Sunday, March 22, 2009

Abstinence


Smoking.
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A year and a half ago, I quit smoking, after many years of quitting and restarting the habit. At times I quit for 2 years, other times just for 2 months. Once I quit for 6 years - that was the longest period of time. I prayed, made novenas, gave it up for Lent, but I always went back. The problem was that I always craved a cigarette. I eventually gave in, simply accepting the fact I was addicted, while striving to accept myself. That worked for awhile, but the culture changed, and smoking became a shameful thing, and the pressure was mounting to stop. I suppose the rebel in me resisted the discriminatory propaganda, insisting it was part of my persona... This is who I am. Well not really - I couldn't allow a behavior to define me.
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Nevertheless, deep down I sensed it was a bad. Slowly I began recognizing how unnatural it was for men and women to stand outside office buildings in -20 degree weather and smoke, shivering, yet gratifying their cravings. Almost as much as my non-smoking friends, I too disliked the stench of an overflowing ash tray, the ochre tinge to everything in my house and my car, and the odor that followed me everywhere. I felt shame as drivers yelled at me and called me names as I tossed spent cigarettes out of my car window. I was discriminated against, even by the Government, which is attempting to tax cigarette smokers into poverty. Powerless, I kept smoking - and I kept praying.
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When I finally quit this time, I got very sick with a bad cold that turned into a severe bronchitis, so I wasn't able to smoke - I was sick for about 2 weeks. As I recovered, I figured since I had gone for longer than a week without smoking, I may as well stop entirely. However, the better I felt, the more I desired to smoke again. Gradually the craving went away, almost without notice; until about a month ago I'd say. Unlike cessation smoking episodes in the past, I suddenly realized that the craving was completely gone. I don't know how to explain it, but I just know it is gone. Now I can see a person smoking, or watch a film that glamorizes it, or feel really artsy and depressed, anything from the old bag of triggers, and I have no desire to smoke. It is gone. Only a heavy smoker would know how miraculous that is. (I smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day.)
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Sometimes it takes many years of hard work and constant prayer, as well as many fallings and risings, to completely overcome a behavior, a vice, or a bad habit; but with the help of God's grace, anything is possible. And I assure you, it is sheer grace.

21 comments:

  1. Thanks be to God!

    We want you around for a long time, Ter!

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  2. Haven't had a coffee in three and a half years. I didn't plan to quit. I was very ill and lost my taste and desire for it and during the illness had what I realized was sever withdrawal symptoms. Don't miss it at all.

    Now, the little wine I did drink I cannot because of the pancreatitis, not a drop, not even at Communion. That's OK.

    On the other hand I occasionally smoke a pipe and love it when I do.

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  3. 1 pack a day here BUT I know what you mean. It is a grace as is everything in life. Congratulations.

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  4. I could do an entire post on how within a span of 10-15 years (since the Surgeon General's report on secondhande smoke was released) smoking became a stigma and smokers became outcasts.

    Amazing to me how something like smoking became a kind of cultural "sin" but other destructive behaviors like: promiscuity, abortion, contraception, divorce, inappropriate attire, foul language are acceptable.

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  5. This is so encouraging. Thanks!!!

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  6. Good for you (we're not doing too well - another story which you already know!!)

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  7. Thanks everyone - now I want a cigarette. Kidding.

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  8. Benedicta6:43 PM

    I feel for Owen who mentioned having had pancreatitis. My son gets it about once every 12 to 14 months. In his case, he of course cannot drink either, but he has a mutation on a gene that makes him get the disease. Nasty. Nobody knows what provokes pancreatitis, but dehydration is one cause. Make sure to drink a lot! Now my son lives in the Middle East. Go figure.

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  9. Dear Terry,

    My father quit smoking about 15 years ago, and he still has urges.

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  10. Pretty popular post lol

    Congrats to you, I've been smoking since I was 12 (fluctuating between one and 3 packs/day) and I can no longer justify the expense as it just went up to $53 a carton, as my wife smokes also. Going to go to work next Saturday with no smokes on me and no way of getting any, say a prayer for me, if you have a minute.

    I asked a some priests a few years ago if there was a ptron saint for quitting smoking and they all just kind of laughed at me, anyone have any suggestions?

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  11. Br. AJK - I always had as well, so this seems miraculous that the cravings are gone.

    Christopher - St. Joseph will help you - he helped me.

    Prayers for all of you.

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  12. Benedicta, sorry to hear about your son's similar trial. Fasting is also not recommended for pancreatitis victims (I no longer think victim is overstating it when it comes to this illness).

    P.S. Cathy of Alex, should you read this, please do that post on second hand smoke and smoke screen stigma.

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  13. God bless you in this effort. I smoked for 30 years and quit 6 years ago. The cravings stopped through the agency ofthe sacraments and frequent eucharistic adoration. There was no other way. The unfortunate side effect is that the smell of cigarette smoke makes me nauseous. I can smell it on people and I can smell it in offices, restaurants and hotels-anywhere. I can always tell if someone has smoked in my non-smoking hotel room. Maybe it wont happen to you. I hope.

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  14. David9:54 AM

    Smoking Saints....let's see....Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was addicted to tobacco both in cigarette and cigar forms from age 15 on according to his sister; Bl. John XXIII smoked cigars regularly fromn his army days onward til death; Bl. Mary Teresa Ledochowska notes in her diary that she was giving up smoking as part of her spiritual life program...all 20th century saints or saints-to-be.

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  15. Leo - That does happen to me, in fact my sense of smell has really improved - which isn't always a good thing.

    David - JPII once smoked as well. Many saints used tobaco in some form or another.

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  16. I have quit for 18 months now. I should rephrase that. I have had 3 cigarettes in 18 months after a pack a day habit. It just became too darn expensive. Then, I couldn't do it anywhere. I know I would enjoy smoking if I took it up again tomorrow. I've always enjoyed smoking. I don't get the cravings anymore. Once I accepted the physical addiction ended at 3 days, it was easier to talk myself into thinking my mind was just playing games if I desired one after those three days. I don't think I could ever be one of those casual smokers, smoking 2 or 3 cigarettes a week. It amazes me that some are able to do that.

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  17. I found these today: "Saint Anthony Claret is said to be the patron of tobacconists because of a tobacco-related miracle he performed" though it doesn't seem he smoked a pipe himself. No, the miracle was not getting pipe smokers to quit.

    And, "there is the apocryphal story of Saint Pius X, who once offered a cigar to a priest, and was refused, the priest claiming that he “has no such vices”, to which the sainted pope replied, “If it were a vice, I would not have offered it to you!"

    And, the Blessed Pier Giogrio Frassati is said to be pictured on a holy card smoking a pipe though it might have been someone else.

    Now, to return to being popular I can tell you that my mom is and has always been a heavy cigarette smoker and I can't stand the smell of it during or what clings to our clothing afterward. Yuck.

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  18. Owen - there are several photos with Pier Giorgio smoking cigarettes - the one with the pipe is his mountain climbing photo. There are also photos of him partying with his buddies, drinking.

    M.Z. we maybe quit at the same time.

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  19. Dear Terry

    I gave up smoking the weed in prison 7 years agoo,at the age of 46,after a visit from Father Finigan of Blackfen.My last pouch of tobacco was given to my Jewish cellmates,the brothers Wing.

    As a father I had set a very bad example to my children,and my 21 year old daughter Siobhan is now a dedicated smoker.

    Please could you say a prayer for her release from this hard addiction.

    Our Lady of the Angels pray for us!

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  20. Vesper - yes, of course I will.

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  21. Terry,
    I took care of a man in the hospital the other day, he was paralyzed completely on one side of his body--from a stroke--from smoking. His aortic artery was also greatly narrowed--due to smoking. He was only 60 years old and looked like he was 90--because he smoked. And he was STILL smoking!!! What a highly addictive habit--some say harder to give up than heroine.

    So hooray for you, because as a nurse I see the ill effects from smoking every day--smoking does harm the body--and smokers will pay for the habit with their health--guaranteed!

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