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Nicotine and Grace: An Angry Reflection with a Graceful Conclusion

I almost didn’t post this blog. It’s never flattering to be vulnerable with the world but, at times, it is quite necessary. My hope and desire in this piece is for you to be challenged, encouraged, and moved to action. 

I can relate to habits hurting others. At the height of my drinking, I hurt more than my fair share of people; from clients to students, coworkers, and family. I know what it’s like to hurt others in search of that next fix, that next drunk, high, etc. You get the point.

What I do not understand and cannot understand is how a person can continually be confronted with their own mortality and frailty as a human being and choose to do anything but fight. I don’t get it and I don’t know that I will ever fully understand how someone can care so little and just give up.

I feel like my Mom is someone who has given up. It’s sad, really. Just last week, on social media, I posted a photo of us walking together. Not only was I proud that my mom was walking, I was also proud of her effort. I was proud of her movement towards a new and better her. Keep in mind, this was shortly after having a major surgery to remove her thyroid and a mass that had grown just below her breastbone.

After coming home, she started smoking again.

The smell lingered in her room as I walked in and, of course, she denied it and then later changed her story to tell me she had “smoked just one”.

What’s led to this little cigarette being of more concern than just her lungs is the reality of her medical history:

  • Overweight
  • Severely underactive
  • Doctors told her she had the beginning of COPD about 5 years ago
  • Smoker for 40+ years
  • Bipolar I
  • Cognitive Issues (possibly due to the Thyroid)
  • Constantly dehydrated and malnourished (Sugar is the only group she loves, right Mom?)

 Mom’s declining health issues have cost me a lot and if I can be honest, at times, I resent my mom for continuing to smoke and it comes out as anger.

It’s hard to see those you love make poor choices.

I guess I’m starting to realize the real hell that a parent must go through every day, month, and year that passes by and a more fully-developed human being stares them in the face and is ready to make independent choices—good and bad!

We’ve been talking about love at church, lately. We’ve specifically talked about loving “them”—the people who are hardest for us to love. This group may be different for each person.

At times, my Mom has felt like a “them” to me because I just didn’t understand her. But I continue to love and hug her with as much passion as I can.


Because, if love is a verb then, to me, it’s best expressed through action and deed and I’m hoping that if I do it long enough, the attachment will come.

Til then, we need help.

Sometimes, you need a third party to intervene and help people communicate freely and without fear of rejection, judgment, etc.

I’ve asked Mom to go to counseling with me and she’s said yes so that’s a step in the right direction.

Some days, all you get is a step in the right direction. Your ego and anxiety may want years of leaps and bounds, but life may only give you a single step. It’s still progress no matter how small.

And, as they used to say at meetings, “One step at a time..” and “One day at a time..”

Today, friends, I’m praying for “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can..”

I encourage you to do the same.

Let go of what you cannot change and embrace what you can and, if need be, take that first step.

For me, this means letting go an “ideal mother” and embracing the broken yet lovely woman that stands before me and still offers me the same love that she did 30+ years ago. No matter how unkind, uncaring, or disconnected my words—she always forgives, always understands, and always says ‘I love you and forgive you.’

Maybe, just maybe, I need to extend her the same grace that she has shown me time and time again.

That’s the thing about grace that is so powerful, it makes you want to love more not less. When you’ve received it, you want to give it to others. It really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Grace is undeserved love and, trust me, I didn’t deserve it today and, yet, found myself wrapped in its loving arms courtesy of a mother who will always say “I love you and I forgive you”. I have a lot to learn from my Mom. She still has something to offer this world through her experience, wisdom, and stories.

We all have a role in our dysfunction and it’s time I own mine.

A famous theologian, Paul Tillich once said “The first duty of love is to listen” and James, the brother of Jesus once wrote, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

I want to listen and understand and, for now, this will best be done with a therapist but I’m hopeful as we continue to improve our communication.

Where do you need to show more grace and what does it look like to you?

For Mom and I, it starts with listening, understanding, and knowing we need to seek counsel and loving each other to admit we can’t do this on our own.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Be well,


Nicotine and Grace: An Angry Reflection with a Graceful Conclusion


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APA Reference
, . (2017). Nicotine and Grace: An Angry Reflection with a Graceful Conclusion. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 4 Mar 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Mar 2017
Published on All rights reserved.