Quitter: A Repost

I would like to preface this by saying that this is a true story.  I’ve told this story before and usually, people don’t believe me.  But really y’all, it’s true…

I have another horrible little confession to make.

I used to smoke.

C’mon y’all.  Cut me a little slack.  I grew up in NC– a bonafide tobbaco state where after church on Sunday, most of the men would slip out and burn one off in the smoking section of the church yard.  Having grown up in that environment, in a family with several smokers, is it a big surprise that I tried it too? 

I was only ten years old when I smoked my first one.  I was the youngest kid in our new neighborhood.  The only other girl was five years older than me, but she was willing to let me tag along after her anyway.  And then one day, she offered me one of her mother’s cigarettes.  “It’s just a cigarette,” she said as she lit it and passed it to me.  I shrugged and smoked it.

I didn’t really start smoking regularly until I was a sophomore in high school.  All of my friends smoked.  All the guys I dated smoked.  I figured I might as well smoke too.

Throughout the few years that I smoked, I had one very vocal objector– my best friend, Kim.  She fussed, nagged, complained, and cajoled until finally, exasperated, I told Kim: “I’ll quit as soon as I finish this pack!”  She snatched it out of my hand, tore up the pack, and threw it into a trash can.

“Sarah Belle, you just quit!”  She beamed at me triumphantly.

She was only half right.  As soon as I started dating another smoker, I fired up again.

I heard the evangelist, John Hobbs, once tell the story of how he couldn’t give up smoking until the day God said, “John, I’ve got places for you to go that you can’t go until you’re done with the Marlboros.”

God spoke to me through a doctor.

I was a musician.  A singer.  A vocalist.  I sang in choirs practically from the time I could form words.  And when I was in high school, one of my Dad’s church members anonymously paid for me to take voice lessons.  I was nominated two years in a row for Governor’s School and went to All State Choir.  For three years, I sang in the chorus of Handel’s Messiah with the NC Symphony Orchestra.  Singing was all I ever wanted to do.  I applied to East Carolina University, UNC-Wilmington, and Methodist College as a vocal performance major.  I was accepted to all three.

The summer before I was to start college, I got a terrible cold, which turned into bronchitis.  When I went to my family doctor, she looked me in the eye and said, “The cigarettes are causing damage to your throat.  If you want to sing, you’ll quit smoking.”  That’s all it took.  I put them down and never looked back.

I ended up taking four years off and changing my major.  That’s another long story for another day.  But the lessons that I walked away with were these:

Only God can move a person to really change.  We love to yell and scream and stomp our feet to get people to become who we want them to be.  But only God knows who a person is supposed to be and only God can put the desire into a person’s heart to become who they are supposed to be.

When God moves and we move with Him, we WILL change.  My friend Eliza has always told me, “It’s okay to be where you are as long as you don’t stay there.”  And it’s true.  In Christ, we’re either moving toward Him or moving away from Him.  My goal is to be like Adam and Eve before the fall, when they walked with God in the cool of the garden.  To walk with Him, I have to change.  And as I walk with Him, I WILL change.  Sometimes that change will be painful, but sometimes, if I’m really focused on Him, I won’t notice the change until I look back and realize that it’s happened.  I LOVE it when God works that way!

When we change, God can take us where He really wants us to go because nothing is holding us back.  If you’ve gotten to this point in the blog and feel like I’m slamming smokers or saying that they’re going to Hell, please let me clarify.  I don’t really believe that smoking is going to keep anybody out of Heaven.  What I am saying is that it’s a person’s heart that’s the issue.  We can’t hold onto anything harder than we hold on to God’s hand or else we can’t go where He wants us to go.  Smoking was only one of these obstacles in my life.  Some days it’s pride or fear or selfishness or unforgiveness that holds me back.

I want to live Hebrews 12:1. 

Let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.

About Sarah Salter


  1. I love that verse applied to the act of shedding off things that hinder. I was introduced to cigarettes at age 10 also, in a tent during a backyard camp-out with friends and cousins. But, I was smoking as a habit by 12 Pretty sad. Even after becoming a Christian, while I knew others had a problem with it, I just didn’t so I keep smoking. It wasn’t until my wife and I began working with the youth of the church that I finally felt a conviction that smoking was going to have to be shed off. I literally threw the pack in the trash, said, “Go you have to help me” and I’ve never smoked a cigarette since. That was 16 years ago this past February.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Herb, I was so blessed that when I quit, I never went through withdrawal. That was totally a God thing. And though I have occasionally WANTED a cigarette since, I have never smoked another one. Not even one drag. THAT is totally a God thing, too! Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad that God has delivered us both! 🙂

  3. Dear Sassy … Timely post for me .
    I smoked my last cigarette on August 9th 1993. 17 years ago today.
    I cut the last one in half and after smoking both halves, I wrote the date on the filter end.

    I still have that dated half. Cold turkey and never had the urge to start again.
    Thanks, Kristi

  4. I chain smoked my freshman year of college in Chicago… I ended up quitting because my hands smelled so bad of nicotine, that when I ate that is all I tasted… For three years after quitting, I would get sudden cravings, but the memory of that smell always kept me from going back.

    “We can’t hold onto anything harder than we hold on to God’s hand or else we can’t go where He wants us to go.” – That merits framing!

    Praying for you sister.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Wow, Kristi! Cool timing, huh? That I would post this on your 17th anniversary of freedom from nicotine. That’s just awesome! 🙂

  6. Krissy Buck says:

    I smoked in high school. My sister found my stash and tried to show my parents but I had already moved them. Whew! Thank goodness I never became addicted. I do have the greatest respect for you that you were able to quit cold turkey. I wish I could quit drinking Dr. Pepper! I love the verse, thank you for sharing it. It applies to other areas of my life I need to take a closer look at.

  7. Wow, I feel like a minority in this comment section! I’ve never smoked a cigarette before (someone wanted me to smoke a cigar when my son was born, but I couldn’t). What I am not in the minority though, is needing freedom from a bondage. That I can very much identify with. We make choices and rely on grace if we want to go where He has for us to go. Shed those weights off…

    Thanks Sarah.

  8. My first and only cigarette was when I was 16 years old. I was trying to impress a 23 year old man. He wasn’t impressed enough to merit a second cigarette 🙂
    Still, my heart hurt reading this, because I know there are other things I must shed… Anyhow, great post.

  9. I tried to smoke one also when I was 10. Just wanted to know how it was. No one gave it to me. I just took. My brothers and I were at home. they were 19 and 17 watching television. I never was hiding things and always told the truth. I just inhaled one time and couldn’t breath. Just threw that thing in the trashcan. Mothers are intelligent and wise human beings. My mum came home and found out. She entered the living room and asked: “So, who smoked here a cigarette?” Me: “I did.” You should have seen my brothers faces! hahaha. My mum: “How was it, did you like it?” Me: “No! I couldn’t breathe!” My mum: “Good!”. She never punished me. Years later I found out my mum never punished when the answer was correct. Smart lady. That is why I always told them the truth because they wouldn’t punish me for it. Still I think parenting is difficult. I think I was some handful. Never ever smoked again. It stinks. You stink when you smoke and your clothes too.

    But now on to you. I wonder : do you really want to be like Adam and Eve before the fall? They were naked, just to remind you. (teasing you). 😀

    No serious now, I love this post. I also love how He works. We do our part, He does His part. Divine collaboration.

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