One day at a time. I say it often. I believe it. I trust it. But, just like a casual “I love you,” saying and writing “one day at a time” has simply become habit for me, a hashtag that definitely has meaning but isn’t necessarily meant every time it is used.
I always mean it. Truly, I do. But, yesterday I renewed my faith in its meaning.
It was my kiddos’ third first day of school with a sober mom. The previous two have been huge triggers for me. Why? Because I’m not good with emotions. And, the first day of school comes with all the feels. Even when you think it won’t. Every year. And, once the kids have boarded their buses, the first day of school for this mom is usually a first day back to work after at least a week of white knuckling it via iPhone and iPad while school supply shopping, playing at the town pool, catching movies, and enjoying lunches out with my babes.
But, yesterday was different. And, not in a good way. I’ve been in “fake it ’til you make it” mode with work for the past three weeks — with one or both kids unoccupied by camp programs — and there are far more items on my to-do list than any human can possibly accomplish in the first seven-and-a-half hours of a school year.
And, that is what I used to drink to escape. My mommy emotions overwhelmed me practically to the point of paralysis and I tackled every low priority task lacking enough urgency to earn a spot on the global to-do list. Nevertheless, they were all important. I promise. I was productive. Really. (I’m convinced. Are you?)
By 1:30 in the afternoon (six hours after the last kiddo departed), there was a giant fly buzzing around my office and driving me bat shit crazy. I decided to walk away for a bit and run some errands. As I cruised down the road, it all hit me at once.
“Oh my gosh,” I said out loud to no one. “This is what I used to do when I was drinking.” Work all morning. Get enough done to feel like I accomplished something. Anything. And, then go buy the booze I would drink for the rest of the day. A perk of self employment for sure.
And, again, I wonder whether my drinking would have gotten so bad if I had been employed by someone else and required to show up for a 9-5 gig every day. And, again, I tell myself that it would have. Because there’s no way I’m going to saddle my business with the blame for my addiction. Freaking enabler.
I wasn’t about to stop at the liquor store. Not a chance. But I sure did think about why I used to. Because there were feelings I didn’t want to deal with. Or work I couldn’t motivate, or even force, myself to focus on.
Both kids at brand new schools. My 12-year-old on a bus with high schoolers. My 10-year-old switching teachers for different subjects for the first time. My excitement about the rebirth of the structured time of year I crave all summer and an energy so infectious I can’t help but thrive.
But, I wasn’t thriving. I couldn’t harness the energy. Heck, I failed just trying to find it. And, then the lightbulb appeared. Today is just one day. I haven’t had this much time to myself in weeks. “Feel it, breathe it,” I told myself. “You don’t need to conquer the world on the first day of school,” I reminded myself. “One day at a time,” I said out loud. And, then I repeated the words.
As I randomly crossed non-essential errands off my to-do list, I looked up to see a store I’d been meaning to check out for weeks. I had just enough time to pop in. As I stepped through the door, there it was: the Mantra Band display. I’ve been eyeing those bracelets on Instagram forever.
I stood frozen, grinning from ear to ear as I stared at the options: Warrior, Breathe, All I Need Is Within Me, Everything Happens For A Reason, My Story Isn’t Over Yet. All great choices. All meaningful. Impossible to pick just one. But my eyes kept returning to One Day At A Time. At first, I fought the urge. “It’s so cliche,” I told myself. “You need something more.”
Wait. What? There isn’t anything more. One day at a time is all I need. I’ve said it before. It’s where I find myself. My power. My inspiration. My courage.
I grabbed the box and made a beeline for the register. The bracelet was on my wrist before I even got back to my car.
Hello, Universe! We’re have you been? You have no idea how happy I am to see you. Welcome back. And, thank you.
Also published on Medium.