One day at a time is an awfully powerful concept. For us compulsive eaters, it means that we can only behave abstinently today, in this 24 hours. The past is done, tomorrow isn’t here yet. Which further means that we don’t need to worry about our abstinence in any moment but this one. And with our Higher Power’s help, we don’t worry, we just do.
But as we work this program of spiritual action, we come to find out that one day at a time works in every aspect of our lives. For example, if we have 100 pounds to lose, it won’t come off in one day, so today all we can do is eat abstinently and let the weight fall away in its due course. We may have fear of financial insecurity. But that next paycheck isn’t coming for two weeks, so if we can’t pay our bills until then, we ask God how to manage what we have today. Illness in our family? We can’t spend our time worrying about if someone will get better tomorrow when they need us today.
We must stay centered on today. Today, today, today!
Many of us worry about tomorrow because we’re afraid it will look like yesterday. We’re afraid of a rerun of prior events, so we skip right over today and project the past into the future. When we do this, we’re forgetting that our Higher Power is available to us, not only for soothing our fears but also for giving us strength and courage to do differently than we have before.
In some spiritual traditions, we are told explicitly that everything is always in motion, forever changing…sometimes rapidly, sometimes imperceptibly. In ourselves, we sometimes don’t see this. When we are out there eating, we might confuse hopelessness with unchangingness. In fact, we are changing into increasingly sick people. Our disease is always getting worse, never better. This is the progressive nature of our disease.
But when we enter the halls of OA, our hopelessness is eased and then removed. We see amazing personal transformations that show us how the steps and a relationship with a Higher Power upend our well worn idea that we can’t change toward the positive. Of course we can, but because of our disease, we can only do it with help from our fellows and the God of our understanding. This is where the idea of constant change, one day at a time, becomes our friendly companion. We progress each day that we practice the OA program, and when we understand this more fully, we get more and more hope. And eventually that hope itself changes into certainty. A certainty that there is a solution and that it works when we work it.
Sometimes we see the idea of one day at a time play out in less spiritual places in our world. For example, how many times do we hear a ballplayer say something like, “I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and stay focused on today’s game.” We especially hear this when they are asked about whether their team will make the playoffs or what they think about their own hot or cold streak. Keeping focus on what’s important (today, doing the work that needs done to stay on top, letting go of what’s outside our control) are the hallmarks of smart athletes and of strong OA programs.
This idea even plays out in popular culture. A certain famous, small green space person once said two things that resonate with the idea of one day at a time:
- “The future always in motion is.”
- “All his life he looked away…to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was…. What he was doing.”
While these are certainly not OA approved literature, they point out again that the world out there is also aware that we human beings have a tendency to forget that we change, others change, everything changes. That what we see one way this Saturday, we may see differently the next. That our enemy today may be our friend next month. That as we look toward the future in eagerness or fear, we forget ourselves and our Higher Powers now and become susceptible to the temptations that wreck us today because we’re trying to bring about happiness or avoid sorrow that may never come.
Maybe this all sounds a tad philosophical, but isn’t it actually life-and-death for us compulsive eaters? When we are eating our brains out, are we eating because something is happening to us RIGHT NOW? Of course not. We are eating because something happened a moment ago, a day ago, a lifetime ago. Or because we worry about something happening tomorrow, the next day, or the next decade from now. In this moment, the only trouble is with our thinking. And one day at a time, we’re working on that with the help of OA’s fellowship and steps and the Higher Power we are coming to know.