Live For Today

For this week I have chosen the safe coping strategy:

Focus on now. Do what you can to make today better; don’t get overwhelmed by the past or future.

As an addict, it’s effortless to let yourself get overwhelmed with guilt and shame about the past. It’s like a constant current running through us, it never goes away. But, we must learn to let go of some of those feelings, make amends, and move on. To be proud of the sober individuals we have become. The past cannot be relived and cannot be changed, and it’s best to let it go and start anew.

It is also very easy to be overwhelmed with thoughts about the future. I tend to think (more like worry) about the future. It’s something in AA they call “future-tripping.” There’s a lot of stuff to worry about when it comes to the future. We don’t know what will happen, and the unknown is very scary for most people. As an addict, you wonder, will I relapse? Will I ever be really cured? Will I be tempted? Will I be put in unsafe situations? Will I have to let go of friendships to stay safe?

But there’s a lot more going on in our lives for us to worry about too. Will I ever find a mate/will my mate ever leave me? Will I have children/am I doing a good job of raising my children? Should I change careers? Should we buy/sell a home? What if I get sick or hurt? What if my partner gets sick or hurt? When will my parents die? When will I die?

These are big heavy issues that weigh upon us, and take our minds out of the present. It’s important to remember that we have no control over the future. We cannot mold and shape it into what we want it to be, it simply happens to us. There are no guarantees we will even wake up tomorrow morning, so worrying about what will happen is pointless.

The only thing we need to concern ourselves with is here, now, today. This day, this hour, this moment. Focus on what’s important right now. Focus on the things we can control right now. Focus on making the right decisions now that will help give us the kind of future we want.

Keep putting one foot in front of the other, both literally and figuratively. Choose sobriety for today. Choose to set realistic goals for today. Be the kind of person you’d like to be today. And at the end of the day, celebrate yourself and your accomplishments.

Don’t get upset if you catch yourself mulling over the past or worrying about the future. None of us can really escape this, these are normal human thoughts. But, just remind yourself in those moments of the importance of living for the moment, and that you can’t do a thing right now about the past or future. It will help comfort you to know that you only need to take care of the immediate things in your life, the things that need your attention right now.

Keep making the right choices today for the path you want to go down, and tomorrow will be beautiful and bright.

Living For Today

The concept of “living in the now”, “living in the present” or “living for today” was a constant theme in my early AA meetings, in my rehab program and in life in general. I kept hearing this phrase come at me, like a broken record. I wanted to live for today, it seemed so simple, and people who I thought had really grasped it seemed so serene.

But, try as I might, it was still a foreign concept for me. I’m terrible with regret. Well, not regret exactly, but I look back at certain moments from my past and think about what I could have done differently. Even though that’s totally useless. I do it all the time anyway.

I also do what they refer to in AA as “future tripping.” Where I get so caught up in what’s going to happen tomorrow, a week from now, a year from now, five years from now, that I totally forget to enjoy the moment I’m in.

So, I tried and I tried and I tried to live for today. To be present. To enjoy every moment. But because of my anxiety and worrying, I couldn’t. And then I was anxious and worried about that.

I still have a lot of trouble with this, but I did read something recently that helped me understand the whole thing a lot better, and gave me something to repeat to myself when I find that I can’t concentrate on the moment at hand.

I have an app on my phone from Hazelden that provides me with daily little snippets of advice and encouragement for addicts like me. A few weeks ago, it started with a quote.

“Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.”

                                                                                                          –Francis Bacon

The paragraphs following reminded me that, “This day is all we really have to work with.” Again, something I had heard time and again, and mostly understood as a concept. But it was the quote that helped me figure out how to put it into practice. How to start being the kind of person that truly lives for today.

At the end of the meditation, the action item was, “May my supper be my contentment. I’ll breakfast on hope again tomorrow.” It was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Start the day off thinking of your hopes and goals for the day, and end the day content with what you had accomplished.

I was caught up in a cycle of starting my day worried about what would happen in the distant future, and ending my day irritated with myself for all the things I hadn’t accomplished. How can a person ever hope to live in the present if they are constantly bombarding themselves with worries about the past and the future?

And the idea of having hope at the beginning of the day is such an amazing concept to me. Today is the only thing we really have. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. It’s just today. And in the morning when you first open your eyes, and you realize you’ve been allowed another day here on Earth, that’s when you should have your hopes. When the day is new and fresh and wide open.

But the other part of this equation is key too. The idea that when your day draws to a close, that you will feel contentment. Accomplishment. Serenity. Don’t focus on what you did not do. Or what you are worried about needing to do the next day. Instead think of all that was accomplished on that day. Because we all accomplish at least one thing every day, chances are you accomplished a great number of things. And no accomplishment is too small to be proud of.

Living for today can be easier than you thought, and will certainly benefit your sobriety, healing and recovery.