Tobacco and Relapse
God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Romans 1:28-31
We all have small struggles that just aren’t that big of deal. If something isn’t causing massive destruction, it’s easy to just let it slide. So, we tolerate small failures, as long as they’re not that bad. For instance, it always struck me as hypocritical, that in Narcotics Anonymous meetings, we would take a break at the half hour mark so the smokers could go outside to indulge in their cigarettes. Compared to using heroin, a tobacco addiction was tolerable.
Finding this hypocritical didn’t stop me from doing the same thing. I don’t like to talk about it, but in addition to my drug use, I chewed tobacco. During my first couple attempts at recovery, I continued chewing. In pursuing sobriety, I knew I should give up tobacco, but I told myself it wasn’t that bad. It was just a small vice and perhaps indulging in that one little thing would keep me from going back to drugs. I had it absolutely wrong. Tobacco was connected to my drug use and as long as I refused to give it up, it was always going to lead me back to drugs. Indulging in one chemical kept the door open to another.
Paul addressed this principle in today’s passage. In it, he described the consequences of tolerating destructive behavior in our lives. He said that those who’ve insisted on going their own way were given up by God, to their evil desires. Accepting one evil then led to other evils: malice, envy, strife, deceit, maliciousness, gossip, slander, pride, and even murder.
I’m not picking on tobacco here and I’m not saying that if you smoke, you’ll end up as an alcoholic or addict. I’m saying that for me, I knew tobacco needed to go, but I refused to quit. As long as I kept the door open to self-destructive chemicals, relapsing into pills was just the next simple and inevitable step. Destruction breeds more destruction.
This is why those little destructive failures aren’t so little and why, when we recognize them, that we must do what it takes to abandon them.