Divine Retreat Center
A few days later, on the first of September, less than two months after my conversion, my wife and I were at the Divine Retreat Center in Cochin, South India.
The Retreat Center is supposed to have brought about amazing transformations in the lives of those who attended. I figured I already was transformed, but if there were to be further improvements in my life, I would only be too happy.
When we reached the retreat center I saw a large sign at the gate that said smoking was strictly prohibited inside the premises. I grimaced. I still retained much of my contempt for rules - arrogance dies hard - and I had no intention of following this one. Besides, I wasn't sure I could follow it even if I wanted to. I was a chain smoker and I used to smoke three packets of cigarettes a day, five in the days when I drank. That is sixty to a hundred cigarettes a day!
I had heard that people who attended the retreat quit smoking and if that happened in my case I would be delighted, but I wasn't taking any chances: I had four cartons of Benson & Hedges in my backpack!
We checked in and then went for the first session. After it was over I rushed up to my room and in the twenty minute break we had been given I smoked five cigarettes one after another. If I ever needed evidence as to how hopelessly addicted to tobacco I was, this was it.
During the next session, one of the speakers spoke about the sanctity of life and how it was an unforgivable sin to take life, even if it was one's own. The statement was made almost in passing, but the effect it had on me was enormous. It dawned on me that when you smoked - just like when you drank or did drugs - you were taking your life. It wasn't instantaneous death but you were killing yourself just as surely - and as deliberately - as if you were ingesting a little poison every day. And that made it a sin! By this time, the moment I discovered that something was a sin, I no longer wanted to have anything to do with it. I wanted to quit right then and there, but quite honestly didn't know how to. I had been a smoker since my early teens and had never quit for more than a couple of days at a time despite trying my best several times.
Next: God of the Impossible