One Day at a Time—AA Slogan
In the weeks and months to come, I will be writing about addiction, but not just about what it is or ways to stop it. That part is important, obviously, but it is also elementary. Although each addict must take life one day at a time, it is equally imperative for every alcoholic to realize this: There is more to life than living not to drink.
If you simply exist from one day to the next with no higher aspiration than making it through the day without drinking, then your problem is greater than alcoholism. An expectation such as this creates a very low bar for fulfillment. Life has much more to offer, and God doesn’t want you to miss out on all of the richness awaiting you. To think of grinding out your days—just doing your best to stay sober—eventually becomes negative and self-defeating.
At the beginning of sobriety, when the physical craving for alcohol is still a major issue, taking things one day at a time is all a recovering person can do. That’s a given, and it is absolutely necessary. During this phase, frequently all an alcoholic can do is take things an hour at a time—perhaps even less than that. When this time passes though, and it does, so should the limitations of an alcoholic’s expectations. Unfortunately, for many this never happens.
They become stuck in their alcoholic mindset and continue to live day-to-day, never moving beyond their original problem. Consequently, they limit their worldview and their vision for the future.
Believing they have little to offer, based on their past behavior and experiences, many in recovery continue to believe their potential for achievement remains low, but this isn’t true. It is exactly the opposite. Unconsciously, alcoholics allow their past failures to continue to define them. Although it doesn’t need to be this way, and shouldn’t be, it does.
In recovery, our aspirations need to be much higher than living not to drink. We simply cannot allow our past transgressions to define who we will be for the rest of our lives. This simple truth should be obvious, but recovering alcoholics miss it routinely. Weighed down by shame and guilt, they never free themselves from the bondage alcoholism has placed on them. For them, being an alcoholic becomes a permanent limitation, rather than a significant but temporary setback.
Although alcoholics can never drink again—not under any circumstances—this is their only limitation. Nevertheless, because of the shame of this one handicap, they put a lifetime burden on themselves, carrying it around like Jacob Marley carried his chains. This is completely unnecessary, and it is certainly not God’s will.
Most people are ashamed to admit they are alcoholics. This is why the word “anonymous” is part of the name, but there’s an unintended consequence that comes from this. The stigma of admitting openly that one is an alcoholic continues to shame people for years after they become sober—sometimes decades. They think that remaining in the shadows is a good idea, but it isn’t. What it does is solidify their problem and make it a lifelong issue—one from which they never fully recover.
I realized the enormity of this problem when I wrote my memoir, Hi, My Name Is Jack, which is the story of my family and of my recovery. Essentially, it’s a massive fourth step, but it was much more than this for me. When Simon & Schuster published the book, it was my open, public admission that I was an alcoholic. There were those who thought I was wrong to have even written it, but I published it anyway. Although it was difficult, it freed me from my past like nothing else ever has, including counseling and thousands of AA meetings.
I didn’t realize this would happen, but it did. Perhaps this resonates in your heart. If so, then join me in the following prayer, as we continue on this journey of recovery:
Having wasted so much of my life pursuing folly,
At the core of my being I have felt so ashamed—
So unworthy of Your love or of the love of others.
I believe You have forgiven my transgressions.
You have said so in Your Word, but this doesn’t
Seem real to me—not after what I have done.
I know that I have allowed my past failures
To cloud my thinking and my judgment,
But I’m tired of living like this—
Of spinning my wheels, getting nowhere.
I don’t want to live like this any more; I can’t.
Since Your forgiveness has freed me
From the debilitating guilt of my past,
I want to accept what You have done for me—
Without reservation—once and for all.
I want to be free—to be able to enjoy
The abundant life You desire for me to live.
To make this real, I ask that You
Forgive me, for I have fallen short
Of being the person You intend for me to be.
I accept Your forgiveness, which I do not deserve,
But which You have generously provided.
Since You have expunged all of my misconduct
For eternity, so will I. Thank You for freeing me
From my past, allowing me to walk into the future
Unencumbered by my painful, debilitating memories.
Thank You for restoring me to wholeness,
So that I can become the person You want me to be.
Out of gratitude, I will make myself available
To help others who have strayed
And wandered far from the path of Truth,
All the days of the afflicted are bad,
But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.