one day at the time meaning

What Does the Saying One Day at a Time Mean?

“Recovery is built one day at a time, one moment at a time, one event at a time, one relationship at a time – just like every brick and stone and that Great Wall. Successful recovery is not built without a plan. The Great Wall is seen from space; recovery by the world.”

~Dr. Michael J. De Vito, DC, DACACD, Board-Certified Addictionologist and author of Addiction: the Master Keys to Recovery

For many people in Colorado who are hoping to overcome a substance abuse disorder, the initial period of sobriety during early recovery is fraught with uncertainty and anxiety.

  • Am I going to be able to stay sober this time?
  • What’s going to happen next?
  • Does it get better or easier?

These questions can be most effectively answered by contemplating a phrase that is at the core of recovery programs based upon the famous “12 Step Principles”– One Day at a Time.

12 step basis

One Day at a Time Means Focusing on What You Can Control

Suffering from a substance abuse disorder meeting that you have lost control of when and how much you drink and/or use drugs. When an addiction spirals completely out of control, it also means that the rest of your life has become just as unmanageable –

  • Relationship problems
  • Difficulties at work
  • Legal issues
  • Health concerns
  • Mental problems

life out of control

When an addiction takes over, every aspect of your life is affected, and the problems caused by drug and alcohol abuse do not “magically” go away the day you decide to get clean and sober. Just as it took time for your addiction to develop, will take time to get your life back in order, make amends, and let wounds heal.

change does not happen overnight

In the meantime, you cannot control how anyone else is going to react – not your loved ones, your employer, or the Court, and if there are any associated health concerns, you will have to deal with them the best you can.

However, in each instance, you can give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome by staying sober today. Any problems that you may be facing will only get worse if you slip or relapse. You can CONTROL how YOU react to things.

victories in recovery

One Day at a Time Means Counting the Little Victories

Early recovery can be physically uncomfortable because of lingering withdrawal symptoms and mentally draining because problems still exist.  Because new, healthier habits and ways of thinking are not yet developed, staying sober can be a continual struggle.

Worse, they may dwell upon the fact that they have to feel this way and struggle this way EVERY DAY for the rest of their lives and feel completely overwhelmed, not up to the task at all. “Forever” is just too hard for them to comprehend.

In their still-fragile state, they may not realize that it gets better.

When you think “one day at a time”, you get to count every day clean and sober as a blessed victory. When you’re struggling with the disease of addiction, every day spent without drinking or using is a triumph – a tangible sign of successful recovery that you can build upon.

And, when you manage to get through a difficult day, you prove to yourself that you are capable of doing it AGAIN.

recovery words

One Day at a Time Means Staying within Yourself

Overconfidence can be the enemy of recovery. Whenever you are so sure that you have your addiction beat this time – once and for all –and you let down your guard, that’s when you’re blindsided by an unexpected temptation.

In recovery, you learned that absolutes – words like “always” or “never” – should be avoided, because it is the height of unhealthy arrogance to act as if you have been cured of your disease. There is no cure for addiction.

It’s much safer to think in more manageable, measurable terms. “Forever” is too vague a concept, and as such, impossible to achieve. There is no real way that you can forecast every situation or how you will react to it.

one day at the time

However, you can probably safely wrap your mind around the concept of “just for today”. When life comes at you in unexpected ways, remember that you can break any problem down into more manageable terms –

  • Just for today, you will call your sponsor if you feel tempted.
  • Just for today, you will go to an extra support meeting.
  • Just for today, you will focus upon how far you have come, not how far you have to go.

When you take “one day at a time”, you only have to worry about staying sober TODAY. When you string together enough “todays”, “forever” ends up taking care of itself.

AspenRidge Recovery is the premier addiction treatment center in Colorado, helping you learn from yesterday so you can live a better life of sobriety, serenity, and sanity today. To assist you on your journey of recovery, AspenRidge uses established protocols based upon the 12 Step principles, as well as the latest evidence-based treatment methods.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with drugs or alcohol, call the intake line at AspenRidge Recovery today, to speak to someone about your options.

Full Infographic:

What does the Saying one Day at a Time Mean


2018-11-16T18:09:08+00:00March 18th, 2016|2 Comments


  1. Ruth Leitzen August 1, 2018 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Love it it helps me alot with my recovery

    • AspenRidge Recovery August 16, 2018 at 3:06 am - Reply

      We are glad this article resonated with you. Thank you for leaving your comment.

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