“One day at a time”

Main piece: “One day at a time”

Context: The informant (WB) is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Orem, Utah when he was 17 four years ago to receive addiction and mental health treatment. He ended up falling in love with the state and staying. WB’s father had Irish lineage and his mother was a first generation immigrant from Germany. Although he was raised Christian, he does not consider himself religious. Our conversation took place in our shared hotel room while smoking together on a family ski trip in Utah. The “one day at a time” saying is often used in addiction treatment, especially Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to deal with the concept of sobriety. Many addicts don’t want to think about staying sober for the rest of their lives, as that prospect seems dull and overwhelming, especially in early sobriety. However, if you want to use but tell yourself to just stay sober only for the next 24 hours, there’s a possibility you’ll get to use again afterwards. By the time 24 hours rolls around, it’s much easier to resist the temptation to use, either because you’re distracted from why you wanted to in the first place or you just decide it’s not worth it. “Eventually, you’ll look down and realize you have a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years clean.” WB has always remembered this saying because it truly works, and it has been what’s kept him sober for the past 6 months.

Personal thoughts: The practice of mindfulness is a big part of mental health and addiction treatment. Often in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), patients are given many different grounding techniques to help stay present in the current moment or day and not catastrophize the future, exemplified by the above saying. Personally, I first learned about the power of mindfulness in group therapy, but that in of itself is troubling. Mindfulness skills should be promoted and taught to everyone, not just those seeking mental health treatment. Sure, “one day at a time” as a proverb exists beyond therapeutic applications and is thrown around occasionally, but how often does the average working American actually buy into that idea? Many of us are hyper-focused on planning our next move in life, whether that be college applications, career developments or potential new relationships, and that is partially because our society’s definition of “success” requires such forward thinking. However, unless we break free of this mindset, we will never truly be satisfied, as we will always just crave the next big thing. What will it take to break people out of this cycle? Will everyone need to live in the wilderness for months on end against their will to finally internalize “one day at a time”?