Hello. My name is Sharon and I am an addict. My drug was tobacco. Exposed early, by smoking parents, I tried tobacco in high school and was quickly dependent. It calmed me. It gave me something to do with my hands. I smoked out my window at home and, when I could, other places. I was not alone. This was 1964.
Smoking was common in my college. In 1969, hospitalized for pneumonia and on oxygen, I turned off the oxygen and again hung out a window, smoking. The summer before medical school, using hypnosis, I quit; that lasted three years. Then I was back at it.
In 1980, during my residency, my mother died from lung cancer. I kept smoking; my new mantra was that each cigarette was a choice and a suicidal one. In 1983, as medical director of a community health center housed upstairs in an old fire house, I would run downstairs to a little room, 7′ x 9′, to fill out my patients’ charts—and to smoke. My patients saw cigarettes in my pockets, and of course I smelled. As I talked with them about the risks of smoking and the importance of quitting, I was honest—they knew I, too, was an addict.
Did I quit? Yes, after three tries, 36 years ago. I told myself I couldn’t be a parent as a smoker. If you don’t have an addiction, are lucky to not have the makeup that hooks you on something, it is pretty impossible to understand.
That one fact is worth remembering.