When I celebrated my first year of sobriety on July 23, 2000, members of my recovery group let me in on a little secret. They said when I had first come in, they had voted me least likely to succeed. They may have even put money on it (it was Brooklyn, after all).
Instead of getting mad when I heard this, I actually got giddy. It’s always a thrill proving people wrong. And I don’t blame them one bit for thinking I wouldn’t even make it to one year of sobriety.
I had been one of those “jiggly” people at meetings, the type that can’t stop tapping the table or jiggling their leg. I could barely think, never mind actually understand all the goobledygook people in the meeting were talking about.
What I could understand, however, was a phrase that has stuck with me through my entire recovery. A phrase that also just so happens to answer the question: How the heck did you you do it? The answer on how to stay sober for 20 years (or more)? One day at a time.
One Day at a Time for recovery
Yeah, it may sound cliché, but the concept of One Day at a Time (ODAAT) works in amazing ways. Especially during that dreadful first week of sobriety when I wanted to drink so bad it felt like my head was going to explode. White-knuckling is not a myth, by the way.
“One day at a time,” they told me. “Just get through this day. Make it one minute of a time if you have to.” I had to.
I learned to use the ODAAT concept for not only getting through that first harrowing week of sobriety, but to get through everything else in life without a drink.
One day at a time works because it breaks things down into bite-sized portions you can manage. You don’t have to think about all that’s happened in the past or all that awaits you in the future. You instead get to focus on the moment in front of you, one day at a time.
And struggling through those days doesn’t have to be part of ongoing recovery, either. I struggled like heck that first week, and definitely through periods of grief and other anguish. But whenever I catch myself struggling and struggling through whatever it is, I remember there’s a straightforward way to get rid of the struggle.
Let go, let God
Whether your idea of a God is a little blue cartoon man, or you instead feel the power of the universe in things like the ocean and the stars, you can tap into its unending support and inspiration any time you wish. All you need to do is ask – and then be willing and open to receiving it.
God got rid of my obsession to drink. Got me through the smothering grief. Continues to get me through life’s challenges, no matter how big or small they may be. As long as I remember to ask, then be willing to get out of my own way so I can accept the help I receive.
I still have to do the footwork, of course, and not just once in a while. To stay consistently balanced and sane, I need to do that footwork on a daily basis.
Daily recovery footwork
Daily recovery footwork for me means taking care of myself on the physical, mental and emotional, and spiritual levels.
Physical self-care includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthy (while still enjoying my pizza), and a daily dose of exercise.
Mental and emotional self-care means ensuring my human needs are being met. They include things like approval, affection, attention and comfort. Support networks of friends, family and like-minded souls, where you can both give and receive support, are excellent sources here on earth.
Spiritual self-care includes the things I can do to keep a strong connection with the divine power of creation, or my God. Prayer. Meditation. Reiki. Connecting with nature. Hugging my dogs. They all help keep the pipeline open between me and my Higher Power.
12 Steps as foundation of recovery
The 12 Steps are the foundation of my recovery, and they can work wonders for everyone, not just folks in recovery. And I top them off with additional support, techniques and habits that work specifically for me.
Everyone’s recovery is different, and not every technique may work for everyone. Whatever techniques you choose, it does take daily commitment and work. Yet doesn’t have to be a struggle. As long as you just do it one day at a time.
As a certified life and recovery coach who celebrates 20 years of recovery on July 23, 2019 (whee!), I’d be delighted to help with your journey. Book a free 30-minute consultation today.
I help amazingly creative souls who want more out of life than sleep-work-sleep get their dazzle back so they rock their world.