Up In Smoke

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Up In Smoke

I’m not sure if smoking cigarettes will send me to hell, but the habit has most certainly turned my life into hell on earth. For most addicts, life is anything but good, yet people are so quick to criticize and ostracize those suffering with substance abuse, as if they are evil. My story is not to prove to you why I smoked, but simply to explain the pain that first led me down this crooked path, and then to relate the hatred and abandonment I experienced as a result of indulging in this nasty substance.

My parents divorced when I was 12 years old, and as a result, my charmed, upper-middle-class life came to a slow halt. During the following year, I went back and forth between my parents, until I was finally enrolled in a boarding school for six months. I became very depressed, and felt abandoned and rejected. Even the kids at school were mistreating me, and leaving me out of social events.

The spirit of rejection found an easy resting place in my mind. I did not feel loved by either parent at the time, and I was on thin ice if I did anything wrong.  Because both parents were bitter, and trying to figure out their own lives after this devastating event, I was left to fend for myself. At thirteen, I looked and acted like I was eighteen years old (or older). It was probably for this reason that my parents felt that I could be left on my own. However, I desperately needed direction, guidance, and love.

I started to hang out with a girl whose parents were together, but never around. She stole her mother’s cigarettes and her father’s alcohol. She encouraged me to join her in this decadence. I took to the cigarettes immediately for some reason. I liked the little buzz I felt when I took that first puff. It made me feel better, and was a comfort to my lonely life. However, my mother found out about it and sent me back to my father. I did not see her again for several years. Ouch! That really hurt me badly.

While I was living with my father, I would steal money out of his change drawer and buy cigarettes at the golf shop behind our house. When he caught on, he almost broke my arm! He grabbed my hand and then twisted my arm behind my back. His disgust toward me was increasing day by day. In fact, he never even spoke or looked at me anymore, other than to say, “QUIT SMOKING!!!” But I was hooked and could not quit.

The kids at school thought of me as a hood, because I went to the woods to smoke with the other pariahs. Deep down, however, I was still a cute, clean-cut girl adored by her family. However, I could never get my parents love back again. The nice boys were not interested in dating a girl who smoked. My clothes and breath smelled horrible, and even my blonde hair had nicotine stains. Plus, the looks I got when I lit up a cigarette were so rejecting. When I was 16, I was not hired by several employers because I smoked. Surely you would think that this would have caused me to have a wake-up call. But addiction is sneaky, tricky, and very deceiving.

The reason that one starts abusing cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol is usually due to personal problems. But instead of the substance helping with the pain, it ends up creating 10x the problems for the user. It is a vicious cycle that seems impossible to break free from. The only way out is through God, and through His son Jesus Christ.

First, a person needs their emotions healed. Addiction can really mess with your self-esteem. I cannot tell you how many times I have loathed myself for smoking. I know that I smelled foul, that my fingers were turning yellow, and my skin was prematurely wrinkling. But those self-deprecating feelings only made me want to smoke more. I have sworn to never smoke again an endless amount of times, but I had a fear of letting go of my best friend. Even after being kicked out of my ministry leadership training program for smoking, after I had promised not to, I kept smoking. What was it going to take to quit?

For these reasons, I believe that addictions are spiritual. Anything that controls your life in the way substance abuse does has to be from the enemy. Thus, I fell on my face to God and told him that I was incapable of overcoming my addiction to cigarettes. I told Him that deep down I did not feel that my life was worth anything, and that no one cared.

One night, however, I felt a great rebuke in my heart when I prayed a doubting prayer. I heard an inner voice saying, “Am I a liar?” “No Lord, you are all truth.” “But you doubt what I have made you, and you question my ability.” “I do not know what to do God.” “Trust in me and lean on me. My love for you is so deep, and I know all about you. I have chosen you from before the foundation of the world. I have called you to be my own. You have a purpose to fulfill.”

Sobbing uncontrollably, I stretched myself prone on the floor and surrendered myself to God and His will. I could feel His love on my mind and body. There was a warmth and compassion and tenderness overtaking me. I laid there all night just praising and worshipping God.

When I got up, I turned to the table and saw my cigarettes. My flesh wanted to light up, but as I was walking, I saw the cigarettes go up in smoke! I opened and closed my eyes several times, and then I saw the pack lying there whole again. I went and sat down, and was suddenly repulsed by the sight and smell of these little demons. I hurriedly gathered up my half empty pack, lighters, ashtrays, and anything else that reminded me of smoking. I put it all in a bag and took it outside to the trash.

For several hours, I had some anxiety about throwing out my best friend, but then I kept remembering my conversation with God. He said He loves me and has a plan for me. I cannot carry out His plan if I smoke. So I decided to trust Him!

I realized that life is spiritual, and that to win battles, it takes warfare. For the next several weeks, I filled my mind with thoughts of God’s Word, and listened to spiritual teachings on CD and on YouTube. I filled up all my loneliness and emptiness with God. Soon, my anxiety and depression waned. My desire to be substance-free grew, as did my desire to be healthy.

I have now been cigarette-free for six months! I feel great, and I am getting out and helping others kick the habit. I have found my purpose in life by overcoming my addiction and weakness, through the grace and help of God. We have to fight the good fight of faith and trust in God to deliver us and take us out of the darkness.

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About the author

Rhonda Howard

Rhonda holds a B.A. in psychology and theology. She has been a student of the Bible for over 30 years, and has participated in outreach, administration and missions.