You can do it if you put your mind to it - for 20 minutes

March 25, 2007|by TONY MULIERI

I gave up smoking for Lent.

A lot of people probably don't know I am a smoker, or was.

It started innocently enough. I was playing golf and I started to smoke a cigar here and there. Then I wanted to try something different. And there you go, you have a smoking problem on your hands. For the past year, I've been smoking about a pack of cigarettes a day.

Then Lent came. As Catholics, we're really not supposed to tell anyone what we give up for Lent. It's supposed to be a sacrifice that you offer up to God. You're not supposed to be looking for a pat on the back. But I'm revealing this now - it feels like confession - because it might inspire someone else to quit.

Here's how I did it.

I knew I wanted to give up something for Lent, but at my age and with my health, there's not much left to give up. So I sat there a couple of days before Ash Wednesday - that's the first day of Lent - and thought about it. Then it hit me - give up smoking.


Just like that.

I noodled through it. First, you have to stop buying cigarettes. OK. Done. On Fat Tuesday, I bought my last pack. OK. So then I thought about it. I have an urge to smoke about every 20 minutes. So when I woke up on Ash Wednesday with no cigarettes and an urge to smoke, I just willed myself to get past that urge.

The next 20-minute urge came. I fought through it. And so on. And so on. Before I knew it, it was Thursday. Twenty minutes at a time. Twenty minutes at a time. Eventually, the time intervals grew. I wanted a cigarette every half-hour. Then every hour.

OK, so now it has been about five weeks. I still want one after I eat and after I drink something and when I get out of the movies and when I get into my car, which still smells like smoke, and before I go to bed. You get the picture.

But I'm making it.

I'm doing it cold turkey. No patches, no gum. Just willpower.

Now I'm thinking to myself, I must not be as addicted as others. Because it's not easy to quit. I know that. But I was smoking a pack a day. So what gives?

I think the incentive to give up something for Lent outweighed the urge to smoke. You have to have an incentive. I like everything about smoking, except it kills you. That's a pretty good incentive, too.

The bad thing about it, though, is in my lifetime whenever I gave up something for Lent, I looked forward to Easter Sunday when I could break my fast and get to it, whether it was soda or chocolate or snacks, the more conventional things people give up.

But now that I've given up smoking, I don't want to go back to it. Lent is 40 days and 40 nights, and I think the 40 nights are more difficult than the 40 days, if you know what I'm saying. Things always seem tougher at night.

So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that when Easter comes, I won't have a relapse. I've made it this far, 20 minutes at a time, and I don't want to go back.

But the experience has taught me, once again, that sacrifice is a good thing. It forces you to rethink things and it makes you a stronger person.

Oh, man, I want a cigarette.

It's OK. You can make it another 20 minutes.

Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at

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