How effective is the “just for today philosophy” that you hear toted about in various 12 step programs? Is it worth exploring as a system of thinking, and can it really be beneficial? Or could it even screw you up and stop you from making effective plans in some cases? Let’s take a look.
Why a just for today philosophy is even needed
As addicts and alcoholics, we have a tendency to over do things in life. This includes just about everything, in fact. We tend to get overly excited, we extrapolate into the future, we count our chickens before they hatch, and so on. Most of us are used to flying a million miles an hour in our minds, and constantly racing to get to that next big thing in our lives.
This is a mistake. In early recovery, the key is to slow down.
But why do we need to slow down? Why not race ahead and learn as much about recovery as quickly as possible? Can we not recover quickly, all at once, so to speak?
The fact is that we cannot recover overnight. The learning process of recovery takes time. Sure, you can try to rush through it, but you are going to miss the experience and the life lessons that come along with the journey.
When I first got introduced to recovery, I thought it was an academic exercise. They had books to read. They gave me a big book and said that I had to work these steps. I figured I could work the 12 steps and be done with my recovery. I figured I could read the material and answer some questions and I would be done with it all. I figured there was a test at the end, just like there was in school, and that if I got at least a B or an A minus then I would stay clean and sober forever. Yes, this is the mentality that I had when I was first introduced to addiction recovery.
I was always good at books, education, writing, and studying. Give me the materials and let me study it, I thought. ”Let me learn this and get this over with.”
That was my attitude. Let me learn it and then move on with my life.
Can you guess how well that worked out for me? I was nowhere near surrendering to my disease, I was nowhere near ready to stop using drugs and alcohol, and I was nowhere near the level of humility that was needed to properly learn a new way to live clean and sober. I left rehab, promptly relapsed, and continued to drink and use drugs for many more years.
So the “just for today” idea is all about slowing down enough to actually get this thing called recovery. I was so eager to be done with my recovery that I was living in the future, trying to skip the lessons that would show me how to actually live clean and sober.
Later on, after much more pain and misery and chaos from using drugs and alcohol, I finally surrendered for real this time. And when I did, I had no problem staying “in the day.” I was wiped out, done in, completely destroyed. And so I listened, and was now willing to learn. I was now teachable because I could stay in the moment instead of getting ahead of myself. And this is how the philosophy is supposed to work. If you cannot stay in the present in your early recovery then you are going to miss the critical lessons.
Stay in today. It works.