What do you think of a veterinarian who smokes?
I’m heading out to Denver today to lead a roundtable discussion on the topic of new graduate integration into the workforce (more on that tomorrow). In advance of a trip out to the Rockies where the oxygen is thinner and the hiking trails are steeper, I’ve been taking drugs...lots of ‘em.
I’m on my second week of Chantix, Pfizer’s blockbuster smoking cessation pills. They work by blocking nicotine receptors in the brain. So whenever I smoke a cigarette, my nicotine cravings aren’t sated. Kind of makes smoking all about the behavior and not a whit about the nicotine relief. It helps. Nevertheless, the process still hurts.
So you know, I hate that I smoke. My son hates it. My boyfriend despises it. No one I know outside of work smokes. I’m a pariah when I’m out in the real world. I often hide when I smoke in public and completely abstain when I’m with my parents. I smoke outside. And, yes, I know I’m killing myself.
I tell myself my family’s longevity and cancer-free genetics will likely protect me for a few more years. But no one has to tell me that's the worst kind of rationalization. I saw the Bodies exhibit. I can guess at what my lungs look like (reference the one on the right, below). I understand that with every day I smoke I continue to scar my alveoli and endothelium, alike, among other precious anatomic bits.
Meanwhile, I muddle through this disconnect by changing the station when a lung cancer PSA comes on the radio, ignoring the subtle change in my voice over the past few years, bristling whenever I’m told how much I need to quit (I can take that kind of abuse only from my physician), and inexplicably denying that my cardiovascular fitness is suffering (“I can still run stairs with the best of them,” I say as I wheeze at the top floor).
And, yes, worst of all, I’m embarrassed whenever a client catches me in the act. It’s just not professional, you know? Who can trust a doctor who smokes like a chimney? Sure, it’s a sign of obsessiveness, but that’s not always a good thing, you know?
This is it. I’ve been cutting down for a week but after today, there’ll be no more cigs to suck on. Colorado will help tidy up this ragged break in my daily rituals: Clean air, a culture for which marijuana smoking is more socially acceptable than cigarettes, the presence of esteemed colleagues and lots of vigorous exercise, etc. But will it be enough?
That’s why I’m enlisting your help as I head into my final day of cigarette smoking. Words of encouragement? Expressions of disgust for the habit? Comments on healthcare providers who smoke? Let fly. I can take it.