72. Just as it is easier to sin in the mind than in action, so warfare through our impassioned conceptual images of things is harder than warfare through the things themselves.
I quit smoking slightly more than fourteen years ago. (I could count the days over fourteen years if I wanted, but I try not to dwell on it that much.) I had smoked and smoked fairly heavily for two decades by that time. My body and mind had been formed and shaped with and around nicotine. As studies have shown, one of the effects of nicotine is that it increases focus and concentration. So in addition to breaking the other physical aspects of addiction, I had to learn how to intently focus my mind without the aid of a drug. But I managed all of that and the physical aspect of my smoking addiction has long since passed. I not only fought that war, I won it.
My conceptual images of smoking are another thing entirely and I am still not free from them. I can still remember the feeling when that first deep drag floods your body with sensation. The memory is so intense, it’s as though I can almost relive it. And it’s compelling. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have to remind myself that I am not a smoker and I am never going to be a smoker again.
I won the war over the things themselves years ago. The war over my impassioned conceptual images of the things? Not so much. That war continues. I think I grasp some of what St. Maximos is describing in this text.