let's all stay on topic, shall we?
Before I start, I want to make something clear – this is my blog. It’s not important to me that it provides answers to questions you may have about life, love, or business. I do not sell advertising here. I do not have a niche topic to adhere to. I have no loyalty to anything anyone else believes in. I maintain loyalty only to my heart. And I put that on the line every time I click publish.
Now on to a post that will likely make no sense to you. I only wish it could be more poetic.
My all-time favorite quote is by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. “Nothing is insignificant,” he once said.
The moment I gave up my will to God in 1991, my life changed. But before you think I’m trying to be righteous here, the only thing I have done consistently since that August day twenty-one years ago is get on my knees as a way to be humble before a power that knows a lot better about what I need in my life than I do. Before that day, I was on a path to destruction. At first, the path to destruction was kind of cool because, you know, you’re being your own man and grabbing life by the balls and doing things exactly like you think they should be done. It’s macho. And it’s how both my fathers told me to attack life. Well, they were idiots. The only thing that forcing my will upon the world did for me was fuck me up. It took being struck down to my knees (literally) with no money, no family, no home, no friends, and no hope – for me to finally change.
But just how did my life change? Well, I didn’t immediately receive everything I had always desired, that’s for sure. Rather, the moment I got humble, a great weight was lifted off of my shoulders. And my mind. And my heart. And somehow I knew that my life had turned a sharp corner. I just had to get the shit beat of me to experience this epiphany.
That was my first bout with divine intervention. Since then, I fell in love, moved, got married, graduated college, bought a house, started a career and had children. Or rather – pretty much received everything I ever wanted. And yet, the only thing I consistently did to deserve these gifts was get on my knees each day to get humble before a power greater than myself. But I’d gotten lazy over the years. Whereas at one point my faith in giving up control to let God steer the way was strong – it had become weak. Whereas at one point I sincerely asked for acceptance, strength and courage – this request had become lip service.
And so my life moved along just fine. Perfectly normally. Conflicts would arise, and subside. And there was never another moment like that bright August day in 1991. Even though I have always believed that the immense power I experienced that day was always as close as I was willing to get humble.
I started smoking cigarettes when I was 17. I’ll never forget the first time – they were Benson and Hedges Lights 100s that my best friend lifted from his older sister. Girly cigarettes. They couldn’t possibly hurt me. I had been an athlete growing up, and so I abhorred cigarettes. My father smoked them. My uncle smoked them. Most adults smoked them. And because I was about to join the US Air Force, I figured that I needed to smoke them to be cool and fit in. So I quickly graduated to Marlboro reds and stayed with that brand for a decade. I then moved to Marlboro lights as a way to smoke healthily, after noticing my wind diminish. Eventually it was on to Camel Lights – and that’s brand I settled on. The funny thing is, I have never really enjoyed smoking. The luster of being cool wore off pretty quick. I hated how cigarettes made me smell. I hated that they were so expensive. And I hated myself for being a prisoner to tobacco. But I was addicted.
I quit smoking cigarettes the day I married my wife, but really just replaced them with cigars after discovering them on our honeymoon to The Bahamas (and yes, I inhaled.) They didn’t sell Montecristos in the US however, so I went back to Class A smokes. When our first daughter was born I swore to quit, but never did. I quit in 2001, after I thought I’d contracted Anthrax – which turned out to be pneumonia. But that only lasted one day because I was only able to get out of bed to crawl to the toilet to cough up blood. Once the fever broke, I was back to smoking. When our second daughter was born, I swore to quit again. But once again, that was an empty vow. Three years ago I tried Chantix – but after a few nights of dreaming about gouging my eyeballs out with spoons, I gave that up too.
And so for the last thirty years I’ve smoked every day but one. Granted, I was never a chain smoker and for the past ten years or so have cut down considerably. I never smoked indoors, always found a quiet place where no one else could be affected by my second-hand smoke, and unlike when I was a child, neither of my own have ever seen me hold a cigarette, much less smoke one.
I was resigned to the fact that I may never give them up completely. I was too weak. I was completely and utterly addicted.
Until last weekend.
As you may know, I was hospitalized last Friday with internal bleeding and abdominal pain. I was released on Sunday after putting on a really good act for the attending doctor. They originally wanted to keep me in the hospital until all of the test results returned (on Wednesday.) It was that serious. And my act was that good. But I had to get out of there. I didn’t belong. Whenever I was transported around the building, I’d peek into the other rooms where I saw really sick people who looked like they were dying. There was wailing from the corridor in the middle of the night. I had no idea why they were there, but to me they were all there because of cigarettes.
I didn’t have a cigarette from Friday morning until Sunday afternoon. But when I returned home, I immediately lit up. The only reason I did was because that’s what I expected to do. I was at home. I had access. It’s not like I really wanted to smoke. Afterward, I felt terrible. Not because I was still sick from the hospital, but because I let myself be tricked into thinking that I needed to smoke after having not done so for a few days. I had another cigarette on Monday morning, but put it out halfway through. That’s when I realized that the desire was gone. For the first time in thirty years.
I thought about it all day on Monday and kept telling myself that if the desire was too great, I could always run down to the corner store. But, unlike past attempts to quit, the desire was never too great. In fact, it was gone. That night, I got onto my knees in an act of humility like I do every night, but it was different somehow. It was more sincere.
On Thursday I went to see my doctor as a follow-up to the hospital visit. I was feeling really good, but for some residual soreness as the result of my guts being put through the wringer for a few days. The bleeding was gone. The cramping was gone. I was on the mend. In her office, I listened as she rattled off the litany of tests that they’d administered and sent to the labs. Everything came back negative. Everything. She then looked at me square in the eyes and said, “According to these test results, there’s no reason why you were hospitalized.”
She asked how I felt. I told her I felt great as compared with the week before. I also told her that I finally quit smoking. She cheered – literally cheered – right there in the office. As with any good doctor, she’d begged me to quit for years. She knew I didn’t smoke much, but there’s just too much science out there to justify anyone smoking at all. I told her I was using the hospital experience as a springboard to change, and that I was determined to do some things differently. I’d seen too much in the hospital and was aware that at my age, I was probably relying too heavily on my DNA for good health. I didn’t want to go back to the hospital again. Ever.
I asked her again about the test results. She assured me that they were negative. “Idiopathic.” she responded.
Then she asked, “Are you telling me that your desire to smoke has disappeared?”
“Yes,” I responded. “Why?”
“Because I know about you, Jim. You quit drinking, what, twenty years ago?” she asked.
She paused, then said, “This whole thing may be the result of divine intervention. It’s happened to you before.”
And then it hit me. Like the sunlight did on that day in August back in 1991.
I’m only sharing this story because it’s true. According to my doctor, the bacterial infection in my gut was a few millimeters away from me being “splayed open on an operating table.” And within a week, it was gone. Along with my desire to smoke.
Nothing is insignificant.
It’s not up to me to convince you that what happened to me was divine intervention. But to me, that’s exactly what it is. After all, I have a personal reference point. Denial isn’t a valid option for me.
I have no idea why God has decided to spare me a couple of times (that I’m aware of.) I can only speculate. But I am grateful. And I look forward to what life holds in the future.