All alone in my car, waiting for the red light to turn green, I watched the driver next to me take a deep drag from his Marlboro. Immediately, I thought, “I could run to the drugstore, buy a pack, and smoke just one before I get home. Nobody has to know.” I’d recently quit, but had become a slave to cigarettes.
It was 1989. I’d successfully given up alcohol when it had become a problem, but now, quitting smoking was like breaking up with an affair of ten years: our private moments…the stress-relief…our sneaking around. I’d even tried quitting cold-turkey–really tried–several times. Gone two whole weeks, but then a craving had come over me, and that first drag erased all self-control. It wasn’t just a private affair. I lit up with friends at 12-Step meetings, after breakfast, after meals; with coffee; when I was on the phone; days that end in “y”…
You’d think that after successfully quitting alcohol, I could quit this unhealthy habit, too. I sought the Lord’s help in prayer.
“You know how tough this struggle has become. Mom’s Emphysema and lung cancer are suffocating her. Now I’ve developed a smoker’s cough. I don’t want to die struggling for every last breath.” Mom’s suffering became the motivation I needed to quit for good. Though preventing lung disease was an admirable quest, I feared nicotine was the one thing I might never be able to quit entirely. So, I sought strategies:
- Go ahead. Comfort yourself with food.
- Try delaying gratification.
- Storm heaven for supernatural help with this nasty stronghold.
- Last on my list: Try some steps towards simple obedience to God.
…casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV)
Wait. My brother-in-law had successfully quit smoking. I reached out to him.
He suggested I pull out all the stops: “Drink your coffee differently. (I eliminated cream; drank it black.) Don’t stay on the phone long. Ask your family for affirmation. Reward yourself.” He also mailed me brochures from the American Lung Association. I read them cover-to-cover.
An empty mayonnaise jar became a receptacle for cold, hard cash–the equivalent of what I would’ve spent on a pack or carton. Still, cravings for nicotine came on strong. At times, I reached for food. The added weight is no worse than blackening my lungs.
The afternoon I noticed the smoker next to me at the red light was around day ten of withdrawal. The craving struck like a bolt of lightning. Then, all at once, I heard a still, small voice:
“Under no circumstances.”
I felt chills up my arms. The new mantra, a gift. One I clung to, reminding me—I am not to give in to that first one, no matter what. The freedom I’ve gained from establishing healthy boundaries has been a long but rewarding process. God in His infinite wisdom placed borders in creation.
And who took charge of the ocean
when it gushed forth like a baby from the womb?
That was me! I wrapped it in soft clouds,
and tucked it in safely at night.
Then I made a playpen for it,
a strong playpen so it couldn’t run loose,
And said, ‘Stay here, this is your place.
Your wild tantrums are confined to this place.’
~ Job 38:8-11 (The Message)
In other words, “Child, do not go any further…”
God in His infinite wisdom placed borders in creation… In other words, “Child, do not go any further.”
In Isaiah 40:30-31, the strength we need is spelled out:
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon GOD get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles.
They run and don’t get tired,
they walk and don’t lag behind. (The Message)