Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Smoke-Free and Wanting the Same for You!!!

“I want to quit, but now is not a good time”.  “I will quit before I am ___ years old”.  “Maybe if I just try to only smoke a couple a day”.  “I know, I will just smoke on Saturdays”.  “I won’t buy my own cigarettes, I will just bum them off of other people, that way I won’t smoke too much”.  “I can smoke just a couple”.  “I am really stressed out right now, so I am going to have a few but then when the stress passes, I will stop”.
Do any of these statements sound even remotely familiar?  They did to me, but only after years and years of repeatedly trying to quit smoking.   These were my thoughts up until a little under 5 years ago.  In June of 2006, I came down with a really nasty upper respiratory infection.  These were quite frequent for me because I smoked but you could never get me to admit it.  I always blamed stress or diabetes, which I’m sure both played a role, but the smoking always made any infection worse.  This particular infection quickly went into my throat and chest.  Congestion, coughing, and a complete exacerbation of asthma led to prescriptions of antibiotics and steroids.  Though this was not the first time I had to undergo this type of treatment, there was something different stirring.
One night, during the peak of the illness, I was lying in bed.  I had taken my medicine, and I’m sure I used my inhaler, but I could hear crackling in my throat and wheezing in my chest with every breath that I breathed.  I remember thinking, “if this is how I feel at the age of 32, how will I feel at the age of _______”.  I can’t even remember the age I thought of that night, but I remember the fear I felt and the complete powerlessness I felt about smoking.  With the help of God and a recovery community, I had been sober for almost 5 years at that point, why couldn’t I kick this too? 
Many of my friends who had already quit kept telling me, “you’ll know when it’s time, you’ll just know”.  I never really understood that statement….until a few months later.  One would think that after a scare like I had in June of that year that this would have been it, that I would have kicked the habit.  But no…the insanity of addiction, the belief of lies, the powerlessness I felt led to me picking up cigarettes once I stopped feeling sick.  However, God knew what I needed and after that illness, lying to myself about cigarettes was never the same.  I started hearing the lies.  I started recognizing them as lies.  I was able to hear the ridiculousness of the lies.  I finally realized that everything I was telling myself about cigarettes was the same thing I had told myself about all the other “habits” I had let go of when I got sober.  I finally realized I needed to CHOOSE TO BE DONE AND COMBAT THE LIES WITH THE TRUTH. 
Many other people may have had this revelation much sooner than I did….or never picked up this habit in the first place.  I didn’t plan to be a smoker.  I never believed “those people” when I was 17 and 18 that told me I shouldn’t smoke, that I would become addicted, that it was bad for me.  I was in a self-destructive place but denied it.  I thought I was a way cool deadhead hippie who would eventually quit before I got “old”, whatever that meant.  I realized that I didn’t want to be a smoker anymore and needed to just quit once and for all. No patch.  No gum.  No pill.  Just God, exercise, and a ton of gum and wintergreen life savers. 
It would be a total understatement to say that this was not easy.  In fact, it was the hardest of all things I have had to quit.  God’s grace and His help in rejecting lies was essential.  I felt angry and agitated and then hit a depression that measured off the charts.  All of it, I know was an attempt by the enemy to get me to believe more lies so that I would return to smoking.  I started recognizing that anytime I had the thought that “things were bad and one cigarette would lessen _________ feeling….that I could smoke just one” was a total lie and was exactly what I used to tell myself about drinking and other things.  If it was a lie that I could have just one drink, it was certainly a lie that I could have just one cigarette.  God made this very clear to me and I am so thankful that He did.  I had tried quitting seriously over 10 times since the age of 20 and it had never stuck.  This time I was ready and my Heavenly Father helped me to get through the rough period following my last cigarette. 
Though I felt horrible for 2 months, it got better.  My breathing felt better, I became less angry, my mood improved, there were less and less trails of gum wrappers left throughout my job and home.  I was exercising and felt good about myself.  It kept getting better.  Every time I had the thought or craving to smoke and rejected it as a lie, I felt victorious.  I was clinging to God for strength and He was strengthening me.  After the first year, I could barely believe I had made it, but I could no longer picture my life with smoking.  It was a miracle.  It will be 5 years of cigarette-free living for me as of October 1, 2011.  My God is an awesome God.  He” heals all my diseases” (Psalm 103:3).  He “released my feet from the snare” (Psalm 25:15).  He was so good to me that He came and freed me while I was still smoking, instead of waiting for me to figure it out by myself.  This is my God, my Jesus and while in pursuit of God during this time, this was all before I had recommitted to following Him a short time later.
Why do I share this information?  I know how hard it is to quit.  I know that people often judge smokers and don’t understand why we can’t just stop on our own.  I have been there, done that, and God has set me free.  I needed others to support me, to let me vent to them, to share their own stories of quitting with me to encourage me. 
I share this for anyone, if you chose to read this, who is caught in the trap of cigarette addiction or any other addiction for that matter.  I want to see everyone get free.  If God would free me, He would free anyone and that means you!!!  If you are in this place, if you feel you cannot break free, if you feel no one would understand, you are a person I would LOVE TO PRAY FOR ---I WANT TO SEE YOU FREE!!!!! If you feel comfortable enough to message me or to comment, I will pray for you.  God loves you.  He is your deliverer.  He will make you free.
Blessings to you!!!

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