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.

Sharon Dobie
Seattle, Washington




2 thoughts on “Addiction”

  1. Your personal narrative is deeply authentic and hits one with profound force. i am sure your empathy is deeply registered by the patient. At the expense of opining about our profession, i have noticed much more honesty about vulnerability on the part of lady doctors. thank you.

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