One Day at At a Time: The Classic Cliche and Why It Works

Healthy lifestyle, meditation, yoga concept

Table of Contents

When they try to stop drinking or using drugs, many people find that they say “never again” only to slip up some time later. For some people, saying “never again” is a trigger in and of itself, and we suddenly panic at the thought of going the rest of our lives sober. This causes some people to suffer a relapse. Enter the old cliche: “One day at a time.” As people in recovery, sometimes saying “I am not drinking today” is much easier than saying “I am never drinking again.” By only focusing on the day in front of us, the task becomes more realistic and something we can manage rather than an insurmountable challenge.

“I Am Never Drinking Again” 

How many rough mornings have we said this to ourselves? Or, as the “hangxiety” weighs heavy on our hearts and minds come Sunday, we start thinking about “pumping the breaks.” For many people, this newfound dedication to sobriety lasts about as long as the hangover does, and no harm, no foul. However, for people who struggle with addiction, learning skills that can lead to a long-lasting, healthy recovery is a process that requires us to “reset” every day and take our recovery one day at a time.

Realistic Promises, Realistic Recovery

In the popular AA guidebook “Living Sober,” Barry Leach writes the following “Although we realize that alcoholism is a permanent, irreversible condition, our experience has taught us to make no long-term promises about staying sober. We have found it more realistic — and more successful — to say, ‘I am not taking a drink just for today.’” It is important to focus on a specific part of that sentence: make no long-term promises about staying sober. At first glance, this seems counterintuitive. As addicts, we sometimes feel as though we must make these promises to ourselves and our loved ones. However, this puts undue pressure on the recovering addict. When we tell ourselves, “I am never drinking again for as long as I live,” that is a hefty, heavy promise that can cause anxiety, insecurity, and fear at the thought of relapse. A fear that, oddly enough, causes many people to actually relapse.

By making realistic promises and telling ourselves, “I am not going to drink or use drugs today,” every day, we instead put our focus on the tangible: the day that we have directly in front of us. “Forever” is a concept, not a unit of measurement. But 24 hours is real, and it is much easier to make that promise and at least a little easier to keep it.

Something to Look Forward To 

How do we reward ourselves by saying, “I am never drinking again” what do we have to look forward to? By setting this insurmountable goal for ourselves, we effectively discount our future self because we haven’t given ourselves any room for error or room to grow. Recovery is a lifelong process that consists of little successes. The tiny moments of our day-to-day lives where we choose our health and sobriety over substances and alcohol make up a lifetime of better choices, better friendships, and a better life overall.

Overcoming our addictions requires mindfulness, and in order to be mindful, we must work hard at being grateful.

Mindfulness, Mantras, and Affirmations 

When introduced to the 12-step program, many people may feel that all the talk of mantras, affirmations, and positive thinking can be a bit “strange.” It can be difficult for many people to think of these things as real and effective tools for long-lasting recovery. In a study titled “Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being,” researchers note that “Mantras and affirmation can boost your mental health by increasing positivity. Research shows that positive thinking improves physical and mental well-being, helping promote behaviors that serve you and making it easier to leave behind habits — such as using alcohol — that interfere with the rest of your life.” “One day at a time” is not just an empty phrase or mantra; it’s a real way to live that has successful results to back it up!

Positive affirmations can go a long way. When we are entering a 12-step program for the first time, it is totally normal to be skeptical of the process. But the process is popular for a reason: it works!

Living with an addiction is difficult. Recovering from that addiction can be even harder. Let’s take it easy on ourselves! Making realistic promises lends itself to real progress. We are able to take our sobriety one day at a time and celebrate little victories while on the road to long-lasting recovery.

Struggling with addiction can be difficult. Every time we tell ourselves “never again,” we might be setting ourselves up for failure. This may seem counterintuitive, but taking our sobriety one day at a time has been shown to be a very effective method to building and maintaining a life of sobriety. At Jaywalker Lodge, we believe that the disease of addiction affects everyone differently. That’s why we combine an inpatient and outpatient program with the 12-step philosophy and counseling to create a path to recovery that is tailor-made for the individual. Relapse happens for a variety of reasons, but one of the big ones is setting ourselves up for failure by not setting realistic and attainable goals. We want to help you set, reach, and surpass those goals for yourself. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and can’t seem to stay sober, contact us by phone today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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