ONE MINUTE AT A TIME
… a testament to where small steps can lead.
I was in my mid-thirties when I attended my first Al-Anon meeting. Having just ended a second 8-year on an off again relationship with an alcoholic I needed support. Al-Anon helped me face and work through issues of co-dependency and taught me about self-care and detachment. I recited the serenity prayer often and at night fell asleep to the mantra. It was in Al-Anon where I learned the concept of living life one day at a time and to stay in the moment. It wasn’t easy, but I’d learned all on my own that projecting can drive you crazy especially if most of what you see in front of you is chaotic or negative. Learning to take life a day at a time was a necessity to regain a sense of normalcy and sanity.
The relationship itself and ending it took a toll, and I decided to double up on night classes in pursuit of my college degree. I signed up for 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. for four nights. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were class instruction. Thursday was a science lab. Friday was my night out, time to myself from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. with friends and acquaintances at a pub near my home. Saturday and Sunday school work and housework. Time with my son if he stopped by. Then, the schedule started again on Monday.
The beginning of the semester was challenging enough, but by the end the grueling pace took its toll. Added to the pace was the fact that I was dealing with or in truth trying not to deal with that ended relationship took its inevitable emotional toll. I woke one particular morning in the middle of the semester and felt a deep depression something I had not experienced in years.
"Oh god, this isn't a relapse, is it?" I thought. "Am I going to start to go through that again?"
All I wanted to do was to stay in bed and forget about the world. I wanted to pull the covers up over my head and just hide from it all.
"I can’t." I thought. "I have a lot to do."
"I don’t want this depression to win."
"I want to get through this."
"But I can’t."
I went back to bed.
"OK." I think to myself.
"I can’t take this day a day at a time. I can’t even take this day an hour at a time."
The prospect was too much. I felt like I was going to burst into tears at the least provocation. In truth, I was already crying. How was I going to handle a whole day?
"OK, a minute at a time."
"What do I have to do this very minute if I am to get on with the day?"
"I have to get into the shower, shower and wash my hair."
So, I did. Then, I went back to bed.
"I don’t want to do this. I can’t do this. I have to do this. OK What’s next?”
What is the very next thing I have to do if I want to get up? I have to get my make up on."
I did. Careful not to put mascara on the bottom lashes because it was probably going to be wiped off with the crying.
I went back to bed and pulled the covers up over my head.
"OK, what is the next thing I need to do?"
I need to feed the dog.
I did that.
I headed off to work.
I was in tears as I drove down the highway to my place of employment. I couldn’t control the fear and emotion. The tears kept coming. The feelings reminded me of years past when I went through that awful bout of depression. Could I be heading toward another? As I drove down 495, I told myself repeatedly, “You can turn around and go home at any time." I’d reach an exit ramp and decide to keep going because I could turn around and go home at any time.
I’m coming up to the exit I need to take for work.
"OK if you want to turn around and go home, you can. Just get off the exit and get back on. If you want to go home anytime during the day, you can. Make that decision any time you want."
These allowances helped ease the anxiety and helped me as I attempted to get through the day.
I made it to the end of the workday. In a fog, yes, but I made it.
Now, I had a night class.
I was so depressed. “I can’t do this,” I thought. But I showed up.
I sat in the back of the room sure that the professor knew there was something wrong because I always sat in the front with keen attention. This night, I was in the back with my head down all class. I figured, at least I was there and that maybe something would sink in.
10:00 p.m. Class is over.
I walk down the hall heading straight for the door.
I just want to go home and go to bed, where I’ve wanted to be all day.
I walked through the door and out of the building.
A brisk cool breeze hit my face.
It was the most refreshing feeling I had ever felt. Enlightening.
I looked up at the sky clear and stars shinning.
I made it.
I felt euphoric.
The depression didn't win that day.
It didn’t take my whole day. It dampened it.
I never want to forget the feeling of that evening.
A minute at a time.
If that's what it takes, a minute at a time.
A minute a time is a testament to where small steps can lead.