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One Day at a Time
Comment from an AA member "Don C."
Matthew 6:34 is where this AA slogan came from. In fact, literally all of the 12 Steps came from the Bible. That's where Bill and Bob found them. "So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." Bill and Bob and the first more than 100 recovered alcoholics were all over the Bible. Focused largely on the wisdom found in the book of James, 1 Corinthians and the Sermon on the Mount, early AA's daily devotions weren't about some generic god of their own understanding. No, daily morning devotions were straight from the Bible, Scripture rich and deep in God's wisdom, not diluted by Man's opinion. Early AA was so much more wildly successful than today's AA for many reasons, all identifiable. Thank God that He is leading his flock back to still waters and green pastures to discover what AA's founders and early members found which truly set them free!
God's Word has been guiding people to live one day at a time for thousands of years before AA adopted the slogan. Matthew 6:34 is an invaluable tool which helps facilitate keeping us focused on today, and not on yesterday or tomorrow. The problem with focusing on anything before or beyond the moment is this: Worrying about yesterday's mistakes, and the fear of discovery which comes with doing the wrong thing (acting out in our character defects) comes with a huge emotional load. Fear can be overwhelming, nagging at least, tugging our attention away from the very place where our lives are taking place - in the moment! Anxiety about, or even putting our attention on tomorrow, likewise comes with an emotional toll which drains our emotional facilities. With our emotions tapped by yesterday and tomorrow, we have lost access to much of our emotional arsenal. With one foot in yesterday and one foot in tomorrow (yes, I'm going to say it! LOL) we tend to pee all over today! That is because with our emotional resources tapped by tomorrow's concern and thoughts of yesterday, we likely may not have the emotional resources left to deal with what comes up today. The result is overwhelm, which alcoholics are very familiar with.
Another problem with focusing on yesterday and tomorrow rather than commmuning with God in the moment is that yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery. That is, neither place really exists. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow isn't promised. Neither exists in the moment, where we find God. So in order to spend time in either yesterday or tomorrow, because those places don't even exist, we have to climb into our heads and use our imaginations. That's correct: both yesterday and tomorrow are in fantasyland. They are a dreamworld and in order to spend time there we must abandon our very lives, and make a conscious choice to get into our heads and daydream. Yesterday and tomorrow are both imaginary. Perhaps now you can see why alcholics and drug addicts are always so deluded and act like mental cases. It's because they ARE! They are choosing to go play in their imaginary world rather than seeking to improve their conscious contact with God in the real world. One cannot commune with God (another term for prayer) and be in their head at the same time. It's literally impossible.
In order "to improve our conscious contact with God" we have to let yesterday and tomorrow go. We need to stop spending our time trying to recreate what is gone (yesterday) and stop conjuring up what doesn't yet exist (tomorrow), learning to "Let go and let God" take care of that which is His. Yesterday and tomorrow belong to Him. While we are busy, lost in a dreamworld inside of our heads, our lives are clicking off, one moment at a time. We, however, are not there to experience our life when we are lost in our heads, imagining what tomorrow might bring or contemplating what might come as a result of yesterday's activity (fear). Click-click-click...each moment of our life continues to click off while no one is home because they're busy vacationing in tomorrow or yesterday.
Another major drawback about living in the past or imagining the future: We don't find God in either place. Oh, He's there, but we're not really there. He can be in all places at once, transending even time. We, however, are not so empowered. There is only one place that we might "find Him now". That place is right here, right now, in the moment. One cannot be in conscious contact with God and be lost in yesterday or tomorrow at the same time.
So who cares about any of this? Those who believe that God has plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and that He knows the plans He has for you. " For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope." That is a promise which secular AA ignores, yet that is one of the prime motivators of AA's founders which drove them to get and stay sober in the first place. They knew that God had plans for them which didn't include getting drunk every day, abandoning their families literally or emotionally, domestic violence, child abuse or neglect, selfishness in the extreme. Bill and Bob read Jeremian 29:11. They knew God had plans for them. They knew that the only way that they could learn of His plans for them was to seek Him with all their heart, to practice Step 11 on a regular basis ("Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God"), and to get out of their heads and get into the moment, where we commune with God and hear (on a good day) His still, small voice which leads all of us down the narrow path in the plans that He has for each one of us. The truth is that we don't hear His still, small voice when we're lost in tomorrow or yesterday. It's not that His voice isn't there. It's that we're really not there. We're only imagining being in tomorrow or yesterday, and so we've temporarily lost touch with reality, and are no longer in the moment. Remember, we can't be in the moment and be in tomorrow (or yesterday) at the same time.
Getting an alcoholic out of his or her head is a major step toward real sobriety. Starting them out by abandoning themselves to this day, not the last or the next day, is a great beginning. Ultimately, however, as they learn to pray and meditate and when interested in what the Big Book calls "the proper use of our will", which is to seek His will FOR us, they will experience what the moment feels like. They will only really comprehend the peace which surpasses all understanding when they've abandoned yesterday and tomorrow and have nothing on their plate except for the moment. No one gets overwhelmed by the moment. No one gets overwhelmed in the moment unless they've been away, visiting tomorrow or yesterday in their head.
Want a scary thought? Take a moment and reflect on how much of your life has been spent in the dreamworld of your head, pondering yesterday's events and imagining what tomorrow might bring. How often have you been in that dreamworld? I confess that I had an epiphany one day many years ago, early in my recovery, when I realized that most of my life had been spent pondering this or that, thinking about things like what you really meant or what you'll do if I say this or that. I went cold that day, when I realized how much of my life had clicked by without me being in it, lost in a dreamworld, the imaginary place where the last moment and the next moment take place. Click-click-click - I realized that much of my life had passed by without me being there. Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with the desire not to let that happen again, to learn to stay in the moment so that I could experience my life, really experience what my life had for me each moment. And what do you know? There was only one way I could accomplish that. I had to ask God to help me learn to stay in the moment. Left to my own devices it was impossible for me to change my thinking, but God could and would if He were sought. And so I sought Him with all of my heart and all of my soul and all of my strength...and He has never let me down, even for a single moment.
Look to this day
This very life of life
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence
The bliss of growth
The splendor of action
the glory of power
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today, well lived
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day.