Freedom from Nicotine - The Journey Home


Chapter 5: Packing for the Journey Home

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Pack Patience: One Day at a Time

Derived from the French word "pati," which means to suffer or endure, patience is the "quality of being patient in suffering."[140] Ironically, nicotine users suffer from the fact that stimulation of dopamine pathways by use of an external chemical fosters impulsiveness,[141] the opposite of patience.

Yes, the speed with which we were each able to satisfy wanting via a new supply of nicotine conditioned us to develop varying degrees of impatience. As you embark upon this temporary journey of re-adjustment, practice developing patience as an aid to navigating both recovery and challenge.

One Day at a Time: today versus forever

How will you measure victory? "One day at a time" allows us to declare total victory within 24 hours, while focusing on tomorrow's concerns once tomorrow arrives. It encourages abandonment of all victory standards that fail to permit celebration today.

"One day at a time," "baby steps," and "one hour" or "one challenge at a time" (when first starting out) are patience focus techniques that break large tasks down into entirely manageable events.

As Joel notes "this concept is taught by almost all programs which are devoted to dealing with substance abuse or emotional conflict of any kind. The reason that it is so often quoted is that it is universally applicable to almost any traumatic situation."[142]

Think about the needless anxiety and delayed satisfaction experienced by the mindset which felt that victory could only occur if they stopped using for the rest of their lives. Forget about tomorrow. Truth is, any worry or concern about tomorrow is wasted emotion unless we succeed today.

Many fail at breaking free because they convince themselves that the mountain is simply too big to climb. Still, it doesn't stop them from trying. Every few years they take a few steps up it, stop, and decide that it's still too big.

"Big bite" anxieties occur when we perceive that the task before us is bigger than our ability to navigate or endure it. "One day at a time" is a patience development skill that once mastered causes "big bite" anxieties to evaporate.

When cliff climbing, it's wise to focus on gaining a solid hold upon the rock beneath our hands, not looking up ahead at the remaining mountain to be climbed. It's wise to focus on where we'll next place our foot, not repeatedly looking down at the ground far below. Why intentionally foster needless anxieties?

How many times have we said, "This time I'm stopping forever!" "Forever" is an awfully big psychological bite that can make any task appear larger than life, or all but impossible.

For example, picture yourself sitting down at the dinner table and having to eat 67 pounds of beef. Imagine the anxieties associated with thinking we need to eat a large portion of a cow. It sort of destroys the image of a nice juicy steak, doesn't it? Yet the average American consumes 67 pounds of beef annually.[143]

I start each seminar with the same two questions. "I need an honest show of hands. How many of you deeply and honestly believe that you'll never, ever smoke another cigarette for the rest of your life?" Rarely will a hand go up.

I then ask everyone to look around and to never forget what he or she is seeing. I want them to realize that they're not alone. Next I ask, "How many of you deeply and honestly believe that you can go one hour without smoking nicotine?" Without exception, every hand goes up.

Why adopt a recovery philosophy that we are convinced cannot and will not succeed, when we already have a building block in which we deeply believe? Just one hour or challenge at a time, allow the hours to build into a day.

How does a person recover from a broken bone or nicotine addiction? By allowing time to heal, just "one day at a time."

If we insist on seeing and measuring victory only in terms of "stopping forever," then on which day do we allow ourselves to celebrate? Why wait until dead to celebrate? Who is coming to that party? Instead, consider adopting a recovery philosophy that celebrates every day that we remain free and healing.

And try not to see this recovery as being in competition with prior attempts. Although I've remained 100 percent nicotine-free since May 15, 1999, if we both remain 100 percent free today, your day's worth of freedom will have been no longer, shorter or less real than mine. We'll also remain equals in being just one hit of nicotine away from relapse. And when our head hits our pillow tonight we'll both have achieved full and complete victory today.

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140. Patience. (n.d.). Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved July 27, 2008, from website.
141. van Gaalen MM, et al, Critical involvement of dopaminergic neurotransmission in impulsive decision making, Biological Psychiatry, July 2006, Volume 1;60(1), Pages 66-73.
142. Spitzer, J, Take it One Day at a Time,, Joel's Library, 1985.
143. Davis CG et al, Factors Affecting U.S. Beef Consumption, USDA, October 2005, Outlook Report No. LDPM13502.

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Page created July 6, 2015 and last updated July 6, 2015 by John R. Polito