One of the most common 12-Step slogans is “One Day At A Time.”
This has become one of my most oft-quoted mantras in recovery. But what does it really mean? What about this slogan can help me gain perspective and hope in recovery?
Living in the present moment has become a huge paradigm-shift and a constant practice for me. Accepting that the present moment is really all I have and is the only place where I can ever feel God has changed the focus and greatly expanded the serenity I feel on a daily basis.
In the early days, weeks, months of my recovery, the slogan “One Day At A Time” helped get me through some of those almost-impossible days when trauma was eating me alive. I had no idea what was going to happen in my life. Trying to exist, fold laundry, parent my children, without a constant reel of movies in my mind seemed like an impossible task. I started with setting 20 minute timers. No imagining scenes for 20 minutes. I could do that. I could handle that. And if I couldn’t, that was okay. I would just re-set the timer. I could make it for just One More Day. I could make it for 20 minutes.
Today, the slogan “One Day At A Time” also reminds me how God has been working in my life these past 3 years in recovery. One of the blessings of being a sponsor is that I often get to talk with women who are deep in trauma, where I was so stuck for so long. As I speak with these women and hear the trauma in their voices, I am filled with empathy for them, and gratitude for the way God is working in my life. How well I remember this pit of despair. What a miracle it is to me that I am no longer drowning in trauma, depression, bitterness, anger, and incredulity. How was I rescued?
By working my Steps, One Day At A Time. And One Day At A Time, my Higher Power is opening my eyes.
First, He allowed me to see how unmanageable I was. Thank you, Trauma, for making that so obvious.
Next, He allowed me to see more clearly who He was as I opened my eyes to the idea that I may not know everything about Him. Through the Power of Not Knowing, I came to know Him in new and intimate ways.
Then I began to trust Him enough to begin practicing surrender daily, choosing to turn to Him, and to my Sponsor, to let go of the unmanageable emotions that kept me spinning in chaos.
As I spent months working on my 4th Step inventory, He opened my eyes One Day At A Time to the coping strategies and defects that were blocking my progress.
As I was able to share these things with my sponsor, my therapist, and my group, I was awakened to how these coping strategies had never brought any truly good thing into my life, and I became willing to let them go.
Now I can see so clearly that the more willing I become, the more I see tangible results in my life that are undeniable evidence that He is removing these defects from me, and I grow more peaceful in the trust that He has my back. There is a stillness in the Hope that He will indeed remove all my defects of character as I become aware and willing to surrender to His will.
My relationships become more healthy as I do my best to make amends, grow in empathy, acceptance, and love for others, and become more willing to hold healthy boundaries despite what others may think.
My daily focus becomes connecting with Him, through prayer, meditation, music, journaling, reading, or attending meetings. He becomes my first priority and this is reflected in how I choose to spend my time.
When I talk to women who are still stuck in the pit, (I know all too well that I am always just one bad day from being back in that pit), I am filled with hope and gratitude, for myself and for them. Because of the gift of realizing our own unmanageability, we are both exactly where we need to be to start seeing God work miracles in our lives.
Could I have explained to my stuck self what I would become or the journey I needed to go on? Never. I couldn’t have comprehended it in the least.
I just had to start. Go to a meeting. Make a phone call. Read Step One. Read it again. Answer a question. One Day At A Time.
And trust that One Day At A Time, my Higher Power is going to change me. With or without a change in my circumstance, He can change me.
And He did. And He is. And He will. One Day At A Time for the rest of my life. What a gift.
What does “One Day At A Time” mean to you?