"My name is Frank and I’m a recovering thinker." That's how I've taken to introduce myself to strangers. 

Truth is, the longer I’ve been sober I’ve come to discover that my addiction is all about the thinking not the drinking and it was my faulty thinking that brought me to my drinking.

This is also reinforced by members of our Sunday night group called Zen and Recovery. Since we went on to zoom due to the pandemic our members come from all over the globe: America, England, Europe, India, Africa and many other spots beside. We have one thing in common: we are all on the path of recovery, one day at a time and sometimes one breath at a time.

Through our discussion and inquiry we explore our obsession with drink. We’ve discovered the phenomenology of craving and how alcohol triggers that phenomenology.

This is where AA is right when they say it’s the first drink that gets you drunk. So the trick is to stay away from one drink for one day at a time. Easier said than done, people say, but whenever we get a programme in our lives it gives us a defence from that first drink.

We have also discovered through our mindfulness practice that mindfulness breaks addiction in our thinking to the point where I usually introduce myself to others as I introduced myself at the start of this column.

One of the topics in our group that we discuss is do one thing at a time.

The practice is simple: pay attention to the thing you’re doing while you’re doing it.
To help you build this practice into a habit, we recommend using a simple strategy called, Notice - Shift - Rewire, that we have developed in our program of living.

Notice: The key is to first Notice when you’re caught in the state of busyness and for me my busyness is not looking after my own business. I become easily distracted by others' business which has nothing to do with me.

Shift: The next step is to Shift gears and bring your attention back to the present moment by focusing on the task at hand.

Rewire: The final step is to Rewire, savouring the experience of being fully engaged in what you’re doing.

Like formal mindfulness practice, the only way to experience the full benefits of this practice is by building it into a regular habit. We now know through our good friends in neuroscience that our brain fires and rewires.

So here are some tips:
1.      Create a cue — having a cue, or trigger, is essential in building new habits. To build some momentum early in the day, Notice brushing your teeth as your cue. When you pick up your toothbrush each day, notice your surroundings. Then Shift by bringing your full attention to the sights, sounds, and sensations of brushing your teeth. Finally, Rewire by savoring this experience for just 15 to 30 seconds.

2.      Use labels to ground yourself in the task at hand — Once you’ve initiated the habit using brushing your teeth or some other habitual experience, it can be helpful to use mental labeling to keep your mind grounded in the moment. When you reach for the towel, you might think “towel.” When you go to the sink, “hand washing.” This can be a helpful way of interrupting mind wandering and staying grounded in the task at hand.

3.      Carve out “stimulus-free” moments — Listening to podcasts, news, audiobooks, and other piecemeal bits of multimedia can distract us from the task at hand. If you notice that your day is full of stimulation — that you rarely, if ever, give yourself space to breathe and just “be” — it can be helpful to carve out moments to unplug from your devices and savour some silence.

4.      Slow down — Speed and busyness go hand-in-hand. When possible, see if you can Notice your pace accelerating. Then Shift by slightly adjusting your pace — Instead of rushing as you walk, let yourself enjoy the stroll.

Through this simple practice we create a new healthy habit out of this one-thing-at-a-time mindfulness practice. You will begin to notice a shift in your experience of busyness. Your day may still include the same long list of to-dos, but your mind will experience more space and calm that leads to relaxation. Remember that old 80’s song by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, 'Relax Don’t Do It.'