Quitting 

I recently sat across from an Anesthesiologist, during a pre-op visit. I thought I’d be in and out in a few minutes, but I ended up waiting for a bit. We talked about my sensitivity to anesthesia, I explained a past surgery, and we talked about why I was there and what he was going to use.

He went through the list of questions quickly. I drink a few times a year. I don’t use drugs. When it came up, I told him I quit smoking.

“Wow, that’s fantastic. Not easy to do at all! You should be proud of that!” He said this with a big happy grin.

“Is this guy for real?” I thought. It was genuine praise. I think he really meant what he said. I was struck by how encouraging it was. But, come on. Proud? For quitting cigarettes? He’s seriously wanting me to feel proud right now.

I wondered whether or not he’d been a smoker who recently quit. How would he know how hard it was? Why did he think it was that hard?  A doctor who smokes sounds ridiculous in 2016. In any event, I thought it was weird. Nice, but weird. I mean…it was weird that I thought it was weird. I know.

It was a positive response. So, I should be grateful for it, and I am. He could’ve said nothing. He could’ve been an asshole or shamed me for when I did smoke. In fact, I once had a cocky little egomaniac surgeon ask me about smoking a few years ago during a pre-op for a different surgery at Mass Eye and Ear. When I told him I was “more of a social smoker”, he snarked, “Seriously? Social smoking? What are you, a biker?”  Yes, you fuck, I ride a motorcycle and I socially smoke. There’s also social drinking, social fucking, and social skills…which you seem to have misplaced with your professionalism and bedside manner.

Small rant there, sorry. But my point is, this time, I’m sitting across from a smart, smiling and genuinely kind member of the medical community. This guy is dripping kindness, encouragement, and praise…all over a few cigarettes. I swear he could be a middle school principal. I don’t need this brand of happy praise, but a lot of people do.  And, while it felt awkward to me, he meant it. There’s not a question in my mind. Except one. 

One I didn’t ask. Because I was still figuring him out as I walked out to my car.I wonder how he would have answered.

“Do you respond like that if people answer “recently quit” on the drug question?”

Because, today, it seems like most people are quitting heroin by dying.

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