I received this comment about change on an article that I wrote about getting through post-acute withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs:
I am 3 days clean, and after reading this. I feel totally hopeless and want to go blow my brains out. Exercising, eating healthy, none of that is me and will never happen. I give the fuck up.
Here was my response:
Recovery is about changing many things, but it doesn’t have to happen all at once. That’s why we say, “One day at a time.” When you decide to really change your life, things will get better.
In the meantime, good luck and best wishes.
So many of us felt that way when we looked too far ahead during those first few days and weeks! They say around the rooms that “recovery is simple; all you have to change is everything.” The prospect of making changes in our lives can seem so daunting that folks who aren’t yet committed to recovery often find it a great excuse to go back out and drink or use other drugs. Change is scary, but it doesn’t need to be terrifying.
As I wrote to the young woman, in recovery we say “One Day At A Time.” Thinking about all the details of any major project can be alarming, especially for us addicts. We’re accustomed to thinking no farther ahead than the next drink, or the next meet-up with the guy down on the corner. Ask us to consider big changes early on, and many of us are just not emotionally able to handle the prospect.
All I have to do is stay clean and sober today. If I can do that, I can make some plans. I can go to a meeting this evening. Between now and then I can get a little laundry done, buy some groceries, and call another recovering person. (Oh yeah, maybe I’d better take a shower, too.) After the meeting, maybe someone will want to go for coffee. Then I’ll come home, thankful for one more day, and crawl into bed. Tomorrow will be another day.
Obviously, we do have to make some long-term plans, and when the time is right we can do that. But worrying about the details of our future is a good way to (and a good excuse for) deciding we’d be better off doing what we used to do. At least we know how to do that. All too well.
The secret is to make little changes. It gets us used to change and gives us practice. As long as we stay clean and sober and work our program, one day at a time, the bigger changes will happen — often without our even noticing.