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Why I'm a PAT: My Journey to Becoming a Smoke-Free Witch

Author: Jeffery Johnson
Posted: July 31st. 2011
Times Viewed: 4,795

My love affair with cigarettes began when I was ten. That's the summer Dad gave me my first smoke--he said it would keep the mosquitoes away. I liked the smell of the cigarette. I kind of liked the taste, as well. Dad told me I was in no danger as long as I didn't inhale. His own father had died from emphysema at age 64, some years before I was born. Giving your child a cigarette is stupid, and Dad should have known better, but I can't ultimately blame Dad for my nicotine addiction. He enabled me, to be sure, but I made the choice to keep smoking, even after I knew it was dangerous.

As I grew older, the love affair continued. I'd smoke cigars every so often throughout my teens, usually when fishing. I never inhaled. I just sucked the putrid, chemical-ridden air into my mouth, and blew it out. I could go for months without smoking, and didn't miss it. I smoked periodically as I grew older, for a period of time in my late teens, every so often in my early twenties--a friend would offer me one, and I'd accept. Usually, I didn't inhale, but at some point, I must have. As a result, I became a full-fledged nicotine addict by the time I was 23. I was smoking regularly. I couldn't go one day anymore without my fix, without my drug, my lover, and friend.

You may wonder what this tobacco talk has to do with Paganism, witchcraft, and the occult. I'm so glad you asked! You see, ever since I claimed Neopaganism as my religion, I intuitively knew that I was violating the Wiccan Rede by continuing to smoke. "'An ye harm none, do what ye will." Yet, with every puff, I was harming. First of all, I was harming my own body: my lungs, my heart, my arteries, my bones, my skin, my mouth and throat. Additionally, I was harming my mind by feeding it nicotine, a known depressant. But, hey, as long as I was only hurting myself, it wasn't a big deal, right? I mean, I'm not exactly a health nut to begin with; in fact, health nuts kind of annoy me. I eat fast food, I don't work out daily, and for that matter, who knows what deadly chemicals could be lurking in my tap water--a glass of water could kill me before cigarettes ever do!

As anyone who's encountered addicts knows, we are good at rationalizing and making excuses for our behavior. In addition to hurting myself, I was of course harming others with my second-hand smoke. I was polluting the air around me. I was polluting Mother Earth. I dread to think how many thousands of my cigarette butts lie heaped up in some disgusting landfill, or carelessly discarded on the street, or on the ground. "What ye send forth comes back to thee, so ever mind the law of three." Considering all the damage I was causing through my addiction, karma had every reason to kick my butt and probably did on numerous occasions.

Incidentally, I managed to quit in 2006. I'd heard how hard it was, but there's a colossal difference between hearing and living it. I thought I'd go crazy for a couple months after the quit. I was anxious, depressed, paranoid, an official candidate for a straightjacket and a padded cell. Later on, the anxiety was gone, and I felt as close to normal as possible. I still had occasional cravings for a long time afterwards, but I never again thought I would smoke.

However, I did smoke again that fall--it's called a "slip." I didn't start up again just then. I played with fire, but didn't get thrown back into the molten lava. At a later date over a year after my quit, I decided to smoke "just one" again. This time, the fire engulfed me, and I was back to smoking. I felt stupid, angry, guilty, and afraid. I was afraid I'd never be able to quit again. I didn't want to go through the withdrawal and all the craziness it entailed again. So, I continued to smoke, to the disappointment of almost everyone who cared about me. Still, in the back of my mind, I knew that if I quit once, I could again. I tried on a few occasions with nicotine gums and lozenges, only to give in each time. I felt helpless.

What's terrible about this whole situation is that I was painfully aware of the consequences of smoking. I'd taken care of patients with lung disease, and watched them waste away, struggling to breathe, terrified and trapped in a malfunctioning body. I also knew that I had a family history of lung disease. Yet, I rationalized the facts away. "I'd rather die younger from smoking than live to be old, and get Alzheimer's disease." Convincing, no? Plus, I had the "It relaxes me" excuse. Or this intelligent excuse: "We all have to die from something, so why not enjoy smoking while I can?" (Lord and Lady, what a dope I can be...)

Added to my other reasons to smoke was that it seemed to numb my depression. I felt that if smoking killed me prematurely, at least I'd be free of depression. I give an account of what caused me to change this pattern of thinking in a post on a "Quitnet" forum:

...I've struggled with depression for most of my 30ish years, and there have been many times I've wished I'd die, even if I didn't have a plan to end my life.

I smoked realizing full well that I was destroying my body one cig at a time. And since I wanted to die anyway, I figured smoking was a way I could prematurely exit life, and be done with the aching pain of living.

I'd imagine I'm not the only one with depression who has thought that way about smoking. I finally woke up and realized life's pretty darn precious. In March, I went to the funeral of a little girl who died of cancer. Seeing her in that casket was almost unbearable. I didn't, and don't understand why such things must be.

At that point, the wheels of my mind began spinning. This girl would have given anything to have more time in the world. Who the hell am I to piss on the gift of life and a reasonably healthy body that I've been given. How dare I say that I want to end my life (whether by smoking or any means) when this girl had no choice in the matter, and will never grow up, let alone grow old?

I still get really depressed at times, but I'm now beginning to realize that every day really is a gift, even when it's not all fun and games. Hopefully, I have a lot of years ahead of me, and there's so much I still want to do.

Suicide through smoking... how stupid. Because even if you get your wish to die early of some smoking-related disease, chances are you'll do a lot of suffering before all is said and done.

I quit in memory of Makayla, and Austin, and all who never had the luxury of choosing to live or die. I choose this day to respect my body and myself, and not throw away the gift of my life before it's too late.

Within my heart, I knew it was time to stop smoking again, for the last time. In May of this year, I had a medical check-up, and my doctor put me on a prescription drug that helps some quit tobacco. Some time later, I set a quit date for June 2. However, I was afraid I wouldn't stick to my plan, that I'd talk myself out of it. I went to the website, and read about some people my age (in their thirties!) that died of lung disease from smoking. My moment of truth came. On the night of May 19, 2011, I smoked my last cigarette. I woke up on May 20, and threw the rest of the pack away.

As of this writing, I'm just over ten days into my quit. I've been surprised by how much easier quitting has been this time (I think the medication helped) . Still, cravings do come, and habits are hard to change. I've found a lot of support on, which is just one of numerous smoking cessation websites available to help you. If you want to quit smoking, or even if you have quit, you can find me on "Quitnet" under the username "antiochian"--we even have a Pagan forum, and I'll be glad to help support you.

I wish I'd bothered to seek out such resources during my first quit, knowing now the ever-present threat of relapse that haunts ex-smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, former gamblers, and other addicts. As a Pagan, I know I'm responsible for taking control of my own life, and that it's my duty to work with the deities to make my will come to pass.

I'm proud to be a PAT (Pagan Against Tobacco) , and a Smoke-Free Witch. I don't judge my friends who continue to smoke, but I made the best decision for myself. I choose life. I choose healthier lungs and cleaner air. The "love affair" and "friendship" with deadly tobacco is over. I pledge to my deities and myself--NOPE! (Not Another Puff Ever!)


Jeffery Johnson

Location: Luverne, Minnesota

Author's Profile: To learn more about Jeffery Johnson - Click HERE

Bio: I earned my B.A. in English in 2010. I'm a member of the Outer Court of the Minoan Brotherhood, and a Unitarian Universalist.

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