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
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.
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.
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
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