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An Hour at a Time

Natalia J. Garland

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One of the most popular A.A. slogans suggests that we live life a day at a time. Why not a month at a time, or a year at a time? By crystallizing the life span into days, we make our problems more manageable. We can stay focused on today's tasks, and take care of tomorrow when tomorrow comes. Otherwise, life's difficulties could become overwhelming.

For some people, just getting through today can be mentally stressful and emotionally painful. Sometimes it is helpful to break the day down into smaller, more manageable parts: an hour at a time. I have known patients who read an inspirational passage every hour just to find strength, hope, and direction for the next moments.

I have also known patients who avoid responsibilities by misinterpreting the meaning of a day at a time. Some will defend their unemployment or lack of a high school diploma by saying that they are living life a day at a time. Therefore, they cannot establish goals for the future. However, goal achievement makes life rewarding. We cannot live productively unless we plan for the future. Giving no thought to the years ahead leaves life open to aimlessness.

In early recovery, each day without consumption of alcohol or drugs is an accomplishment. But as sobriety progresses and as knowledge of recovery is gained, life takes on different proportions. Sobriety remains the priority, but it extends itself to other benefits which many non-addicted people can take for granted: family and financial stability, and enjoyment of personal interests.

It is like learning to play music. Nobody (except the genius) plays an entire piece of music perfectly the first time. It has to be broken down. The notes are plunked out individually and then played in phrases or groups. The difficult parts are practiced over and over until mastered. Finally, the entire song can be played with fluidity.

Goal achievement proceeds in a similar manner. Each hour spent studying for a G.E.D. exam, each hour on a job interview, or each hour cleaning the house eventually produces a result. Life goals can be achieved an hour at a time. Hours turn into days, and days into months and years. Time passes. We can live in denial, or we can reach a destination.

Manageable parts and practice are educational concepts. Ideally, children are taught new material and skills in small quantities. Then, with practice and support, they can progress to more advanced and independent study and creativity. The A.A. slogan is open to the same expansion.

Living life deliberately also enables us to appreciate goodness. There are simple pleasures which will escape us if we do not seize the moment. Living each hour is both an attitude and an action which we can take to procure meaning and happiness. (Written 12/18/06: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland