I got a note a couple of years ago asking me about something I’ve been wrestling with ever since I became a born-again Christian 37 years ago. It was a fair question but I didn’t have a good answer for it at the time. The note said…
“You appear to have a very great love for Jesus and God and I’m wondering just how you as a smoker, and your opinions on that, gel with Christians being the Temples of the Holy Spirit.”
My smoking habit has been an issue since I first gave my life to God. Within a few months of being born again I was told that if I continued to smoke I was rejecting God. You can read about that in the entry titled “Messages From God“. At that time I believed God was telling me I didn’t have to deal with the issue right away but I always knew it was not OK to smoke. I never questioned the idea that a loving God would be against anything that harmed His loved ones. I always assumed He would help me stop “one day” when all the other things I needed to change about myself and my life had been changed.
I have actually counselled people who were addicted to drugs or alcohol and I know the key to overcoming any addiction, to changing any kind of behaviour, is motivation. Change is hard and we can only do it if we have a strong enough reason.
I have an endless supply of good reasons to quit smoking. To please God, to save money, to get rid of my smokers cough, to breathe easier, to be rid of the smell, to be rid of the mess of cigarette ash and butts, to be able to go to hospital without the stress of not being able to smoke and now the latest one – to avoid triggering cancer again!
Any one of those reasons should have provided me with motivation enough to quit let alone having all of them lined up and pushing me in that direction but they have never been enough.
On Mother’s Day 2009 I broke my ankle and needed surgery to put it back together using a plate and nine screws. Doctors refused to operate until the swelling had gone down which required complete bed rest with elevation of the limb to aid drainage. For three days I was confined to the hospital bed and not allowed to smoke. After 12 hours I started crying and didn’t stop until they put a nicotine patch on me the next morning. The second I was allowed out of bed I made straight for the smokers area and lit up despite feeling I didn’t really NEED a smoke any more.
In 2013 I went to Thailand with my son and suffered over nine hours in the plane without a smoke and, again, this year I went without a smoke for over six hours on a plane ride to Samoa. Over time I discovered I don’t NEED as many smokes as I am in the habit of smoking but it still didn’t stop me.
God himself has leaned on me over the last few years, gently but firmly pressuring me to quit, letting me know it is time but something stood in my way and I didn’t know what it was. I had no idea why I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, let this filthy habit go but the idea I was going to have to let it go sooner or later took root.
Just before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer I was actually moving towards giving up. I had a prescription for medication to help me quit and I was messing around with an electronic cigarette in hopes of being able to use that to help me quit.
When I got the news I had cancer I had the exact opposite reaction to what you would expect. Instead of throwing away the smokes to try and save my life I decided it was too late and I completely lost interest in quitting.
On Sunday morning it all changed.
I woke up with the strong conviction God was asking me not to have my first smoke for the day. This wasn’t the first time that had happened but it was the first time I listened and I tried to obey. I lasted 12 hours before “rewarding” my effort with a smoke. During that 12 hours I tried to hear what God was saying.
“You always knew the time would come when you would have to quit and that time has come. That time is right now. Today.”
“I don’t understand”, I asked Him, “why now? What has changed?”
“Your beliefs have changed.” He answered me. “You used to honestly believe you could not quit – not even to save your soul but now you know that belief is not true. You quit for three days when you were forced to in hospital. You quit for the plane rides. You know you CAN quit if you CHOOSE to quit and now you know your smoking IS a choice I am asking you to choose ME.”
For twelve hours I did choose God but then the tears came along with the sense of being forced to do something against my will which is a feeling that always throws me into crisis so I caved in and had a smoke but I didn’t turn my back on God.
I have signed up with a quit smoking coach, set a quit day, and am preparing myself to quit. I’m working out why I smoke, what triggers me, what I can do to increase my chances of succeeding and I’ve spoken to a doctor about getting medication to help me quit.
This is the first time I have wanted to quit smoking and the first time I have set a quit date. I’m afraid but I know it has to be done.