One day at a time.
That’s all we have really. Tops. And we should make the most of it.
Almost 40 years ago, my first sponsor in Boulder, Colorado told me, among other things, to try to relax and take life a day at a time. At first, I didn’t appreciate the wisdom contained in the short phrase, “one day at a time,” and wrote it off as meaningless.
To my regret as it turned out. After my first 90 days in AA, I had a “slip” and lost a week of my life in a blackout after downing a quart of Jim Beam and God knows what else.
I never did find out what happened during that week. My car was found at a tennis club parking lot. Thankfully, there were no reports of a crime committed during my lost week and in the following years none emerged.
“One day at a time,” became my mantra. And I chose it for the non-profit company I formed nearly 15 years ago to try to help people suffering from addictions recover from alcoholism and other drug abuses.
It may surprise some “earth people” (those people who have the good sense to avoid abusing alcohol and other drugs) that there are thousands of slogans which are available to those who seek inspiration and support for those struggling with addiction problems and for those who have to live with an addict. Just Google, “AA slogans.”
Don Gold and his sponsor
Don Gold, an old friend and fellow member of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in Little Rock who moved away a decade ago, wrote a book which includes thousands of slogans.
Sponsorship of newcomers to the AA program by those with some years in recovery is vital, and Don picked a great one.
“At the end of my drinking,” Don wrote in an article in AA’s Grapevine publication, “the bottom I hit was both terrifying and dramatic. The accumulated wreckage of twenty-seven years of alcoholic drinking and all the “isms” that come with it looked insurmountable and hopeless.
“I had been hospitalized, detoxed, and placed in a treatment program that had brought me to our program. While AA made no demands on me, the treatment facility did, telling me I had to get a sponsor.”
“Deer Camp” beckons
“Being an alcoholic, Don continued, “the first thing I did was complicate the situation. My sponsor would have to be perfect in every way. After a long period of frustrated searching, I related my dilemma to an AA acquaintance. He suggested the men’s ‘deer camp’ AA group that had been meeting continuously for over thirty years.
“Charlie was an old-timer—seventeen years sober when we began working the program together. He sponsored me the way he’d been sponsored. Shortly after we began, he asked if I’d be willing to garden with him. I certainly wasn’t enthusiastic, but I had said I’d go to any lengths, so I agreed.
“And so, this sober old man and I began a vegetable garden. Charlie liked to tell his friends that we were ‘farming’ together. He showed me everything about how you plan, build, prepare, and plant a garden. We cleared and dug and tilled and raked. It was hard work, but we did it at Charlie’s pace, and it felt good. I got my hands dirty.
“As we began to put in rows of plants, Charlie got down on his knees in our newly tilled earth and indicated for me to follow him. There, on my knees in the dirt next to this gentle old man, he looked at me with a wry smile and said, ‘As long as we’re down here, let’s say the Serenity Prayer.’ We said it together, and that was the first time I’d ever prayed on my knees.
“Vegetable gardens need a lot of daily care. Charlie said it was necessary to pull weeds and water the plants early each morning, and at day’s end when they had stood up to the blistering sun, another watering for the night’s rest and recovery. So I showed up at our garden every morning just after sunup, and Charlie would already be there waiting for me. As we worked together in the cool morning air, I’d ramble on and on about my expectations for the coming day while he listened patiently.
“When I finally wound down, Charlie would allow me to choose only one, or at most two actions for that day, and disregard the rest. These were my “marching orders,” and I would return to the garden at sundown to describe how all of it had gone. Occasionally, he’d make a comment, but mostly he let me come to my own realizations as he gently steered the course.”
Into the Sunlight of the spirit
“For days and months we did this together, as I slowly came into the sunlight of the spirit and the AA design for living. From our vegetable garden, we launched into the 12 Steps.
“Seven years passed this way, and one morning as I answered the phones at our Central Office the way Charlie had taught me; he called and asked me to come see him. It was two days before Thanksgiving when he looked at me and said, ‘Don, I’ve got cancer, and it’s terminal.’
“For six months as Charlie grew weaker, he faced each day as a gift with a grateful attitude. He never spoke of himself, only of the program and the newcomer. Finally one Saturday, he asked me to meet him in his garden. He wanted me to move a few plants around for him.
“The next day was Sunday, and they took him to the hospital in the afternoon. I got to see him Monday morning, and he was almost gone, but he said my name and he held my hand. Later that morning, my sponsor passed away.
“I’ll always know that Charlie called me back to the garden one last time to make sure I’d remember the lessons we learned there together and to pass them on to others. And to remind me that this sober life of ours is a miraculous gift, to be lived to the fullest one day at a time. And when it’s over, to go with quiet dignity, grateful to have trudged the road of happy destiny.”
Here are ten slogans to give readers a sample of the thousands of words of wisdom available to readers who want to change their lives. Here are 10, among many, which helped me.
- Hitting bottom is when conditions in your life get worse faster than you can lower your standards.
- We need to remember that untreated people don’t know what they don’t know.
- You are not going to be able to make it alone anymore.
- There are no solutions to imaginary problems.
- Rigorous honesty is the absolute absence of the intention to deceive.
- What we really want is some comfort in our lives.
- Seems to me the most comfort we can find is by helping other people.
- This program is not rational.It’s spiritual.
- Humility. If you think you’ve got it, you just lost it.
- I was convinced that I was better than all the people who were stepping over me
Sobriety became for me a narrowing of the gap between my values and my actions and a recognition that it wasn’t what I drank that made me what I was. It was, rather, what I was that made me drink.