A Day at a Time They Said

I heard this at my first meeting of AA, and I’ll bet that I’ve heard it at every meeting since. 5,226 meetings by my count, but who’s counting. My initial thought was cool. That I can do. But. Yes, but. I found it difficult and I still do. My sense of living my life a day at a time seemed the perfect validation allowing me to continue to procrastinate at will.

With time, my connection to living life a day at a time evolved as I began to return to my roots in meditation and mindfulness. Even meditation and mindfulness practices proved hard to maintain living in the present. I wanted to become a better meditator all at once. A commitment to meditate for 10 minutes, only 10 minidress, in the morning to avoid overcommitting, overwhelming myself, lasted for a couple of days before I doubled and tripled the duration and frequency of meditation until I was overwhelmed and gave up. Daily meditation became zero meditation.

My first several months of sobriety felt completely overwhelming. Life. Expectations. Urgency. I was desperate to fix my marriage; to repair my relationship with my children; to rescue my career; to feel better without medication (I still take a very useful antidepressant FYI). These things could not wait.

 I’ve since learned the urgency that I felt (and often still do) is mostly self-generated and self-imposed. My meditation began to focus on being aware. Becoming curious about myself. Not trying to change myself or others. Just getting to know me and letting others be who they were. As a beloved meditation teacher and former therapist reminded me, ‘a goal of meditation is to come back to my life as it is with energy, effort, and compassion, rather than to escape my life as it is because it’s too messy, too difficult, too painful, too _____ .’

I no longer focus on living a day at a time. Heretical for sure. Rather than parroting pithy sayings and slogans that I do appreciate and aspire to; I focus on being present with intention to live without harming myself or others. Learning to live with presence has helped me learn to be present, maybe even to live life a day at time.


A day at a time THEY said
Well duh pretty obvious said I
And thus my journey began
But though a day at a time
Makes much sense
It is oft quite hard to do
The little moments of life
Ticks and tocks of a clock
Never quite in sync
With the beats of my heart
Nor the breaths of
My rising and falling chest
I live lifetimes sometimes
After I wake and before
My feet find the floor
I forget to breathe
As I rush ahead
Depriving my body
Of the very thing it needs
I oft arrive before I leave
And I leave before I arrive
My head and feet
Rarely in the same area code
On the same date
Lost in thoughts
Surrounded by noise
A day at a time THEY said


I sink into The Infinite Now
A place of refuge where
Shame of Yesterdays
Fear of Tomorrows
Dissolve with ease


Bound to The Eternity of When
A prison of no escape
A past without possible resolution
And a future that always looms
Here helplessness remains


There is a place I know
It’s more of a time rather
Than an actual place
A moment between
Then and when
The space between
This and that
A space so thin
Life dissolves
Here I eternally abide
Though briefly it may be

About the Author

Robert B. is a sober alcoholic in Madison, WI participating in AA and AlAnon at Fitchburg Serenity Club. He has been sober since April 21, 2007. He also began writing and sharing poetry on Facebook during his first year sober as part of his recovery from alcohol dependency, acute anxiety and chronic depression. He has found that creativity expressed primarily through writing poetry and playing various stringed instruments helped him heal and thrive.

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Pat Nagle
Pat Nagle
2 years ago

Well put, Robert. We know there’s only Now, but it’s so easy to relapse into Time Addiction. Maybe it’s that incongruity that makes us laugh so much.

Reid B.
Reid B.
2 years ago

Right, live a day at a time. Nobody clears up the wreckage of their past in a day. It takes a long time to re-establish trust in relationships torn apart by alcoholism. I know a person who told me through an intermediary that she doesn’t want to have any contact with me. She shut the door on a 9th Step amends before I had even put her on my 8th Step list. Wreckage. Just two days ago I met a retired executive and Vietnam Veteran outside an AA meeting. He told me that his VA doctor said that he “hates… Read more »