Stories of Transformation

Locking Up a Patient to Get them to Quit Smoking

It wasn’t hard to tell she lived a rough life. She started smoking at age 12. Got into drugs at an early age. But as I sat with Bobbie in my office and prayed for her I knew God was bringing healing into her life.

As a teen she suffered abuse as a teen at the hands of a church. She had turned her back on God since that time. In fact, when one of her best friend’s died unexpectedly, she didn’t attend funeral. Just because it was in a church.

That changed when she started coming to our clinic. She tells me, Dr. Roquiz, I didn’t start thinking about God until I started coming to your office.

God Mobilizes His People

Ministry doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When God starts moving in the life, he mobilizes his people for a single soul.

About a year later, her 18th month old grandson would be murdered at the hands of the boyfriend of her daughter. The place she went to for help was the doorstep of our church. As she opened up about her situation, the church members from community service came to her aid. They prayed with her; they accompanied her to the hospital to pray over her dying grandson. Meals were cooked for her.


Quit Smoking Lockdown

About a year later Bobbie, shows up in my office. She had neck surgery a few months prior and her pain, speech and mental clarity seemed to have improved. However, her neck wasn’t healing well. Despite the warnings from her neurosurgeon, she was still a heavy smoker. In fact, she found herself smoking even one hour prior to her neck surgery.

Bobbie knew what was at stake but couldn’t get herself to quit. She had tried Chantix, Wellbutrin and nicotine patches. Nothing seemed to work for her. Exasperated she told me in the office, Can you just lock me up in a room somewhere so I can quit?!

So that’s what we did.

Let me explain. We set up a smoking cessation program. It was attended by 5 patients from the clinic who were quite engaged in the topic and supporting one another. However, on day 2 of the class when I said it was time to quit the next day, the class went from 5 to 1. The only person left was Bobbie.

When the day arrived for her to quit, Bobbie failed miserably. She never quit and just couldn’t put down the cigarette. I was anticipating this difficulty quitting so we set up a smoking cessation lockdown.

That’s right. We literally set up an place where we would remove all forms of tobacco and just sweat it out together with our patients. We set this up to take place at the church providing opportunities for ministry.

Bobbie and one other patient decided to join us when we began Friday morning. She showed up 8:00am at the church. She had a tired look on her face, Dr. Roquiz, I almost didn’t show up today. I found out today that we’ve been evicted. We’re homeless.

I was proud of her in that moment. Despite this challenge she still showed up. For worship, I shared the story of the blind beggar in Luke 18 where he cried out, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! Many times, it is when we reach rock bottom that we cry out to God. And in that cry for help, God hears our prayers.

For the next 48 hours Bobbie, another patient and two other ministry partners, Chuck and Kristi, would join me. We gave them the gift of presence. We prayed with them. Studied the Bible with them. Ate with them. And even slept with them right in the church. On Sabbath afternoon we had church members take us out on a hike. For Saturday night, we had a family that had worship with us and then lead out in game night. We even performed acts of service and helped set up and clean for a funeral service the following day. Chuck got Bobbie a brand new Bible and highlighted promises so she could be encouraged.

Saturday afternoon, Bobbie got a call from her boyfriend she was living with. He had found them a place to live. It was even better than the place where they were staying before. God was answering our prayers.

Bobbie had never been away from cigarettes for more than 2 hours on her own. Now she had gone 48 hours without it. She even commented, Dr. Roquiz I’m surprised at how few urges I got during the lockdown. I expected more.


What Determines Success?

Yet I knew how difficult it would be for Bobbie. Her self-control was just so weak. I feared she would succumb to cigarettes as soon as she got home. As I talked to my mentor about this program he said something that resonated with me, Andrew, even if she fails to quit smoking, as long as Bobbie feels the sacrificial love of God, you have succeeded.

I had a chance to talk to Bobbie Saturday night during the lockdown. She told me how grateful she was for the lockdown. No one had done something like this for her before. Bobbie went on, Every person who I’ve met from your church has been nothing but warm and kind to me.

I contemplated how this patient, who had once suffered abuse at the hands of so called Christians and had not even wanted to step inside a church was now feeling the love of God from the body of Christ.

After the lockdown, we decided to call Bobbie and provide her encouragement everyday. A few days after, she requested that we do another smoking cessation lockdown. Bobbie had gone back to smoking. I was neither disappointed nor upset. I knew this was a process.

How God Broke the Habit

The following week I called up Bobbie. She told me something happened. Bobbie was reading the Psalms and stumbled on this verse:

I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

She said she spent the entire day in prayer. The following day she went to light up a cigarette and put it to her mouth. She then started vomiting. Cigarettes had now become disgusting to her. In fact, she went that entire day without smoking, then the next day and then the next. Bobbie, had never gone without smoking in her own home. Now God had performed a miracle in her life to let her know that this was actually possible. I know it will be a process, but a woman who couldn’t even step foot in a church was now in the process of being delivered from an addiction with the power of God.

As I contemplate the events that took place that week, I’m convinced that God wants us to communicate his love through acts of sacrifice. And when this is done, the energy of God is transmitted into the life of our patients. This allows them to break free from bondage and addictions. When we love someone with a divine love – a love from outside ourselves – God’s power is unleashed.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Debbie December 7, 2017 at 12:19 pm

    Super encouraging story – thanks for sharing and inspiring me!

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