In recovery, you’re often advised to take sobriety one day at a time.
Since we can only live our life in this manner, at first glance this phrase seems obvious. For someone living with a chronic illness like addiction, however, it’s a sound strategy.
A Day Is a Manageable Chunk of Time
Picture someone who has recently started his recovery journey after spending a significant part of his life abusing drugs or alcohol. He’s picturing the years he has in front of him. Their numbers rise up and fade from view like the cars on a roller coaster reaching the top of a hill and then sliding over the top. Each year appears and then disappears.
If this fictional person in recovery is thinking that he has to remain sober for the rest of his life, the idea will no doubt seem very daunting. It’s almost too much to contemplate how to manage staying away from one’s drug of choice for that amount of time.
There’s Always an Underlying Reason for Addiction
Keep in mind that while no one ever sets out to become an addict, addiction doesn’t develop in a vacuum. There are always reasons why a person starts drinking or using drugs.
In most instances, it has something to do with coping with emotional pain. The addict’s drug of choice provides an emotional anesthetic that allows her to feel more confident by quashing feelings of low self-esteem or acting as a type of salve to treat emotional wounds.
Unfortunately, this type of self-medication doesn’t treat the underlying cause of the problem. It only acts as a temporary fix. Once a person gets into the cycle of drinking and/or using drugs, it can lead to other problems, including difficulties with personal relationships, financial problems, job difficulties, and legal issues. More problems lead to using or drinking more often and it turns into a vicious cycle.
How to Take One Day at a Time in Recovery
• Focus on the Basics
The basic things that will help to increase the likelihood of a long-term recovery read like tips for living a healthy lifestyle. Eat well, exercise regularly, and be sure to get enough rest. Going too long between meals or becoming overtired makes it more challenging to handle the stresses and strains of everyday life.
It also makes it more tempting to revert to old coping patterns, which are easy and familiar, rather than using new ones that take more effort and are healthier in the long run. This is when a slip may occur.
• Don’t Compare Your Journey to Others
It can be tempting to look at people who have been in recovery longer and think they must have it all figured out or to assume that you’ll never reach that level. However, recovery isn’t something that you “win” or “lose” at.
Each person’s experience is unique. Everyone has their own challenges along the way. You may think that someone has all the answers, but they still have issues and situations that they struggle with no matter how long they have been in recovery. Everyone can slip, just as everyone can help someone else up.
• Learn the Value of Patience
You may complete your drug and alcohol addiction treatment, feel really positive about your prospects, and be ready to take on the world, but it’s important to be patient with yourself and the people around you. By all means, make a list of things you would like to accomplish—then decide which goals are most important to you.
Break them down into small, manageable chunks. Pace yourself while you work your plan, knowing that anything worth doing or having will take time.
• Do Something Enjoyable
While you’re living life one day at a time, be sure to spend time doing things that you enjoy. It can be something simple like having a cup of coffee with a friend or going for a walk and taking time to appreciate the weather. Make time in your schedule so that your “one day at a time” includes all the joy that you deserve.