Temperance Q4

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q4

Temperance: “Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

Saturday night was movie night. Normally I enjoy a bottle of red while sipping a movie. This time however, when I finished the first glass, I didn’t want another. This was strange and annoying. It was not my choice. My body hit the brakes with 70% of the movie and 80% of the bottle left. Annoyed I forced myself another glass. Movie night, time to enjoy some wine dammit. But the glass was bitter. So I watched the rest of the movie sipping water.

I know this sounds trivial, but when I started this project, there was no hitting the brakes until bedtime. I’d start a movie after 2 or 3 glasses of wine at dinner, finish the bottle watching the movie, and then move onto whiskey, having one or several glasses until I was deadened enough for bed. That was Friday and Saturday night. Never once did I stop at one glass.

If I think about what else stopped. Thursday night martinis stopped. As did Wednesday night Manhattans. One year ago I drank some form of hard liquor at least once a night Wednesday through Sunday. I almost never drink hard liquor anymore except on rare occasions, and on those occasions it usually leaves me sluggish the next day. We still have wine often, but in smaller portions. It is rare that I drown a bottle in one sitting; before, if it were open, it was gone.

This project brought notice. Stopping for odd intervals hammered home the difference between a normal week and a temperate week. My body noted the change and began to crave the weeks off, better rest and more enjoyable weekends. Not to mention the physical benefits of weight loss and decreased irritability (always important with a houseful of toddlers).

There are 13 weeks in the Bens13 challenge, for me, this week – Temperance – was one of the more important ones. It helped clarify how much I consumed and lit up what could have become a perilous path and for that, my family and I are grateful. If I tried to accomplish this over a short period of time, I would have failed. The habits of old were too strong. A year of reflection was just the right amount of time.


Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q4

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.”

Personal notes:

  • If you have nothing nice to say…
  • We could all use a little more quiet in our lives.

Usually when I am the most offensive, it is out of speaking from turbulence. The storm inside has not settled. Positions harden and sparks fly, and a wrecked path is left in the wake. And at the end, in the center of it all, is a foolish me, wishing I had just been quiet.

Temperance Q3

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 1, Q3

TemperanceEat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol;
  • Reduce sugar;
  • Improve meal intake

I always feel a little bit of joy when temperance comes around; a week of lighter food, less alcohol and mindful eating. It’s a short week, but like an overdue vacation, it goes a long way. After just a few days, everything feels lighter and recharged and belts pinch less when buckling.

There was a time when destruction helped me recharge: terrible food, terrible drink, terrible hangover – the furthest thing from rest and relaxation. It was wonderful and comfortable, like an old pair of gray sweatpants, but something had to change or sweatpants would be all I could afford. Along with the growing waistline, the hangovers grew as well. The pain, oh my goodness the pain, it slipped from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday – I had to stop before it reached Thursday.

I still slip today, and still have a few rough mornings here and there, and the results are still the same. Hangover Saturday is the best day for me to start a losing argument with my wife, yell at the kids for being kids, and generally become an annoying grump. Sleeping it off doesn’t work, the kids don’t sleep and, even if they did, hangover sleep is cheap and fraught. Tossing and turning, hot then cold, a racing heart and panicked dreams – I won’t even mention the indigestion; I need to eat more greens.

Lethargic and gray and stuck on the couch is the surest way for me to stay unhappy; the 13 virtues grow love handles and look terrible in a bathing suit. Does that mean we all need washboard abs? No way. Triathlon? Pass. 26.2 miles? I’ll take a bus. Cozy up to moderation and use this week to reset and redraw the lines. Moderation and temperance, that’s what I’m going for; it’s the extra padding that feels great, gives you something to hold on to and keeps you warm in the water.


Next Week

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week 2, Q3

Silence: “Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Personal notes:

  • Shut up and cut the sarcasm;
  • If angry, do not say anything, it’s a losing proposition;
  • Practice listening;
  • Limit the gossiping;
  • Get away from useless conversation.


Have a great week

Temperance Q2

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week One, Q2

Temperanceeat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

Personal notes:

  • Limit alcohol intake;
  • Reduce coffee;
  • Eat well rounded meals, no junk;
  • Temper temperance.

When coffee and alcohol lubricate the week, who has control, me or my appetites? Overindulgence leaves me feeling sluggish, slow, depressed. The physical and spiritual recovery is long. Excess drowns the pleasure.

There is reward in temperance, it returns strength and appreciation. When I step away from food and drink, the body feels fitter and my mind sharper. More interestingly, the simple joys that are lost from routine, return: the pleasure of red wine, the richness of steak’s fatty iron, the invigorating smell of coffee.

But there is more to temperance than food and drink, more than restraint in appetite; temperance is restraint in pride favoring humility, restraint in vengeance to fuel forgiveness, restraint in extravagance to build thrift. Or when my daughter throws her tin of toys through the air in church, restraint of anger for calm.

Temperance has grown in importance to me. I understand now that it is key to dominion over self, a domain over which I have never achieved mastery. It’s an area that I will practice, but right now, after a week off, I’m pretty excited for a martini.

Aristotle: “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.”


Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week One, Q1

Temperanceeat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.”

Wow. This week knocked my socks off. I couldn’t believe it. As stated in the Week 1 email, the goal was simple: purge alcohol, caffeine and junk food.

In the past I’ve focused on one item. If I gave up drinking for a week, the impact wasn’t as noticeable. The other 2 vices kept me happy (or should I say “stable?”). Take away all 3 and it was a punch to the stomach.

Almost immediately, I began to notice that in times of stress my gut reaction was to reach for one of the prohibited items. Kids are insane in the morning – “God, I need some coffee.” Kids insane at dinner – “I need a glass of red.” Bored during the day – “Give me the fattest, greasiest sandwich you have.” These thoughts, these mental obstacles, eventually gave way to physical hurdles.

I like a large coffee in the morning and maybe a small coffee mid-afternoon. I do not consider myself addicted. Within 2 to 3 days both my wife and I started experiencing headaches late afternoon. To the point we both needed aspirin.

At around 730-800pm each night we were both exhausted. I mean falling asleep on the couch with the kids climbing from the ceiling exhausted. It was like we were slipped Ambien.

Irritability shot up in the beginning. Little things were extremely annoying (I did not mentally prepare for this). Plus, I began experiencing significant body aches that revealed themselves during Jiu Jitsu. It felt as if I had injured my back through my rib cage.

A quick Google search reveals these are common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. I found it shocking that I would be suffering withdrawal symptoms from a small coffee habit.

Now for the upsides:

  • My sleep vastly improved. Despite having an evening routine that normally results in a solid night sleep, the lack of caffeine (and/or alcohol) caused us to be unconscious at night. In bed by 9/930. Morning alarm goes off 2 minutes later.
  • After the initial upshot in irritability, it went down significantly. Periods that normally caused increased irritation (mornings/witching hour) were calmer. Emotional highs and lows were smoothed out. My wife commented on how nice it was when she came home late from work. Everyone was calm.

We all know the science behind cutting alcohol, fats and caffeine but I was still so surprised by the physical response. Guess you have to feel it to believe it.

In the end, I’m not going to completely drop any of these vices – that would be a lie. Some of my happiest memories have been over a glass of wine and a fatty steak. But this experiment has hammered home the importance of Temperance. I’ll continue to substitute more tea for coffee and limit the intake of alcohol. It also reminded me to be mindful of my habits. If you’d like to learn more about habits, I’d recommend “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” as the place to start. My wife and I used this book to help change sleep patterns, daily routines and more.