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Woman vows to give up smoking for Lent

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Feb. 28, 2014 at midnight
Updated Feb. 27, 2014 at 8:28 p.m.

A freshly lit cigarette sits between two of Sara Hernandez's fingers as she smokes on the front porch of her home. She plans to give up the habit for Lent. Hernandez said she has already cut back her smoking to about a half pack of cigarettes every few days from the two packs a day she used to smoke about a year ago.

The Lenten season begins Wednesday, on what is known as Ash Wednesday, and lasts for 40 days until Easter Sunday.

This season of religious fasting for Catholics, Orthodox and some Protestant denominations often includes prayer, biblical studies, dietary abstinence and other acts of sacrifice.

For the next few weeks, the Advocate will feature Lenten fasters who have committed to giving something up for the holiday season.

Name: Sara Eves Hernandez

City: Victoria

Age: 40

Religion: Catholic

Fast: Marlboro Red 100s

Why did you choose cigarettes to give up for Lent?

Because it's time to quit smoking. It's something I've been wanting to do, and I feel like God wants me to be healthier because with all my health problems, he is still keeping me here. I wanted to give up something for the Lord, so I thought, why not give up a bad habit?

How long have you been smoking?

Since I was about 26 years old. I have a lot of health issues, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis in my hip, back and shoulders and a degenerative disc in my spine. I was diagnosed last year with diabetes, and I've lost close to 50 pounds since then. But my doctors have all told me I need to quit smoking.

Have you always observed Lent?

Not always. I've somewhat observed it for the past few years, but I've gotten back in touch with the Lord in recent years after a period in my life when I had lost all faith. I wanted to observe it this year because I wanted to do something (sacrificial) for God.

What happened in your life that made you lose faith?

I was pretty mixed up for about eight or nine years, and I even spent some time in jail. When you're sitting in a jail cell with only a Bible to read, that can make a difference. I knew I needed to turn my life around. I read the book of Job, which I identified with, and I also read some passages out of Matthew about forgiveness. I realized I needed to forgive myself before I could forgive everyone else.

Why did you spend time in jail?

I was addicted to prescription drugs. I had a lot of family issues going on with me, and I did those - the drugs - to escape, I guess. I lost both of my parents within a couple of years of each other. I originally used Xanax, Lortabs and Soma to deal with the pain of my health issues, but then, when it didn't help with the pain, I took more and more, and I'd take the Xanax for stress and panic attacks. When I was arrested in 2010, that was a turning point for me. I almost lost my life, my family. My husband almost walked out on me and took the kids. He told me I had to choose drugs or family, and I chose family. I've been clean since 2010.

How are you preparing for your fast?

I'm going through the process of pre-quitting. I'm getting rid of all my coupons for cigarettes, and I've started rationing my cigarettes, so that each day I'm smoking less than the day before. I smoke about a pack every two days, and I'm trying to get down to zero by the time Lent starts. I'm only allowing myself a few each day. I've decided not to use any patches or gum. I'm using true determination.

How will your faith help you through this fast?

I'm praying every day for strength because I'm going to need it. I pray the rosary every night. You've got to want it, or it's not going to work. But I want to be done with this addiction by the end of the season. I know I can do it. You have to have the right attitude, or you're going to fail.

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