like that with drinking as well. Eventually, you’d think that something has to click in our heads and say “no, that’s not me, I don’t drink” and it will feel as natural as breathing.

    132 days is amazing! Go you!

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    • Do NOT think too far ahead at the moment. I remember, it’s much too overwhelming. As the occasions that you DO manage sober stack up, confidence grows … For now, just get through today. Sending you hugs and strength. If I can do it, anyone can . Lily 🌷x

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