The “one day at a time” philosophy is taught at 12-Step meetings as a reminder to commit to staying sober each day. Because it is known that there is no cure for alcoholism, the best that can be done is achieving sobriety for the next 24 hours. A new brain imaging study done by Yale shows why this philosophy for those recovering from alcoholism is successful.

What Happened in the Study

Imaging scans of those with alcohol use disorder taken from one day to two weeks after their last drink revealed disruptions of activity between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and striatum, which affects decision-making. The more recent the last drink, the higher the chances were that heavy drinking would resume and ruin their recovery. Research also found that the severity of the disruption between the two brain regions decreases, the longer that person stays away from alcohol. When people suffer from alcoholism, it can take longer for the brain to go back to normal, which is why you can only hope for one day at a time. 

This study was also able to tell who was most at risk for relapse and how important it was to go into early treatment as soon as possible. It was also proven that it is possible to develop medications to help those with the greatest brain disruptions as a result of their alcoholism. For example, high blood pressure medication might have the potential to treat these brain disruptions and improve the chances of long-term abstinence. 

The Importance of Dealing with “One Day at a Time” in Recovery

It can be an overwhelming concept to tell someone who still thinks about alcohol that they need to give it up forever. By telling them to just make daily goals to abstain, it relieves them of all the pressure to be perfect at recovery. It makes more sense to deal with today’s challenges and leave tomorrow for the next day. Staying focused on the present is a great way to have a successful recovery. Just because you are living one day at a time does not mean you should ignore the future. It is still important to hope that years down the line, you will continue your sobriety. Having a successful future in recovery means always focusing on having a successful today, with more future days to come.


Living in the moment each day can be a struggle. You cannot picture a future without alcohol, because it has been a part of your life for so long. The truth is that it is never too late to fix your life. The key is to focus on the present moment and not about what is to come, since no one can predict that. We all have the potential for a bright future. That is why Alta Loma’s transformative treatment center is here to teach you just how to do that. We understand how challenging it can be to take your mind off the future. With personalized plans and mindfulness exercises provided for you, you can have a successful recovery from alcoholism. We can provide you with individualized therapy, 12-Step programs, therapeutic recreational activities, life and coping skills education, and much more. Please give us a call at (866) 457-3843 today.