"Only the power of prayer helped me finally stop smoking"
A former 40-a-day smoker tells how prayer helped her kick the habit when all else failed.
I have twice felt with certainty that God spoke to me. In our secular world, this risks making me sound a) mad and b) vain. I am hardly holy and, when praying, my mind often wanders to grand spiritual matters such as, oh, household chores and unreturned library books. None the less, God has twice bothered to speak to me, clear as a bell. The first time was private. The second was when He promised me a miracle.
I once smoked up to 40 cigarettes a day. I hated my addiction, yet repeatedly failed at giving up. I tried acupuncture, cold turkey, hypnosis, herbal cigarettes, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and the drug Zyban. Each time, I suffered withdrawal twitches, fear and, ultimately, self disgust as, late at night, I hunted for dog-ends.
The one thing I didn’t try was prayer. I was a cradle Catholic but lapsed in my teens. In 2001, I began going to church again. After Mass one day, someone asked me why I had returned, and I answered: “I realised I couldn’t do it all on my own.” I had an ostensibly glamorous existence, yet was often fearful, stressed and pained by the religion-shaped hole in my life.
Some speak of addiction as a disease. But it is mostly spiritual: dis-ease, an imbalance in the soul. When I started going to Mass again, I steadied. By early 2002, I was preparing to kick the fags. I was, as usual, scared witless. And then one night I woke in the wee small hours, and there in my (sober) head was the voice of Himself, saying it was easy. All I had to do to get free from nicotine slavery was surrender and admit I was powerless without His help. And I would be free.
Just like that.
But – and here was the catch – in return I had to tell people afterwards that God had helped me. Please, I bargained – anything but that. This is the Age of Reason and people who hear voices are classed as crazy. Or stupid.
I am aware that a sceptical, scientific type could say that what I experienced as a “miracle” stemmed from my desire for change, or willpower, or even chemical shifts in my brain as I detoxified from a powerful drug. But the ease with which I gave up, compared to the agonies every other time I tried, still strikes me as remarkable. If faith is a placebo, it is a powerful one.
My recovery from years of nicotine addiction tallies with a new report – announced yesterday by researchers from Oxford University and King’s College London – showing that, contrary to popular perception, smoking does not relieve stress, but giving up does.
Cigarettes contain 4,000 different chemicals; getting free of their grip is, some believe, as hard as quitting heroin – just look at the lengths the Department of Health has gone to in its graphic new anti-smoking campaign, featuring hideous lung tumours bubbling out of the end of a cigarette. Not that terrorising smokers necessarily works – I used to switch off the NHS horror ads.
It is now more than a decade since I quit, but I have not, until now, properly kept my side of the deal. So, told through my old diary entries, this is how God helped me to give up smoking.
Woke up feeling down and rebellious and promptly smoked four fags in a row. So much for building up to giving up smoking… it terrifies me. Imminent deprivation is feared so I must chuck smoke down my lungs while I can.
I’ve joined an NHS smoking cessation group. We have three weeks to plan quitting, and will be offered nicotine replacement therapy. We will use this for 12 weeks, to free ourselves first of psychological dependency and chemicals, before giving up the whole shebang.
I choose NRT lozenges, and arrange time off work. A friend nags me about indulging myself, and I simply say: “I’m saving my life.”
My first day off the fags and I feel terrific! What a blessing. Thank you, Lord. I’ve hardly felt any desire to smoke. What a miracle. Unlike before, I’ve prayed for help with this and feel I am receiving it. I am fearful of stress knocking me off my trolley. But I will let God teach me how to deal better with things, when and if stress does come.
Just two or three minor cravings today. I was incredibly tired and achieved little. But I know I have to be gentle with myself. I am recovering from years of self-abuse and neglect. I will get there.
Last night, in the early hours of the fifth night, I woke. I prayed and, instead of the usual creaking clutter around my poor prayers, came the Voice, clear as a bell. I was told that I was safe. “I will make this easy for you. Just tell people I did this.” I gave up the nictotine lozenges this morning and went cold turkey.
A miracle has happened. Yesterday I decided to do without the lozenges, bit my lip and I’m going through withdrawal properly, rather than postponing it. Of course I’m afraid, and by the afternoon my nerves feel on top of my skin. But by evening, I feel quite calm. Then – the strange thing – I wake in the middle of the night again, and lie in bed quietly relishing the extraordinary bliss of this freedom from cigarette slavery.
I get up – no, bounce up – full of energy and vim, although I’ve only had four hours’ sleep – and I don’t feel a flicker of fag-longing. I have been praying, and I truly believe it is God who is helping me. The difference from every other time I’ve given up is extraordinary. I am not afraid or tense – I am exhilarated.
I say “Thank you” to God every day. And – fearfully, for I had been around cynical agnostics and atheists for so long – I consider raising the power of prayer in my NHS group. To my surprise, when I do, no one sniggers. Why am I scared that I might be thought of as a “God-botherer”? Prayer has miraculously helped me and these other smokers desperately need support and ideas. How many times over the past decades did I try, on my own, to give up? This time, I asked God to help me – and at last I have succeeded.
To this day, I am sure I became free of smoking because the God of love – not of retribution – healed me.
Full Story: God knows how I finally quit smoking
Source: The Telegraph
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