On June the sixth, I had my semi-annual appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and I dreaded the usual but familiar difficulty associated with removing the stains from my teeth that smoking a pipe causes. So the night before, I tossed out my pipes and decided that the night of the fifth of June would be the last time I smoked the pipe. It was (and is) time to give up that addiction. When I arrived for the appointment, I told the hygienist that I was giving up smoking, and of course, she was very supportive and encouraged me to follow through on my plan. And while I had every intention of doing just that, I had no idea whether I’d be able to stick to my resolve.
I’m pleased to report that today marks the beginning of the second month of my abstinence from a habit that I’ve lived with (or more appropriately, suffered from) for almost 44 years. And I am actually quite surprised to realize that the first month has been much easier to tolerate than I thought it would be. I haven’t smoked the pipe since I put it down on the fifth of June. When I’ve had the urge to smoke it, I’ve substituted the act of brushing my teeth for the behavior of lighting up. It’s not quite the same, but there is more logic to that particular substitution than you might imagine. I was in the habit of lighting up my pipe immediately after a meal so brushing my teeth instead gives me something to do that breaks that pattern. And of course, it never hurts to brush your teeth after you eat. I’m sure my dental hygienist would be pleased.
When I was twenty-one years old, I bought my first pipe, having been influenced as I was by the college professors who smoked them, most notably by one Dr. Wilson C. Snipes, an English Literature professor of mine who was one of my favorites. And since that time I’ve smoked a pipe off and on for all the ensuing years. However, since I retired and have spent a lot of time sitting at the computer, I found that I was smoking the pipe almost continuously from early in the morning to late at night. It had become a compulsive and unconscious act.
In the last month since I stopped, I’ve noticed that my clothes, my house, and my car don’t smell of the pipe any more, and my mouth no longer feels as like the bottom of a birdcage. It has helped that all the paraphernalia associated with the pipe is no longer immediately at hand. During the years that I smoked the pipe, I never inhaled it, but that fact didn’t make it any less of an addictive habit. It has only been a month, and I’m very aware that “one swallow does not make a summer.” As is true when attempting to overcome any habit, it’s one day at a time, but at least I have made it a month. And I think I can make it through today too. In the end, that’s all I can control — today.