Matt Forney
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Eleven Things I Learned While Abstaining from My Vices for a Month

This is a guest post by Kid Strangelove. Kid originally published this article at his own blog, but he deleted the site a while ago so he could focus on other projects. He asked me if I’d be willing to re-post some of his articles on my blog and I said yes.

Today is Tuesday, December 3rd.

No Nothing November is officially over, and this has been the single best thing I have done in a very long time.

As you recall, for November, I gave up three things that I thought were holding me down: pot, masturbation, and unnecessary and excessive media. It has been a struggle with highs, lows, and normal days where I thought I was being a drama queen for pointing out the highs and lows. But right now, on the other side of November, I feel like a completely new human being.

Here are some of the things I learned this past November.

1. If you think you have a problem with something, you probably do.

I’ve been telling myself for ages that I smoke too much weed, that I jack off too much, and that I spend too much time online. I knew this. I joked about this. But it has never been as evident to me as it is now. A vice doesn’t have to take over your life: you can still be highly functional, but you never know how functional you really can be until you abandon your vice for a while.

2. Routine is the easiest way for your vices to spread.

When you’re doing the same thing week in and week out, it’s incredibly easy for vices to turn into habits. There have been many weekends where I just smoked weed by myself all day. I liked the feeling, and I knew how to handle the recovery. Heavy drinkers behave this way too. All your bad habits become normal and become seemingly insurmountable when they are anything but, because you are just so used to living with them. Your vices become a way for you to self-medicate against a shitty routine, since self-medicating is extremely easy.

3. Coincidentally, routine is the easiest way to get rid of your vices.

When you abandon your vices, you suddenly find yourself with an abundance of free time and energy. CrossFit was 85 percent responsible for me doing something with that time and energy. I became obsessed, and this obsession is paying off. Slowly, I realized that to fully immerse myself into CrossFit, I would have to take the rest of my routine more seriously. My meals became cleaner. My sleep became more regular. My alcohol consumption became rare. And it started paying off in my workouts. On the flip side, if I fucked up my routine and showed up to a CrossFit session after a weekend of  debauchery and puking, it would show immediately and destroy my workout.

4. We don’t know how to relax without our vices.

This was a real eye opener: I smoke, jack off and absorb myself in the media a lot when I’m just relaxing and on my downtime. It helps me turn my brain off, which is something that all of us need from time to time: a break. I can’t turn my brain off with a book: you have to engage your imagination actively when reading. TV can rile you up too. So can games. Think about it: what do you do to “turn down?” Many people grab a drink or a smoke. Learning to relax properly is an art all to itself. I need to devote more time to this because I really don’t know how to relax. (NOTE: I only thought of this while writing, and there was a big “whoa” moment for me when I typed this out. You learn something new every day.)

5. Only by trying to free ourselves do we realize how helplessly trapped everyone else is (and we were/are).

Refer to points one and two. We are not the only ones struggling with our vices. We are not the only ones self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, and everything else. For a lot of people, take away their vices and they would feel miserable.

6. People are not a good source of current events.

I abstained from news sites, discussion boards, and just about everything else news-related for a month. The results were unexpected. I thought that people, particularly girls, were opinionated and absorbed in the media as I was, but I was wrong. For example, the typhoon in the Philippines happened November 7th. I did not find out about it until weeks later. Weeks!!!! Over 5,000 people were killed, a major tragedy, and absolutely no one around me was talking about it! Maybe it’s because we get all of our current events talk on the internet, and it’s not considered polite conversation, but finding out about this weeks after it happened certainly put many things into perspective.

7. Nothing happens in politics.

I can safely say that my life is the same now as it was one month ago. All the political scandals, stories that I was supposed to care about, and intricacies that I used to be absorbed in mean absolutely nothing in the long run. It is insane to think about all the time and energy I wasted in what was essentially nothing.

8. Your most powerful, attractive quality is your drive.

When my mind started clearing up, I noticed that I became more driven, more confidant, and more relaxed. And it was showing. In November, I hooked up with two beautiful girls, and they were the most positive hookups I have had in a long time. The sex was beautiful and intimate one second, then aggressive the next. They loved it. I loved it. I could see increasingly positive responses from girls. My drive backed up everything in my life; I guess that’s what they mean when they say confidence is attractive. The fact that I was working on becoming my best self definitely showed.

9. The world still sucks. Don’t use other peoples reactions as a basis of gauging your self improvement.

I fell into this trap. I felt glorious, powerful, and renewed, but then I would talk to a person and just feel like they are trying to suck all the energy out of me. And, as hard as it is to admit, it worked a few times. The world sucks. It has a bunch of negative people trying to bring down everyone around them, whether they like it or not. Only you and you alone can gauge your progress.

10. Our “always plugged in” news culture is fucking us up and keeping us ignorant.

Pay attention to the news you hear today. Kim Kardashian did what? Obama did what? Auburn football did what? Pay attention to the things you read on social media today. Now try to remember them one week later, or one month later. Tough, isn’t it? In our race to always be informed, we are forgetting to remember shit that could actually be important and relevant to our lives. Don’t believe me? Here is a story that went viral in November about fucked up police behavior.  The story is beyond fucked up and speaks to the increasingly hostile, illegal, and power-mad actions of the police. But guess what: it’s December 5th, and we’ve forgotten all about that shit. But did you hear about Auburn’s win over Alabama, though?

11. Moderation is the hardest concept in the world for people to grasp.

To a lot of people, it’s natural to go overboard. Right now, most of my body is sore from my workout the day before, where I went all out on my deadlifts and set a new 1RM personal best, did three sets of ten power cleans and push jerks at 155, plus loads of pull-ups and push-ups, and all after an extended Thanksgiving weekend. I probably could use a rest day today. I probably won’t have one. And when I finally do relax, I will probably go overboard with the relaxation. “Wooo, live hard and play hard!”

How many times have you told this to yourself as you continue to push your extremes? How many people kill themselves in the office only to binge drink their free time away? I still want to smoke weed: I love the chilled-out feeling, I love the creative spurts and the outside-the-box thinking, and it makes sex incredible, but I have to learn to control my urges. As I learned this past month, total abstinence can lead to extreme relapses. I used to binge drink quite often, but that’s now under control, so it is possible. I hope to someday achieve that with pot.

So, do you have any vices you’d like to abstain from?

Read Next: Taking Cold Showers; or, How I Learned to Man Up and Stop Being a Pussy