Portrait of the Artist as a Man
April 18, 2015

Temperance, take 2

My views on Temperance haven’t changed much with tis second round. It is obvious to me why Franklin listed it first in the line of virtues. All things flow from temperance; or, I suppose, all vice flows from intemperance.

The trend I see with my own virtues is that days where any other virtue receives a red dot, Temperance is often the first to fall. To wit, one loses composure, will power or organized thought when drinking and becomes so much more likely to laze about the rest of the evening doing very little of purpose.

Even a single drink, measured before consuming, throws me off my game. I suspect there’s really two reasons for that:

  1. A drink signals to my mind that the night is over so I settle in to read or watch television.
  2. I don’t eat directly when getting home and often exercise between work and home which enhances the effects.

No. 2 above is restating my previous edicts — don’t drink on an empty stomach which I have been especially bad about following. The most formidable distortion of logic is that I can cook while I’m making dinner. That’s like drinking on a full stomach, right (1)? Add a little inebriation to it and that logic seems like the foundation of a new way of life!

No. 1 is somewhat less insidious on any single day but a string of days becomes a momentum killer. There’s much to do right now - Spring means the war with yard continues (2), I’m trying to research and write these entries, I’ve added (inadvertently?) a new section to this blog (3), and I’m trying to read more this year (4, 5), and maintain some relevance for my business (6) — and ending a day when there’s good light too frequently means these other projects get delayed. It’s both a bad association and a bad habit. I sort of worry that my habit is to have a drink nearly every night because that seems like a lot.

According to recent surveys (summarized above), 30% of all adults abstain completely while another 30% have a drink a week. About 30% have 1 drink a night while 20% of adults have 2 drinks a night (that’s where I tend to fall). The top10% of adults drink 10 drinks a day which is terrifying (7). So, depending on how you slice the numbers, it puts me at above average for American adults, average for typical American Adult drinking patterns, and a light weight for all adult drinkers in America (8).

It’s hard to find numbers for alcohol consumption in Franklin’s America but it wasn’t unheard of to consume a beer or cider, which were closer to 4-6% alcohol, at each meal. It wasn’t until whiskey distillation became popular that Colonial American drinking started to be problematic — the rise on proof affecting American productivity.

So: a new day, same problems. What I’m getting at is the ease of which I fall into intemperate habits which affect all aspects of my life. Clearly, I have not mastered Temperance. I’m fighting against years of… I don’t want to say bad drinking habits… but a lack of attention to them. I’m building awareness and seeing more connections to how intemperance affects everything else.

Habit is stronger than reason.

  • George Santayana

However, it will take yet more time to internalize this understanding. Habit is not rational, especially bad habits. To be able to short circuit that habitual takes habituating the inhabitation of your habit. You have to make a new habit to break the old habit. So, asking myself if the drink is worth it”, a damn tough mental calculus to begin with, it is going to take time for that question to become habit (9)

  1. Nope, nope it isn’t. ↩︎

  2. Years of neglect has it overrun but we’ve made really good progress to beat back some of the more invasive species in the last year. ↩︎

  3. Is this how you turn vice into virtue, write about it? Maybe but I enjoy a good dram and drag now and again and making it an intellectual pursuit enriches the whole experience for me. ↩︎

  4. Though I only track what I’m reading or have read, you can find me on Goodreads. I’d like to hit a book a week but I don’t know how to account for the ridiculous amount of research I do for much of my writing. Or the internet articles I read most days (5). ↩︎

  5. Using Goodreads has prompted me to realize how much I read on line. I average about 20-30 articles online a day from various blogs and news sites — places like Daring Fireball, The Pen Addict, Kottke, and other similar sources. Length varies but they tend to be 500 to 1500 words (2-6 pages). I… read a lot. ↩︎

  6. The struggle with Bunny Rope right now is probably a meaningful post on its own…. ↩︎

  7. I read the summary at the Washington Post. which was a review of Paying the Tab: The Costs and Benefits of Alcohol Control (affiliate link), analysis of alcohol control since the 50s. ↩︎

  8. I’m ok with that. Can you imaging drinking two bottles of wine a day? I think I did that once, as in two bottles in one night once, in my 20s and it was pretty awful. But, that is not how addiction works. ↩︎

  9. And this doesn’t even begin to touch the effect mood has on the desire to drink. Had a good day? Have some whiskey! Had a bad day? Have some whiskey! Reward systems and how we apply them is also a whole other thing…. ↩︎

Wrestling with Franklin

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