My Problem with “One Day at a Time”

by Bill Brenner on January 13, 2015

“One day at a time? You wouldn’t believe the crap that swirls around my head one day at a time.”–Anonymous

Recovering addicts have a saying burned into their brains: “one day at a time.” It’s important wisdom to live by. But when the recovering addict has OCD, there’s a big problem.

Mood music:

In the world of 12-step recovery programs, the idea of “one day at a time” is not to be overwhelmed. Instead of trying to get your arms around everything necessary for recovery inside of a week or a month or a year, we subscribe to the idea of just focusing on what we have to do today. Doing this a day at a time makes the clean-up tasks seem a lot less overwhelming.

It’s a good way to be in all aspects of life. Plan for the future, but stay focused in the present.

The problem with an OCD case is that the disorder forces you to do nothing but stew over the future. You look at the next week or the next month and relentlessly play out the potential outcomes.

The first time someone told me to take it a day at a time, my instinct was to punch him in the face. I had a business trip three weeks away to worry about. I had a medical test scheduled for the following month and had all kinds of potentially grim outcomes to worry about.

That’s how guys like me roll.

Still, I decided to give “one day at a time” a chance. I even took a class of mindfulness-based stress reduction to that end.

I learned that it absolutely is the best way to go about life. When I’m able to focus on the present, I’m happy and successful.

But I’ve also learned that it’s hard as hell to pull off. My OCD often reasserts itself and I dive back into long-term worries, which lead to present-day failures.

The whole concept fell to ashes this past autumn as I slipped into one of the deeper depressions I’ve had in a long time. The depression has lifted significantly, but I remain scattered.

This past weekend I was so all over the place that my lapse from mindfulness became too big to overlook, and I find myself looking for ways to get it back. I feel like Bill the Cat from the “Bloom County” comic strip: flopping about and yelling “Ack!”

I played guitar both weekend days, which helped. More daily walks would help, too. It might also do me a world of good to go to confession sometime this month. Emptying the trash that builds up in the soul is a good way to move on.

In a perfect world, I would probably do well to take a refresher course in mindfulness. But this isn’t a perfect world, and there’s no time or money for such an endeavor.

Somewhere in my house is the packet of papers I collected during the mindfulness course. I plan to tear the place apart until I find it.

Stay tuned.

Bill the Cat

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth Anne West January 13, 2015 at 8:48 am

This fall/winter, also my worst depression in a long time..suggestion vs tearing house apart for mindful meditation notes, just Google…faster, just as good..I wish you lived in Keene, NH…we have a group, pay by donation, no one turned away for lack of funds….center has grown & done well for 10+ yrs !!
You’re invited by me, if you do want to come…really..let me know & I can does have a website & FB page,,Monadnock Mindfulness Practice Center….check it out &/ or be in touch with me..

Brett Rhyne April 10, 2016 at 10:02 am

Bill, this is why a meditation practice is useful. It’s practice for staying in the moment, it fits into your schedule, and it’s free!

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