If you are facing in the right direction, all you need to do is keep on walking. — Buddha

Nearly 23 years ago, I made a commitment to live as a non-drinker. It’s definitely been one of the better decisions I’ve made. And wisely, I was encouraged not to approach it as a “once and for all time” thing. Instead, the saying in recovery is famously, “one day at a time.” For today, I decide things in ways that align with my values and support my goals. Rinse and repeat. Keeping it as simple as the quote from above attributed to the Buddha, I just need to “keep on walking.”

I know that I have the freedom to choose anything in any direction at any moment. The daily repetition of choosing my Self first, that which sustains me long-term, has deepened my commitment and improved my life “one day at a time” more than all the rigid beliefs, resolutions and solid proclamations from the past. I learned so much in recovery about committing to self-care, nurturing healthy behaviors, focusing on balance in the present moment and reaching out for support as needed. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by all the change, it was instead simplified as activity in support of the one change that had the greatest impact for me, abstaining from alcohol.

I wasn’t someone who got drunk. I never liked to lose control or deal with a hangover. But I could drink enough to numb my feelings rather than grow from them. Or make bad choices with money or relationships. And as alcohol is a systemic depressant, I felt down or depressed after drinking. I’m also somewhat health conscious, so I didn’t like the empty calories or the toxic effects to my liver, etc. With the decision to be a non-drinker, I made commitments to other strategies for relaxing, feeling more courageous, or whatever I was using alcohol for.

I learned about cross-addiction too, as it’s common for one bad habit to be replaced by another. By understanding it in terms of obsession and compulsion, it was easier to see commonalities across substances and/or behaviors. So, for example, if I was obsessing on a thought or feeling that I felt compelled to avoid or intensify, rather than engaging in a substance or behavior to achieve that end, I would instead use tools to sit and work with it or turn it over. Failure to do so would inevitably lead to more obsession and/or compulsion until some “acting out” with a behavior or substance. If I didn’t address root causes, I may stop drinking, just to overeat, for example, or smoke, engage in love or sex addiction or perhaps gamble, work or shop compulsively.

This idea was very intriguing to me and I applied it as broadly as possible. Which not only helped me discover more about my motives related to my choices, but brought me a lot of growth and balance by challenging myself to increase awareness and choose affirming, supportive actions. Making that decision has reinforced and supported my commitment to growth and health in all areas and had a huge positive impact on me and the lives touched by mine.