While getting through the first 72 hours is important to overcome the physiological grip of nicotine, getting through the first 24 hours is overcoming a great psychological hurdle. For before a person quits, he or she often thinks a whole day without smoking is going to be an impossible task. He or she often feels that some crisis or ritual is going necessitate smoking. But when the first day is successfully overcome, the ex-smoker to be has proven to him or herself that a day is really possible. By getting out of bed, brushing teeth, combing hair, preparing and eating meals, talking on the phone, logging into a computer, seeing friends, some who even smoke, driving the car, going to work, doing all the projects that happen in a typical day at their place of employment, coming home, cleaning, washing dishes, paying bills, watching television and the countless other tasks that the person does day in and day out, all without a cigarette proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is possible to live without smoking. That is not to say that the person is enjoying it, just that these activities can be done without a cigarette.
Once realizing the day, and more important, the multitude of individual events of the day were surmountable without a cigarette, the next day is basically just a repeat. That day may be physically easier or harder. Physical withdrawal runs its own independent course. But psychologically the ex-smoker has the advantage of knowing that these little hurdles that seemed impossible are in fact, quite possible to accomplish. Again, this is not saying these events are fun without smoking yet, but they are possible.
The other advantage of the second day is the ex-smoker now has a personal investment of time, effort, and even some pain. One puff is now seen as a loss of effort. A first day a relapse can be viewed as no big loss, after all he or she was a smoker when he or she woke up that day, so he or she is just one again at the end of the day. Sure the desire was not to smoke anymore, but that desire may have been in existence for years on a daily basis. So again, this can be written off as no big deal or defeat. Another smoking day in a life filled with smoking days.
When you have a day under your belt though, now you realize something is different. You have made a personal commitment that is undeniable now. After all, you went a day without smoking. You in a more real sense realize that you have something to lose now if you take a puff. A puff now is basically a relapse because you did have a quit going. Again, this gives you a little bit of an edge now. While quitting smoking, you want every little bit of edge you can get.
So don't worry about tomorrow, or next week or next year for that fact. Focus on another day. If that still seems too big, then focus on another hour or even another minute. But focus on what you are trying to accomplish here. You are quitting smoking. You are freeing yourself from another drug addiction. You are improving your health, quality of life, and your length of life. When I made the comment above that a first day relapse can be interpreted as no big loss, this was not actually a true statement. For while the smoker may have rationalized it that way, the fact is it was another day of smoking. Another day of constantly assaulting your body with thousands of chemicals and poisons, increasing your risk of developing a multitude of horrifying diseases. Every day of smoking is a major tragedy in the making.
Everyday you quit is then in contrast a major victory. Tonight you can celebrate the thrill of victory as opposed to the agony of defeat. Then you will be able to do the same tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. All days will be glorious accomplishments as long as you remember to never take another puff!