A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Madeline Schloop:
Recovery Slogans, Like One Day At A Time May Seem Overused, And Too Simple. Until The Day You Really Need Them. Why One Slogan Has The Power To Calm Us Down and Change Our Lives.
“One Day at a Time” is probably the best-known slogan in recovery. It is on bumper stickers, T-Shirts, and often is seen on plaques in offices. When I first saw it I thought, ”Well, how else would I live? Days come in 24 hours." I decided it was a over-used slogan for over-scheduled people. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here's how the slogan worked when I needed it most.
When I joined Al-Anon, I was constantly remembering the past and worrying about the future. I had a difficult time staying in the present. There was so much to think about I could rarely focus on what was happening right in front of me. I would often have to ask people to repeat themselves. The only time I had any success staying in the moment was when I was in an Al-Anon meeting. Then right after the meeting my mind would start racing again about what else I had to do, or what had happened the week before. I often felt like a time traveler, constantly leaving my body to live in another day. It was exhausting, but I felt I had to “fix” things from my past and “prepare” for the future.
That all changed when my husband died suddenly on a Saturday from alcoholism. I remember it was a Saturday, because I had just finished shopping for gardening supplies and was about to plant a garden. The garden never happened. Instead, life as I had known it stopped. Days rushed by without my being aware of them, and time lost all meaning.
Then, it was not “One Day at a Time” it was “One Breath at a Time.” It was tough trying to survive those first weeks knowing alcohol had won, and the man I married as a very young woman full of hope, was truly lost forever. We can talk about the tragic waste of lives lost to addiction; the grief of not having been able to do anything about it; and the helplessness of having known but never quite being prepared for the reality that alcoholism might end in a catastrophic loss for me and my children. Right then, the whole package of addiction and loss was overwhelming, as it is for so many thousands of families that struggle with the disease and lose the ones they so deeply love and want to save.
My family and friends literally held me together. I couldn't eat or sleep. I couldn’t stop crying for days on end. You don't know how you're going to go on. You don't know how, or if, you will ever get over it. And suddenly what had always seemed like just a “silly slogan" became my best tool for getting through it.
When someone dies, there was so much to do. I wanted to escape, but funeral arrangements had to be decided, children fed, and the yard mowed. It was surreal to see the mail delivered when my world had fallen apart. My “silly” slogan became a powerful support tool and reminder that I didn't have to do everything all at once. It allowed me to stay focused on doing only what I could for that day. Forgetting about the past or the future, I could go on living as well as I could just for 24 hours. I would talk to people and remember each word they spoke. As I began to process each moment, the slogan itself seemed to hold the answer to a question I'd never adequately considered. The past is over. The future is tomorrow. Only today really matters.
It has been five years since this simple slogan became my guide for healthy living. “One Day at a Time” I gain new insights in exploring ways to enjoy, cherish and share just this one beautiful day. And tomorrow I will do it again.