According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the word “reprieve” means:
1: to delay the punishment of (as a condemned prisoner)
2: to give relief or deliverance to for a time
“One day at a time” and “I don’t have to drink today” are popular sayings in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous (pg, 85) says “We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.
Both dictionary definitions of reprieve can be applied to the alcoholic. When an alcoholic is actively drinking, he is the same as a condemned prisoner–condemned to a life of jails, institutions, or even death. When the alcoholic finally gets into recovery and learns that he doesn’t have to drink today, he is given a reprieve. The punishment to his body, to his self-esteem, and to his loved ones is delayed as long as the alcoholic stays sober. The recovering alcoholic is given relief or deliverance to for a time from the effects of his alcoholism.
Notice that the Big Book of AA places a contingency on the daily reprieve. For the recovering alcoholic to get a daily reprieve, he must first maintain his spiritual condition on a daily basis. This means that he must communicate with his Higher Power, or God, on a daily basis and ask for help to stay sober that day. The alcoholic must then allow his actions to be led by God and not indulge his self will.
As the daily reprieves add up, the recovering alcoholic will notice his mind becoming clearer, his health improving, his relationships getting better, and his self-esteem increasing. He will learn how to live life on life’s terms without alcohol–one day at a time.