What the F*ck Do You Think You’re Doing???

That’s what I want to say.  Actually, I wanted to say it the day before yesterday, the first time I saw my neighbor, Marie*, sitting outside and smoking a cigarette– not an e-gic- an honest to God, real, smoking, cigarette– only a couple weeks after she just had a triple bypass

It was an emergency surgery.  She’d been feeling bad for a while now and was already on a regimen of pills, including three different delivery methods for Nitroglycerin!  And she smoked like a chimney, in her apartment, all the time.  When she went to the doctor’s for a stress test, she was immediately sent to the hospital.  The docs told her if she had been any later going to the doctor’s, she’d probably be dead.  They also told her if she didn’t quit smoking, that within a year, she’d be dead.

Her medical emergency pushed me over the edge of my own smoking dilemma and I got an e-cig.  I haven’t had a real cigarette in three weeks.

Marie’s apartment was thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed down while she was in the hospital, in an attempt to erase the years of nicotine and tar from the walls and furnishings.  People have been in and out to take care of her dog, a blind a mostly blind and deaf old pug who doesn’t always make it outside to the bathroom anymore. “No Smoking” signs went up on her front door.  In fact, there has been a steady stream of friends and family members with her since the whole thing started.  There have been people helping her cook and bathe and keeping her company while she recovers.  I’ve been over there several times myself, offering food and whatever else I can do.

I was a bit perturbed to see she had acquired an e-cigarette herself, simply because I imagine any kind of stimulant (even without the tar and other chemicals) is probably not the best thing for her right now.  She still drinks coffee as well, but, hey, you can’t take everything away from her at once.

But I think I was also perturbed because in my heart, I think I knew this would happen.  She’s been waffling around, back and forth, toying with the idea of quitting smoking and taking better care of herself for a while now.  Eating better, exercising more.  And I’ve tried to help her.  I even helped her set up a My Fitness Pal account.  But she showed virtually no initiative or commitment to using it.  She’ll say she’s gonna try to quit and then as soon as she wants a cigarette, she finds one.  I doubt there is even any attempt at resisting the compulsion.

Bypass Surgeryphoto:fitchicago.com

Bypass Surgery
(photo: fitchicago.com)

Yep…she’s addicted.  And I can’t really blame her for that.  But I also can’t help feeling aggravated.  Aggravated at her lack of willpower…aggravated that having her chest cracked open is not enough to make her stop making excuses. I mean, when I saw her the other day, she said, almost guiltily, “I wanted a real cigarette, so I had one,” as she puffed away, the filter of the cheap cigarette withering away almost as fast as her life.  And I know this whole thing terrifies her.  She’s a nervous person anyway…   So why is she doing this to herself?  She didn’t even start smoking until she was an older adult, so it’s not like she’s been doing it since her teenage years.

For my part, I was surprised at how [relatively] easy the e-cig has made quitting for me.  Sure, it’s not a “real cigarette,” but I get a nic fix and I get the oral fixation and habit, which is a big part of my smoking addiction.  I’ve even found I don’t pick up the e-cig and use it at regular intervals like I would were I still smoking.  It’s almost random, yet it’s there for those trigger times, like after meals, should I need it.

But it’s not doing it for Marie.  Like I said, it isn’t the same as smoking, but with the right e-cig, it’s enough like smoking that, coupled with the dire consequences of not quitting, it should be enough to keep her abstaining.

But I guess the real point of this post for me is to sort out how I feel about this whole thing.  See, I care about Marie.  And I’m sure many of you can relate to this post.  I bet a lot of you gentle readers have relatives that may have been through similar scares and still– irritatingly– engage in their risky behavior.  Shit, my step-father has stents and he still smokes.  But he lives 800 miles away.  This is, like, right in my face…

In a way, I suppose how I feel is probably how my Mom felt after she had her heart surgery and my sister and I continued to smoke…   Even though that’s slightly different, as it did not actually happen to my sis or me.

And I’m not sure what, if anything, to do about it.  Part of me wants to be the honest– candid– person I like to think of myself as.  And another part of me tells myself that Marie is an adult and I should just be a supportive–and silent– friend.  I wish I could fool myself into thinking she’s just indulging in one or two smokes, here and there, like I used to.  But I know better.  She doesn’t have the self-control to keep it in check.  I wonder how long it will be before she is back to sitting in that tiny coffin of an apartment and smoking her lungs black.  Because she’s never even been able to keep the commitment to simply move her smoking habit outside, even for her beloved dog, who also suffers from a heart problem that causes him to cough painfully and hackingly, and will eventually kill him.

I worry about her.   Do I hound her mercilessly? (I’m sure that’s not the answer.) Do I say my piece and let it drop?  Do I say nothing?

Post Op Open Heart Surgery scar(Photo: myheartsisters.org)

Post Op Open Heart Surgery scar
(Photo: myheartsisters.org)