I used to smoke.
I took great pleasure in taking a deep drag on a cigarette between my fingers, sometimes with my eyes closed, all the way from my lips, down my windpipe, deep into my lungs … and then slowly releasing blue plumes of nicotine fumes from what sometimes felt like the depths of my very soul.
I did this several times a day for 15 straight years, though I was less and less captivated by it as the years wore on.
I had picked up a cigarette as a teenager out of curiosity, and the curiosity killed the cat.
My trial degenerated into an addiction, and I spent the next 15 years of my life trying to quit smoking.
People ask how many packs I smoked a day. It didn’t matter – I could not manage a day without cigarettes, and if I could not face a smoke-free existence, I was addicted.
I hated the ridiculous money I was paying for this vice, especially one I didn’t even enjoy.
My first stop at any airport transit would be the smoking lounge.
I would not be caught at home or anywhere passing a night without cigarettes by me.
I would trade in a nice heated office for the brutal cold of a harsh New York winter – head down, shoulders scrunched all the way up to my ears – just for a drag of nicotine.
I hated the smell. I hated how I felt after a cigarette. And I hated the ridiculous money I was paying for this vice, especially one I didn’t even enjoy.
Although smoking does not make one a bad person – it just made me a bad-smelling woman with a bad-feeling body – I was wracked with guilt that I was still in its grip after I became a Christian.
My spiritual mentor at that time stormed heaven with her prayers for me to break this addiction.
I read it and I decided I no longer wanted my fingers and my lips to be used for smoking.
One day, as I was doing my Bible reading, the seductive twirls of the cigarette fumes rising from between my fingers, my eyes fell on a line urging me not to use any part of my body as an instrument of wickedness but to use each part as a tool to do right by God. (Romans 6:13)
I did not dissect the sentence, I did no theological analysis of this word, I didn’t ask God for any special guidance or revelation.
It was a simple moment – I read it and I decided I no longer wanted my fingers and my lips to be used for smoking.
And so on that cold January day 20 years ago, I went cold turkey.
I had no withdrawal symptoms – neither physical, mental, nor emotional – nor did I put on weight, as many had warned I would, and I did not have to avoid smokers.
I remember hanging with a bunch of journalists at a big event just two months after that day, several puffing away at their cigarettes and offering to move away after finding out I had just quit.
I told them not to bother; I didn’t even want the cigarettes.
What multiple efforts through willpower could not do, the word of God did in one clean cut.
I was free.
This story first appeared in the blog Quierotango and is republished with permission.