I love this patient. She is a hoot. She’s always one to make me laugh.
She’s skillful too. She can dodge a bullet with the best of them. Deflecting the tough questions is a talent of hers. And then this happened.
Me: You smell like smoke.
Patient: I do!? Nuh-uh. Man I should’ve put on that Bath & Body Works stuff so you couldn’t smell it.
Me: No, then you’d really be gagging me! (Brief nervous pause. Did I go too far?)
Pt: Boisterous laughter. (Relief)
Brief conversation about the pros and cons of going into a Bath & Body Works Store and her love for the stuff.
Me: So when are you going to stop smoking anyway lady?
Pt: Probably never.
Pt: It’s my only vice.
Me: Oh really. So you’d be a TOTAL angel if you quit smoking. We’d have to get you a halo. You’d be SO perfect.
Pt: Well I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs.
Me: True. True. I mean cigarettes are better than heroine you could say.
No really. Why do you smoke do you think?
Pause. Long pause. Awkward long pause. I stumped her.
Me: Boredom, stress, overwhelm, anxiety, nerves?
And then the conversation turned to somewhere we’ve never gone before. She’s had unrelenting, untreated anxiety since she was a kid. A really young kid. Her mom was anxious. Her mom died when she was 18 and it got worse. Her Dad died a couple of years ago and it got worse. “I’ve always been able to dance around it,” she says. “I make a joke and I deflect. That’s my thing.
"I don’t do anything. I don’t even wanna leave my house. I cancel these appointments a lot of the time. I don’t even wanna call the school-- I called my kids in tardy today, but didn’t even call them back to tell them they’re not comin’.
"I gotta do somethin’. I’m giving it to my kids.”
She goes on to describe her two boys and how they were going to two different schools this year for the first time and the separation has made their anxiety worse. They don’t even want to go.
I went on to explain how I’ve never met anyone who didn’t smoke for a reason. And when we find out that reason, it holds lessons. Smoking gives a benefit of some kind. When we know why we smoke and can get that benefit in different ways, all of a sudden, we’re gonna have to buy that halo because we don’t need the cigarettes anymore.
If you smoke...or if you have ANY habit that is not serving you well, think about why you do it. Why do you really do it? What benefit does it hold for you. What gap does it fill for you?
The brain is such a miraculous thing, but sometimes it gets off track. Sometimes it needs retrained. And it is SO possible...with patience, compassion and love, coaching...from yourself, to yourself. And from someone who wants to coach you through it. Like your doctor.