Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 28th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A core concept in the program is "living one day at a time." But how does that square with goals for the future? Do we just drift through life without any plans, happily living sober one day at a time?

When I first got sober this concept troubled me somewhat. I learned as a child that I needed to plan for the future. And until alcohol and drugs interfered and derailed my life, that's what I did. So when I got sober, this is one of the things I had to work my way through.

For me, these many years later, one day at a time means that I make my plans but that I still live in the moment. This may sound like being at cross purposes. But in reality it is not. In my mind, I'm able to separate these two seemingly conflicting concepts.

I apply "one day at a time" to the areas of my life that involve strong emotions like fear, resentment, anger or insecurity. For example, if I get worried about the future it's nice to realize that I don't have to do anything today. If I'm living one day at a time those powerful emotions don't have to drive me crazy and back to a drink or a drug.

For me, the kinds of things that I need to make plans about beyond today are such things as investments, education, or decisions about where I choose to live in retirement if I decide to do that.

The concept of “one day at a time” gives me a powerful tool for staying sober when I'm in the grip of powerful emotions.