I decided to write this because this wonderful concept, one-day-at-a-time, which has helped myself and so many others deal with drinking, smoking, over-eating, and so many simply unpleasant situations, is widely misunderstood.
To many it is no more than mental trickery, a dynamic. We are kidding ourselves, really, aren't we? After all, we may say one-day-at-a-time but we really know it means forever, right? We can't indulge again.
I am henceforth going to use the acronym ODAAT in this story.
I want to show people how to put a bit of power into this often easily tossed around saying.
The most basic understanding of ODAAT goes something like this: For one day (or one minute, hour, etc) no matter what happens, no matter how much I crave it, I will not smoke. This is good and it has worked for thousands but you can take the idea a little deeper.
I remember sitting in the lunch room at work. It was my 3rd day off the cigarettes and I had the cravings really bad. (I must add that I knew how to use the concept of ODAAT from my years previously of sitting in AA meetings. It helped me put down the drink)
The smokers, having eaten, were filing out for a fix. I told myself I would join them in 10 minutes.
Here is the important part: I did not say, "Just hang on, chew your pencil for 10 minutes, stand on one foot . . ."
No, what I did was to adopt the attitude that it was only for now that I wasn't smoking. I was going to smoke in 10 minutes but until then I wouldn't feel deprived because in 10 minutes I would be smoking.
Yes, it was quite ok for me to smoke; I was simply delaying it.
When the 10 minutes were up I added 10 more. But not until the 10 minutes were over. I was doing 10 minutes at a time, not 20.
Now, this is important. Although you are giving yourself permission to smoke once the allotted period is over you must not make plans to do it. No getting the ashtray out of the cupboard, putting the kettle on so your favourite coffee is ready to go.
Just as you keep your cravings in the present you don't give your addiction any special privileges.
Before long it was time to return to work and I had made it through the lunch break without smoking. Later that evening I had to take it one minute at a time, always reminding myself that in one minute I could smoke.
Even on a day when I would typically smoke heavily, out with friends, drinking, having eaten a good meal, I could go one minute without a smoke.
It is important to keep ones head in the present. I have given myself permission to smoke in 10 minutes or an hour or a day and in the meantime my thoughts must remain in the present when I am not smoking. This means no romancing the cigarette. No picturing it in the ashtray next to the glass of red . . . no daydreaming about it at all. This is very hard in the early days when it seems like all you can think of is the next smoke.
When you find your self talk saying things like, "I can't see how I am ever going to enjoy life again. The pub will be boring. What will I do on poker night," you are not keeping it in the day, minute, hour. You are projecting.
The truth is we don't really have any idea of the future. I remember when my father died; if I projected my behaviour I would see my need for nicotine as being very high at such a time. When it came down to it I hardly even thought of smoking for fairly long periods. My mind was on other things. It wasn't until I had a quiet moment to myself that the craving really hit me.
But if you ask me to think ahead and imagine my tobacco needs I would have seen myself chain smoking. It turned out it wasn't the case.
Another pitfall is good luck. Huh? If you win the lottery or get a nice pay rise it will seem harmless to light up, almost a good thing. AA members talk about good fortune as being more dangerous than bad. So for ODAAT, no matter how deliriously happy we get, we don't smoke. (Winning Lotto is a challenge I have not had to deal with but I am willing to give it a try)
What does it mean to quit smoking one-day-at-a-time? There may be times when the best you can do is white knuckle it and not smoke for the given period. There will also be times when the phrase can mean so much more. For many folk this is a whole philosophy of life. Keep tomorrow's worries for tomorrow. I can put up with almost anything for one day.
There is one certainty if you don't keep it in today: If you smoke today, tomorrow you will wish you hadn't.
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