I unpacked my overnight bag and immediately put the items into the wash with extra soap poured on for good measure. My hair reeked of the smell, but I couldn’t throw myself in with the clothes so a different kind of scrubbing was needed.
Any type of establishment that allows smoking inside the premises leaves its trace long after one has departed. Standing outside in hurricane type gales would not even do the trick to remove the odor.
So it was after a night away that I found myself hurriedly transferring the offensive garments to the machine and thanking myself for quitting the habit at the age of eleven .
What would have happened to me if I would have let it take hold? I wondered.
One day while at a friends house, unattended by any responsible adult, we were left to our own devices. I was sitting in the living room when she rounded the corner with a lit cigarette between her long skinny fingers. She sat down next to me, handed me one and said,
“Here. Try this.”
“Where did you get this from?” I asked.
“My mom’s room. She doesn’t even know when I take some.”
I felt a slight twinge in my stomach. I wasn’t the type to steal, lie or do anything that suggested shadiness. However, before I knew it, I had white puffs coming out of my mouth that I was trying to fashion into different shapes.
I didn’t go into a coughing rage or choking fit. I watched what she did, repeated it and took one drag after another. Once down to the end of it, we both ran them under cold water and threw them outside into the trash.
That is when the guilt hit. I had just smoked a cigarette! All the way home, I wondered,
Would they smell it on me? Would I look different when I walked in? Would my mother look me in the eye and know what I had been up to?
Anxiety overwhelmed me as I strode in the door and made a quick turn into my bedroom.
That entire evening as I ate dinner, worked on my homework and changed into my pajamas, I prepared myself mentally for the bomb to drop. Nothing happened.
The next day I found myself in the same set of circumstances and the days to follow. Soon, it was becoming a regular afternoon occurrence to which she invited another girl to join us. My worries became non-existent as my confidence grew that my parents did not have a clue as to what I was doing. I generally limited myself to one, but with the three of us smoking in the same room, it would get hazy fairly quickly.
One evening, while eating dinner, my dad said,
“I bet when Chris grows up she is going to smoke.”
It was like he jabbed a hot poker into my chest.
“Why? What? No I wouldn’t.”
He slurped down a spaghetti noodle and said,
“I think you will.”
I became instantly angry with him for unfairly judging me.
“I would not! I will not smoke!” I raised my voice much louder than I normally would.
How dare he look across the table and decide what I was going to do when I was an adult? Then, I remembered. I was already smoking.
“I think you will, ” he said again. “And anger shows guilt.”
It was like the ceiling fell on top of me.
He knew! He knew! How did he know? I thought I had covered my tracks carefully by spraying myself with perfume and chomping on mint gum.
“When someone is angry like that it shows they are guilty.”
“I am not guilty,” I said looking at my carrots on my plate.
My mom saw how upset I was getting, so she added,
“She won’t smoke. Smoking is bad for your health. Chris is too smart for that.”
Oh, boy. I finished my meal and slunked away.
The following day when I was offered a cigarette, I declined.
“I think my mom and dad might know,” I told her. “I am quitting right now.”
For a few weeks I was ridiculed by the two smoking partners, but the situation changed when the thief was caught stealing from her mother’s stash. Fortunately, I was not a part of their group that had grown to a club of eight. I guess, lifting one or two goes unnoticed, but that amount got her into trouble.
The subject was never discussed in my household again until I was in my twenties.
“How did you know I was smoking?” I asked my dad.
“What do you mean?”
“You know. That time I was sitting at the table and you kept saying I was going to smoke when I grew up, and I got mad. You said anger shows guilt.”
“I was just joking. You were smoking?”
“Yes! And, I thought you knew I was so I quit the next day because I thought you were on to me.”
“No. I was teasing you.”
“You and mom really didn’t know what I was doing?”
I am grateful to this day for the intervention of an unseen source on my behalf. We hear of statistics of many dying from lung cancer due to this, and yet if you stop in traffic long enough and glance around, chances are you will see someone who has gotten caught into the addiction. Most likely, someone made the offer and they took it. Just like I did.
The other day while in the grocery store, the cashier said,
“You don’t drink pop?”
She held up a bottle of an antioxidant fruit beverage.
“No. I quit drinking it. And, that is my substitution.”
“Is it good?”
“Yes, but quitting wasn’t easy. I am okay now, but it took a few days.”
“I know how that goes. I quit smoking a year ago. Cold turkey. I decided one day not to do it anymore, and I had been smoking for awhile. I started before my teens.”
“You quit without any type of help?”
“Yes. My mom told me I would never be able to do it.”
I asked the obvious,
“Does your mom smoke?”
“Oh, yes, really bad.”
“That is why she told you that you couldn’t do it because if you were successful, then she would have no excuse not to quit too.”
Once out in the parking lot, I thought about the power of that mother smoking and discouraging her daughter from doing something healthy. What a triumph to overcome the cigarettes in the face of such adversity. Not everyone has the “I will show you” attitude. In fact, many of us shrink down under the presence of a negative thinker with a bad outlook on life, and we take on their pessimistic stench.
How many times have you gone into an environment in a peaceful state and were inundated with harsh words, a sharp bark or a put down only to find your sunny disposition gone within seconds? Suddenly, the world is dark and unfavorable. The next thing you know you have a headache or some other sort of pain in your body, and maybe a whole week goes by where you find yourself depressed and out of sorts. All because you allowed someone else’s foul ideas to permeate your spirit.
Here is a possible solution to not living like that anymore.
Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways. (Proverbs 4:23-26;NLT)
Here we are given a wonderful answer to how we can combat and protect ourselves from being pulled into the opinion or drama of another. If we stay connected closely to the Creator and only exist to please heaven, then one can remain on the outside of the mess without stepping into it. A love filled relationship with God provides a way for us to see the genuine goodness of life and avoid those who are just blowing smoke.