How To Become Motivated?
In my goal to become pipe tobacco free (actually, my preferred goal is to be mostly pipe tobacco free except for a few special occasions), I have been thinking a great deal about what will be the challenges and pitfalls I will face in this transition. My being a pipe smoker developed through many different facets of my physical and emotional self. In order to be successful in this goal, I need to be aware of all of these facets and to have strategies available for me to resist the temptations to revert back to my old (current) unregulated pipe smoking self. So, I thought what I would do here is try to address these facets of myself as I recognize them and try to brainstorm over what they mean and how I may address them. I may not get all (or even most) of these facets down in this essay, for I suspect this will be a work in progress. But here it goes:
Physical Aspects of Pipe Smoking
1. Biochemical (aka Nicotine) -nicotine is an alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae) that constitutes approximately 0.6–3.0% of the dry weight of tobacco. Nicotine acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, specifically the ganglion type nicotinic receptor and one CNS nicotinic receptor. The former is present in the adrenal medulla and elsewhere, while the latter is present in the central nervous system (CNS). In small concentrations, nicotine increases the activity of these receptors. Nicotine also has effects on a variety of other neurotransmitters through less direct mechanisms.
In low concentrations consumption of nicotine acts as a stimulant and neurotransmitter mimic in mammals and is considered by many a primary factor responsible for the dependence-forming properties of tobacco smoking. Nicotine's mood-altering effects are different by report: in particular it is both a stimulant and a relaxant. First causing a release of glucose from the liver and epinephrine (adrenaline) from the adrenal medulla, it causes stimulation. Users report feelings of relaxation, sharpness, calmness, and alertness. Like any stimulant, it may very rarely cause the often catastrophically uncomfortable neuropsychiatric effect of akathisia. By reducing the appetite and raising the metabolism, some smokers may lose weight as a consequence.
When tobacco is smoked, nicotine-rich blood passes from the lungs to the brain within seven seconds and immediately stimulates the release of many chemical messengers including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, vasopressin, arginine, dopamine, autocrine agents, and beta-endorphin. This release of neurotransmitters and hormones is responsible for most of nicotine's effects. Nicotine appears to enhance concentration and memory due to the increase of acetylcholine. It also appears to enhance alertness due to the increases of acetylcholine and norepinephrine. Arousal is increased by the increase of norepinephrine. Pain is reduced by the increases of acetylcholine and beta-endorphin. Anxiety is reduced by the increase of beta-endorphin. Nicotine also extends the duration of positive effects of dopamine and increases sensitivity in brain reward systems.
Research suggests that, when smokers wish to achieve a stimulating effect, they take short quick puffs, which produce a low level of blood nicotine. This stimulates nerve transmission. When they wish to relax, they take deep puffs, which produce a high level of blood nicotine, which depresses the passage of nerve impulses, producing a mild sedative effect. At low doses, nicotine potently enhances the actions of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, causing a drug effect typical of those of psychostimulants. At higher doses, nicotine enhances the effect of serotonin and opiate activity, producing a calming, pain-killing effect.
In my own self examination, I find that I rarely, if ever indulge in pipe tobacco in the "short quick" method that is designed to produce a low level, stimulatory effect. Virtually all of my pipe smoking is in the "deep puff" form to apparently produce a mild sedative effect.
I believe that nicotine is ONE aspect of the reason why I am a pipe smoker. I enjoy the effects of nicotine on my brain and central nervous system. Yet, I do not believe nicotine alone explains all nor even most of the facets as to why I am a pipe smoker. For example, in my whole life, I think I may have consumed less than 50 cigarettes (that is 2.5 packs). I do not enjoy them. Once, I even thought that perhaps the way to break my pipe smoking habit was to quit smoking my pipes entirely and allow myself to smoke cigarettes to assist in the transition. That experiement/attempt failed very quickly. For, while I was able to obtain the nicotine I thought (at that time because of what is typically published in the literature about tobacco use) would be the challenge to my quitting. I even thought that by smoking cigarettes instead of trying the gum or other nicotine products, I would be able to more easily put away my pipes. Yet, I lasted only a few days before I threw away the pack of cigarettes I had and went back to my pipes.
I am thinking, though, that nicotine is one factor that I need to address in my next effort. What I am contemplating this time is to consume nicotine lozenges (now available over the counter) if/when I feel the physical desire for nicotine.
2. Sensory effects - to me, a pipe is a beautiful visual work of art. I think many pipes could easily be worthy of being museum pieces. I can look at and examine a pipe, its bowl and its stem for long periods of time and find new, beautiful aspects every time. In my effort to refrain, I *could* still very easily look at and enjoy my pipes without smoking them. Yet, I am not sure if that is going to be a successful strategy. I suspect that looking at my pipes will (of course) allow me to see and enjoy their beauty, but I fear it also will trigger yearnings and desires to SMOKE my pipes as well. So, I am not sure what I plan to do about this aspect.
Also, a pipe is very tactile. You can touch and hold the beast in your hands and grip the stem between your teeth. As longer time readers know, I have tempormandibular jaw disorder, which basically means the architecture and design of my teeth, jaw, facial nerves and facial muscles gives me a strong propensity to naturally clench my teeth and to grind my teeth while sleeping. I have worn bite splints since I was in my mid-teens and it helps immensely. The bite splint simply puts a prescribed space between my upper row of teeth and the bottom row decreasing the impact of clenching my teeth together and decreasing the inclination to grind teeth while sleeping. I think I may have found the pipe stem to be an early sort of "bite splint" that kept me (at least while smoking the pipe) from clenching my teeth together so tightly as is my inclination otherwise. In terms of my TMJ, I can wear my bit splints during the day more frequently to accommodate the loss of the pipe stem between my teeth, and I *could* still handle and hold my pipes in my hands and even technically grip empty pipes between my teeth.... but like in the visual discussion above, I think that may be a risky strategy as it may also cause me to yearn to actually smoke my pipes again.
For many, pipe tobacco is very much associated with the senses of taste and smell. In my thinking of my pipe tobacco indulgence, I do believe the taste and smell of the pipe tobacco is something I enjoy, but I do not think it plays a huge role in my effort to refrain, so I do not think I need to plan anything for these sensory aspects.
* * * * *
I think I shall stop here for now. In the next post I will likely continue with other aspects of pipe smoking that I know I need to address as well.