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I'm Free!

By Rev. Andrena Ingram

August 29, 2013

I'm Free!

I have finally announced to my congregation and to my Facebook peeps that I have quit smoking, that I am on the patch and that I would appreciate their prayers!

I can't begin to tell you how LIBERATING and FREEING that was! I began smoking at age 15...and have smoked for 43 years. I did have one successful year in seminary when I stopped smoking, but picked up again, after a relationship went sour. Contrary to what folks may believe, I don't know that most smokers actually LOVE it. It's an addiction. Nicotine is harder to kick than alcohol and most drugs!

My doctor had been encouraging me to stop smoking for as long as I have been in Philly -- but it has always been one thing after another. I have a very stressful life. Very stressful life issues, and I just kept putting it off. I just was not ready. When I began therapy about 2 months ago, I bought up the idea with my doctor again and she wrote a prescription for the patches...TWO MONTHS ago! I don't know why, CVS never had them ready. I had actually forgotten all about them; until 26 days ago, when I went to pick up my regular meds and there they were -- nicotine patches!

As of this writing, I quit smoking 25 days, 12 hours and 18 minutes ago. I haven't smoked 383 cigarettes and have saved $124.37. (They even have an iPhone ap for folks who stop smoking!)

I am so grateful! Grateful to be free of that last monkey on my back and for the extra years added on to my life. As well as all the other "health benefits": healthier heart, healthier lungs...breathing the air...actually feeling my chest open up. Grateful to get more "time" in my day, usually spent smoking. Grateful that I most likely will not get bronchitis this year! It was total INSANITY to have bronchitis and at the same time light up a cigarette.

I am grateful that I don't stink anymore! People can hug me, and smell a light fragrance of lavender or whatever I decide to wear, instead of that damn tobacco! However, when I pass by someone on the street, I do find myself lingering just a bit -- to catch a whiff of the cigarette, and then say in my head: "I bet that person stinks".

I am grateful that I don't have to hide my smoking in my community (although there were a few that knew), or have to constantly be on my guard when smoking outside of my community -- wondering who was going to be driving through whatever area it was. Grateful that I no longer have to step in an elevator and watch the faces of those around me, because they smell the smoke, or enter a meeting/gathering place and sit down at a table smelling like a tobacco factory.

I am grateful for another testimony, for what God is doing in my life!

I know ... I know ... it is only 25 days.

As with drugs and alcohol (from which I have been clean for 25 years), I can only comprehend doing this 1 day at a time. And that is how I am getting through. I am 12 stepping this process, and it makes it a little easier.

I began with the 1st step: "We admitted we were powerless over our addiction -- that our lives had become unmanageable." It certainly felt as though I was powerless over this addiction...and my life had certainly become unmanageable. Once the patches were in my possession, I embraced the decision...and am happy about it. It is a day by day process, sometimes hour by hour.

Am I uncomfortable? Yes! Especially at night! My freezer is loaded with Popsicle sticks to get me through the cravings. During the day, ministry keeps me busy enough. Soon, I won't mind at all, except perhaps for the weight I will probably be putting on. I think a good hula hooping a couple times a week and maybe walking will take care of that. I do still have urges, but the urges are shorter and shorter and I keep the "Soup Nazi" image and voice (No soup for you!) in my head: "No Cigs for you! -- I am free"... take a deep breath...and keep it moving!

Related Stories

How to Say "I Quit" -- and Mean It
5 Years and Running: How I Quit Smoking
More on Cigarette Smoking and HIV/AIDS

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Is the Ribbon Enough?

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Rev. Andrena Ingram

Reverend Andrena Ingram (also known as "Pastor Andrena" or "Pastor Ingram") has become a strong advocate for those living in the margins, as she once was. She is an activist in the HIV/AIDS arena, herself living openly and unabashedly with the HIV virus for over 22+ years.

Raised in South Jamaica, New York, Reverend Ingram served seven years of active duty in the U.S. Army. She would later move to the South Bronx, where she attended Transfiguration Lutheran Church with Pastor Heidi Neumark as her pastor and mentor -- empowering her to rise up out of herself and her life challenges, which seemed to her, at the time, insurmountable.

Reverend Ingram is a graduate of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with a Master of Divinity. She has been the pastor of St. Michael's Lutheran Church on Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pa., for the past four years.

Reverend Ingram can frequently be found speaking about HIV/AIDS, encouraging everyone "to know your status, get tested, and be informed." Silence = Death.

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