Living One Day at a Time: Why the 24-Hour Rule Is Crucial for Sobriety

The “one day at a time” mantra is used frequently in recovery. And I have to be honest — I couldn’t stand the saying for many, many years. It made me think of the TV show “One Day at a Time” and its incredibly catchy and annoying theme song, which would then stay lodged in my head for hours.

I also felt insulted by the advice because I thought it belittled my problems and minimized the importance of planning ahead, which is something I value because it helps me feel productive and manage my anxiety.

But once I actually tried the technique in earnest, making a concerted effort to stay in the day and not think too far ahead about my sobriety, I was amazed by how effective it was. And it’s helped keep me grounded through many other challenging moments in my life, including getting laid off and caring for my elderly mother. What’s more, studies even show that it works.

So if you roll your eyes every time someone tells you to take it “one day at a time,” I get it. But I also encourage you to give it a real college try. Here are some of the reasons why I find the 24-hour rule to be so beneficial.

It Makes Sobriety Feel Less Overwhelming

For someone with a substance use disorder, the thought of giving up alcohol or drugs for the rest of their lives can be an overwhelming and seemingly unattainable prospect. Staying sober for just 24 hours, on the other hand, may feel like a much more manageable task. Over time, those days add up to weeks, then months, then years of continuous sobriety.

Taking it one day at a time also gives you the opportunity to consciously recommit to your recovery every single day. This can be especially helpful when life gets challenging and you’re forced to deal with disappointing setbacks such as relapse.

It Makes Tough Tasks Seem More Manageable

In addition to making abstinence feel doable, following the 24-hour rule can help ease the weight of everyday life stressors. Personally, one of the main reasons I drank was to calm the many anxieties I had over unforeseeable events in the future. (What do I do if I mess up that big presentation next month? How am I going to get X, Y, and Z done by next week?)

Now, rather than waste energy worrying unnecessarily about things that may or may not happen, I focus only on the problems I have to deal with today. Tomorrow’s issues can be handled tomorrow — it’s not like they’re going anywhere. Even the biggest life challenges feel much more manageable when I tackle them one day at a time.

It Encourages Mindfulness

When you live with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, it’s impossible to enjoy the present. This can create uncomfortable feelings that trigger the temptation to drink or use. Utilizing the one-day-at-a-time technique can help mitigate this discomfort, as it requires us to only be concerned with the current 24 hours at hand. It’s much easier to ground yourself and stay sober when you’re living mindfully in the present, rather than wistfully in the past or fearful of the future.

How do you feel about the saying “one day at a time”? Does it work for you?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *