I don’t like clichés. They are for lazy people incapable of original thought. If all you have to say is what other people have said, just don’t talk. We’ll struggle to get by in life and in meetings without your input. We’ll make a list of sayings and number them. You can just say “My name is Numbnuts, I’m an Alcoholic. Number’s 33 and 74. Thanks for letting me share.” We’ll know you meant “HALT! Don’t get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired” and “Meeting Makers Make it!” and we’ll quickly move on to someone who has a higher Signal-to-Noise ratio.
The most meaningful cliché in the rooms is “One Day at a Time”, but I don’t think it means the same to me as it does to most of you. Most of you say it means “just don’t drink today“. If that’s all you get out of it — and A.A. — I think you’re cheating yourselves. A.A. stopped being about Alcohol — and started being about a Design for Living — when I worked the steps. If it’s just about not drinking for 24 hours, let’s replace “One Day at a Time” with “Perseverance”. We’ve saved 4 words, been more succinct, invoked a Spiritual Principal, and shut you up quicker all at the same time. “Perseverance” includes most of “Do the Next Right Thing”, too. It’s a good deal.
For me “One Day at a Time” means that having worked the steps I need to carry forward the lessons I learned to create a new way of life for myself. The 4th step made me take a look at my Fears and my Resentments. In the process I learned that Fears are me spending Today looking at the worst possible Tomorrow. Resentments are me spending Today looking at the worst of Yesterday. In essence I have wasted a lot of Todays thinking about Tomorrow and Yesterday.
On page 86 of the Big Book, in the 11th step, it tells me “When we retire at night, we review our day. Were we resentful, … or afraid? ” It’s common to hear people refer to doing their 10th step “When we retire at night”, but that direction is for the 11th step, therefore designed to bring us closer to God. We’re supposed to do the 10th step throughout the day.
Isn’t that a little more fulfilling than “just don’t drink today”?
It can be taken further, though. Let’s make the 4th step better.
Any time I talk about “improving” A.A. people get furious. “Who are you to improve this God-given program?” they ask me. I took the question to heart. I have prayed and meditated on the subject. “Why am I driven to improve that which is already good. Is it Ego? Is it Pride? Is it a selfless desire to change Good to Great? Is it my eternal optimism that Mankind can not merely Endeavor to Persevere but actually Prevail over his shortcomings?”. After thinking about it long and hard, I have come up with an answer for my detractors:
“Kiss my Ass.”
I saw two signs in meeting rooms within a week of each other. You may have seen them, too, but if you weren’t open to improving things (and God is nothing more than the reversal of Entropy) you didn’t notice them. The first was in an A.A. room and said:
Resentment: Me remembering that I didn’t get my way Yesterday
Anger: Me not getting my way Today
Fear: Me thinking that I won’t get my way Tomorrow
The second was a pamphlet in an N.A. room entitled: “Fear, Anger, Resentment: The Triangle of Self-Obsession”
You won’t hear me say too many positive things about N.A. You know what you call someone with 6 months Clean in N.A.? A “Grand-Sponsor”!
But I keep my mind as open as I can in the hopes of improving. An Anger inventory should most certainly be part of the 4th step. I don’t Resent the traffic of Yesterday, and I don’t Fear the traffic of Tomorrow, yet traffic Today — right now — makes me Angry. Another way that I waste today and cut myself off from the “Sunlight of the Spirit”.
Maybe we should also make lists of ways we exhibit Faith, Acceptance and Forgiveness to combat Fear, Anger and Resentment. Nature abhors a vacuum. You can’t just get rid of something, you have to replace it with something else.
So that’s what “One Day at a Time” means to me. That today I should practice Faith, Acceptance and Forgiveness where I used to practice Fear, Anger and Resentment. If I do it well enough I will have made good use of the day and been of maximum service to God and my fellow-man. Tomorrow I’ll look back at Today and be pleased with myself and my life.
Isn’t that the secret to a happy life, one day at a time?