Dear Dr. B,
My husband and I want to start trying to have a baby. I know smoking is bad for my health, but it’s even worse for a baby, so I want to try to quit before I get pregnant. I’ve tried before but wasn’t very successful.
Do you have any advice?
Quitting For Health
Dear Health Seeker,
I’m so glad you recognize the health impact of smoking and are being pro-active in quitting before you become pregnant. That may actually even help your attempts to conceive. And you’ll improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
There are many benefits to quitting smoking:
- You’ll physically feel better and live longer.
- Your hair, body, and clothes will no longer smell like smoke.
- Your sense of taste and smell will improve.
- Your family members will no longer breathe in toxic second-hand smoke.
- Your blood pressure and pulse will optimize.
- Your bronchial tubes relax, breathing becomes easier, and your lungs become more efficient.
- You’ll decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and lung disease.
- You’ll have additional money available to spend on things besides cigarettes!
Nicotene is quite addictive, which is part of why quitting is so difficult. It’s important to recognize that addictions begin because we are trying to fill an emptiness inside that only God can fill.
There are several steps that can help improve your chance of quitting successfully:
- Accept God’s love for you completely
- Prepare in advance
- Get support and encouragement
- Learn new skills and behaviors to replace the old
- Acknowledge the risk of relapse and be prepared for how to avoid it or manage it if it occurs.
- Determine to continue trying even if success is not immediate
Let’s go a little more in-depth and discuss what I mean.
1. Accept God’s love for you completely
When we fully accept God’s love for us completely, and love ourselves as He loves us, we fill the emptiness with a peace and joy that leaves no room for counterfeits. When we truly appreciate the completeness of God’s love, we no longer have to worry about perfection as the standard we strive for, because we can accept grace for our weakness.
2. Prepare in Advance
What does that mean exactly? Pray about what and how God wants you to go about this endeavor. Set the date that you will begin this new healthier way of living. Surround yourself with scripture to encourage you. One of my personal favorites for situations like this:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
Alter your surroundings accordingly (rid your home of ashtrays, spare lighters and matches, etc.) Let your family and friends know of your intentions, and establish the rule that NO smoking is allowed in your home from now on.
If you’ve tried to quit before, think about what helped and what didn’t work so you can draw upon your past experience. Once you quit, do not allow yourself to take even one puff.
3. Get Support and Encouragement
Research has shown that we are more likely to be successful at our goals if we have support. Recognize first that you always have God on your side. His word reminds us that His grace is sufficient for ALL our needs, and that His strength is perfect in our weakness.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).
Next, tell your friends, family, and coworkers that you are quitting, and ask for their help and encouragement, which includes asking them not to smoke around you. I’d also encourage you to talk to your healthcare providers and doctors and let them know of your intentions. There are also support groups online and in person that can be another source of encouragement. These days there are also apps for your computer and phone, which also provide encouragement and support.
4. Learn new skills and behaviors to replace the old
When you feel the urge to smoke, first pray about it. When the urge strikes, ask God what’s prompting the urge, then deal with that underlying issue. Then exchange the old behavior of picking up a cigarette with a new behavior like taking a walk, drinking water, or pounding out an email.
Most addictions have a habitual component to them, and our habits often trigger our addictive behaviors, so when you are trying to get rid of an addiction, change your routine. Take a different route to work, spend dedicated time in prayer at a new time during the day, drink more water, etc. Just make sure you aren’t replacing an old addiction (smoking) with a new addiction (drinking coffee for example). Allow yourself the opportunity to do something positive to reduce your stress (exercise, take a hot bath, drink hot tea).
5. Acknowledge the risk of relapse and be prepared for how to avoid it or manage it if it occurs.
Relapse is so common because we unconsciously go back to situations, circumstances, thought patterns and beliefs that brought on addictive behaviors to begin with. Take it to the Lord. Ask Him to show you what hole, what hurt, you’ve tried to cover or fill with something other than Him. Repent of that. Anything we look to as our answer instead of Him becomes an idol. God and His word have said we cannot serve two masters.
We all have bad days, days when we can get down and discouraged. Those days can be a trigger for our addictive behaviors. We can avoid the relapse if we will repent and ask God to fill us with more of Him, and teach us how to allow Him to be our everything.
6) Determine to continue trying even if success is not immediate
If you mess up and backslide, take it back to Him.
Remember, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV).
We all make mistakes. Admit your mistake, repent if you need to, and determine to try again.
Even Paul in the Bible spoke about his frustration with doing the things he didn’t mean to do. Remember, God knew that we would need help to live this life. That’s why He gave us His word, and why He sent His son to die for us.
Together, you and God can do this!
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