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What’s your vice?

I have an open question for all my readers. Is there anyone out there who does not have a vice? Is there anyone who does not have a habit or addiction that they fall back on when bad shit happens? It seems like everybody’s got something, be it food, alcohol, or overzealous fingernail biting. I’m curious if there’s anyone out there who is miraculously well-adjusted and just does a lot of yoga. If not, what is your vice? Mine’s definitely food. (Like, duh.)

ETA: I’m not talking just about bad habits or things we do that are bad for us, but specifically about behaviors or addictions used to relieve pain or anxiety. I was talking to someone recently who said one of the unspoken rules of Alcoholic’s Anonymous is that to quit drinking you start smoking. So I was wondering, is it inevitable that you are always going to seek out a behavior to relieve pain, or do people ever really get past it? Basically, am I always going to want to eat ice cream when I have a headache, will the compulsion ever go away, or is my best hope to transfer this compulsion to an exercise addiction instead?

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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91 Comments

Connie • June 20, 2008 at 10:57 am

My vice is Chai Lattes from Starbucks. I spend a selfish fortune on the stuff. I drink even more of them when I’m starting over on my diet. Sound familiar? I know I shouldn’t spend $5 on a drink when it probably costs them .50 cents, but they’re so darn yummy! I’ve trained my brain to tell myself they have their good points too; milk.

Umm, maybe not so good.

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Dina • June 20, 2008 at 11:04 am

I used to smoke. I was very thin in my 20′s (110- 5’7″) and smoking helped me stay that way. Once I woke up and quit smoking for good, I gained weight. At first – it was the normal metabolic slow down weight gain. But then I really turned to food. I have to say- it is a relatively new realization to me that I require a vice at all. But – I do – late in the evening, when the house is quiet, bring on the carbs. I fight it all of the time. It’s definitely “my vice.”

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TOWR • June 20, 2008 at 11:10 am

Oh geez, have you got an hour? Fast food, pizza, ice cream, sleeping, Diet Coke, sitting around… I’m sure I could think of more, but that’s a good start. :)

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Rah • June 20, 2008 at 11:19 am

It’s eating. Sigh. Funny, I first wrote “food” but then corrected myself because it’s the behavior, not the substance, for me.

I read somewhere–long, long ago, so long ago that I cannot cite where–about a woman who had an accident and became quadraplegic. Part of her recovery came in realizing that she was spending hours fantasizing sexually, lulled by the drone of her air conditioner. I remember being amazed at her strength in realizing and fighting that, when she had already lost so much. So many of the vices already named by others would not have been available to her without assistance.

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Oliveira • June 20, 2008 at 11:30 am

Newbie here, read all the archives (took a while), wishing you all the best fighting the headaches…

For me I’m afraid it would be two things — red wine and Magnum Almonds. But what would life be without SOME vices, as long as you “sin” once a week or two, and not five times a day? I’m not going to quit either, most probably. :)

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David Crowell • June 20, 2008 at 11:33 am

Eating too much to deal with stress is always a big one for me.

Drinking good beer makes me feel better when I’m down. I don’t drink a lot, but I don’t drink light beer, and there are a lot of calories there.

I also buy things (gadgets mostly) to feel a temporary lift. I need to stop that, it’s getting expensive.

I seem to be the type of person who needs to have something to devote myself too. I’ve been lucky enough to figure out that I really like bicycling (after years of not riding one). So my current obsession is my bike. I’m sure it’ll change to something else later though.

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jane • June 20, 2008 at 11:36 am

There actually are a lot of exercise addicts out there, and it is a compulsion! It’s called exercise bulimia or compulsive exercise disorder. http://exercise.about.com/cs/exercisehealth/a/exercisebulimia.htm

My vice is definitely red wine. If I’m feeling grumpy and I have a glass, it definitely helps my mood.

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susan • June 20, 2008 at 11:38 am

Carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs, carbs.

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Kimberly • June 20, 2008 at 11:38 am

I am not sure that I had ever given much to thought to my “vices” until I read your post. But the past week has been quite rough, and when reviewing my behaviors I see that I often turn to 2 things when I get extremely stressed: Diet Coke (not too bad, but not good — think Big Gulp Cup) and chocolate candy bars. I am working on breaking the connection to my vice. Yesterday, after a particularly grueling meeting with a client I wanted Diet coke and candy bar combo, I took a walk instead. I was a little stressed….so that’s progress.

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lorilove • June 20, 2008 at 11:47 am

I have often heard this is a problem with many people that have gastric bypass if no one addresses why they overate in the first place. Some individuals transfer their vices to alcohol or smoking. I fully recognize this is not unique to anyone that had WLS. The rest of us may resort to just eating again while someone with surgery may be more likely to transfer that vice.

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Chris • June 20, 2008 at 11:58 am

My vice is always the comfort of a rut. Notice I did not say routine. A rut. I will do the same workout day in and day out for months on end. I will eat the same lunch every day for months on end. While it’s comforting to me, I realize it’s not exactly healthy. Especially when life is supposed to be about experiences but I am too busy following the path I’ve set out for myself each day to enjoy the experiences or even participate. And I have 3 kids! How awful is that?

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Tracey • June 20, 2008 at 12:07 pm

kicked: smoking, drinking too much

still relying on: overeating, internet surfing, rebellious procrastination

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hopefulloser • June 20, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Hey PQ,

I have weight/eating issues now, of course, but when I was younger I had a full blown eating disorder and was addicted to many drugs.

I really did use my addictions to avoid my feelings and postpone feeling anything. I had a hard time coping and dealiing with feelings and emotions. I always thought I just had an addictive personality. Recently a friend asked me why I seem so much better now. And it occurred to me that I’ve really learned and become used to allowing myself to be depressed or whatever I’m feeling. I accept my feelings, whatever they are. So basically I’m coping. I find that accepting myself as a nutbag and letting myself feel and be OK with it, I don’t need those vices so much.

Now I struggle with my weight, but I don’t binge eat or anything like that. I just eat a little too much and need to be a little more active. Everything is so much more moderate now and easier to deal with.

So while I’m not perfect and will always have to work at things a little, I think you can get to a point where you minimize the need for a vice (especially a really destructive one).

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Jenn • June 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm

Spending too much time reading your blog definitely contributes to my addiction to the Internet ;).

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suzanne • June 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm

sugar and carbs definitely

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ann • June 20, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Food, food, food, food, food. Anything with tons of sugar, tons of calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. Thought I had the damned thing licked – but this week I encountered stress and discovered its baaaaaaack.

Blah.

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karen • June 20, 2008 at 12:32 pm

I agree with you – there is a huge difference between an addiction and a bad habit. I have an addiction to food. When I am trying hard not to “use” food I use the internet and procrastination. Addictions counselor Sharon Hersh has an interesting description of addiction: “Addiction goes deeper than obsession and compulsion. It is worship. It is giving my heart and soul over to something that I believe will ease my pain and provide an outlet for my fury at being out of control in a world that hurts me, scares me, or leaves me alone.” Phew – that’s a mouthful and a lot to think about.

PQ, if you were using food in the past, you may still feel the desire to use it in the present, but for the last couple years you have successfully avoided it to the extent you are half the woman you used to be. What do you think is the difference? What are you doing with those feelings and compulsions you used to medicate with food?

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Jenn • June 20, 2008 at 12:35 pm

mashed potatoes. bread. carbs of any kind, specifically the kind that can be served with butter.

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Kyle • June 20, 2008 at 12:46 pm

My vice goes back and forth between food and exercise. When I’m on an exercising roll I am compulsively addicted to it, not always in a healthy way. When I don’t have exercise to fall back on as a comfort habit I turn to food.

And that, my friends, is why I’m in a never ending cycle of ups and downs in my weight.

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Jill • June 20, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I bite my lip. When I am stressed or anxious,or just deep in thought, I will gnaw on my lip until it is raw. In order to keep from chewing my bottom lip off completely, I have to have some form of gloss or lipstick handy at all times – that’s the only thing that keeps me from it.

If ice cream is the ONLY thing that will make your headache better, then I say go ahead and have some, maybe just not a whole bowl full. Could you maybe have half of what you normally have?

I think it’s just human nature to want to seek out those things that relieve pain and anxiety, so I figure everyone has something. That’s how we are wired. The best you can do is find something that won’t be too destructive, causing you more pain and anxiety.

I just realized that in writing this, I have been chewing on my lip the whole time! sigh, where’s my sheer cocoa glaze???

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Shaw • June 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Fingernails. Biting my fingernails and eating crap, and if I’m really stressed, I do both. So if I’ve been having a bad time I have bad nails, extra weight and bad skin. Can we picture the downward spiral?

I wish I could say I feel like exercising on a bad day, but (unfortunately) nothing pushes my buttons like food. Who wouldn’t prefer toast dripping with butter to running 5 miles?

The only heathy exception I have is dancing. Dancing will lift me out of a bad mood like nothing else, but people look at you funny if you’re dancing in your office.

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Joan • June 20, 2008 at 1:22 pm

My vice is taking refuge in reading. And best of all, reading while dipping my hand into a bag of something good. Salty or sweet, I’m not fussy. That way I can say in all innocence, “oh, did I eat all that?” afterwards. I stopped at the end of January, but I haven’t yet been stressed to the point where I’m looking for a substitute comforter…

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Tena • June 20, 2008 at 1:23 pm

M & M’s. I scarf down a whole bag of them like nobody’s business. Oh, and online shopping. I love getting a package in the mail. It makes me feel good…even if I did order it myself.

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Allison • June 20, 2008 at 1:30 pm

I’m not sure your question is clear. You ask if people have a habit or addiction that people fall back on, but then you say that being well adjusted means doing a lot of yoga? Does that mean the yoga can be the habit that you fall back on when you’re having a bad day? Or that well adjusted people don’t have bad days because they do a lot of yoga?

I think it’s natural for people to do SOMETHING when they’re feeling bad. No one wants to feel bad so everyone tries something, whether it’s food, alcohol, yoga, etc. I guess you’re saying though that some of those habits are healthier than others (choosing yoga over a handle of vodka).

I have reasonably healthy responses to stress, they include napping, exercising, cleaning, and chocolate. I dip into any of these 4 pools depending on where I am and what’s available at the time. (Napping and exercising are obviously not good work solutions, but I’m 50/50 on either cleaning out my work desk or grabbing a mini toblerone from the deli downstairs.) I lean towards cleaning and napping of the 4.

So I do have responses to stress, but not just one serious addiction or anything and none of them are really unhealthy.

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Amy • June 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I’m a procrastinator, but I think that goes on most of the time, so I’m not sure I just turn to that when stressed! Of course, I always feel burnt out, so maybe I just constantly need a vice.

I have a friend with trichotillomania–she pulls out all the hairs in her eyebrows.

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jen • June 20, 2008 at 1:32 pm

I “relapse” into smoking when I’m very depressed, usually from a breakup. Aside from that, my biggest vice/flaw is procrastination.

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G.G. • June 20, 2008 at 2:26 pm

I think I have two major vices (among many minor ones), which are connected to each other. I don’t know if they would be considered “vices” per se, but they are definitely faults. The first would be overconsumption of something external in an empty effort to make feel better–food, cigarettes, stuff in general, information on the internet, books, whatever. The thing consumed to excess itself isn’t the root of the problem–the “it’s never enough but I want more anyway” is the problem.

The second vice would be negativity, which probably feeds the first. At its best, the negativity is just an excuse to give up; at its worse, it’s a loss of faith and hope. Some Christian philosophers posit that the ultimate sin is the belief that you are unredeemable, unsalvagable–that you are damaged beyond the scope of God’s capacity to forgive. I think that’s my worse vice–belief that I am (or someone else, the world, any given situation is) unsalvagable; broken beyond fixing. Giving in to that kind of despair is my worse vice, and the other vice (overconsumption) goes hand in hand with it.

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Rachael • June 20, 2008 at 2:26 pm

For me it’s eating (which is why it’s taken me a whole year to drop less than 10 pounds). When I have my eating under control, it becomes shopping.

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victoria • June 20, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Eating, drinking, & shopping are my vices.

My husband seems to have NO VICES AT ALL. None. Zip. Zilch. He drinks 2 glasses of red wine daily for his heart, but never over-indulges because he’s stressed. He does NEVER eats out of stress or boredome. He never spends more money than he should. The closes thing to a vice for him would be spending time on the internet, looking for good fares: he really, really loves to travel, and gets a lot of time off work.

I don’t think you’re ALWAYS doomed to have some behavioral crutch. People in 12 Step programs really do achieve spiritual recovery such that they really don’t need to turn to their compulsive behaviors to cope anymore. They really do get to a place where they feel so secure in God’s love, and so serene, that they tolerate life’s stresses without doing anything self-destructive.

By that I mean, not everyone in AA smokes, or overeats. People who have really worked the program are the happiest, most tolerant, well-adjusted, kind, prosperous, well-liked people you’ll ever meet anywhere. They are truly at peace with themselves and so life’s stresses just don’t get to them.

I don’t claim to have this kind of peace, but I have seen it and I know it’s possible. (I don’t mean this to be a plug for 12 Step programs; I’m sure there are other ways to achieve this kind of peace.)

But yeah, if you don’t want to go the whole “spiritual enlightenment” path, yes, you CAN develop an exercise “addiction” and you can get so that you want to work out whenever life is stressful.

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Andrew is getting fit • June 20, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Food. More particularly bread. Hmm bread.

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cj • June 20, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Mountain Dew. (Ya-hoo!)….

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Michelle • June 20, 2008 at 3:33 pm

What happened to the Race for the…? post. I came to say it had me laughing out loud but now it’s gone. Too un-pc?

Anyway, my vice is the couch. I get stuck to it sometimes for months at a time! Not anymore though :)

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Sara • June 20, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Shopping. I’m not in debt (yet) but I see it looming on the horizon, since there are so many “things” that I want which are out of my budget… It’s hard to fight it.

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ab • June 20, 2008 at 4:00 pm

smoking and eating…. yuck

great question

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nolafwug • June 20, 2008 at 4:02 pm

I started smoking a lot after hurricane Katrina. It was a very stressful time and I was around a lot of smokers. But it almost felt like I had an excuse finally to smoke more – not so much like I was compelled to do so.

I was saved by getting pregnant – suddenly cigarettes tasted gross and I couldn’t even stand to be around them. I haven’t smoked since. I couldn’t turn to eating then – lost my appetite too. But after the baby was born I got it back and coped with displacement via chips and ice cream.

We moved back to New Orleans finally and I’ve lost 60 pounds. I haven’t had much stress lately. But it could be because I’ve finally got up off my arse and started exercising (after 2 years) and eating vegetables (after 32 years). Not sure what I’ll turn to next time the going gets tough.

When my 2-year old needs to calm himself down, he rubs his belly button. Wish that would work for me!

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PastaQueen • June 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Cancer humor evidently isn’t everyone’s cuppa’ tea and I didn’t feel like dealing with that shit today, so the macaroni military carried off that post in the middle of the night. We shall not speak of it again, unless you thought it was funny, in which case we shall talk about it privately.

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Ellen • June 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

PQ,

That is an awesome question. I thought Allison gave an interesting response regarding having a variety of options to turn to when stressed. If you spread out your use of “solutions”, then maybe they aren’t “vices”. Seems like a vice is that one thing (or maybe 2 things) that you crave during a stressful situation, versus the *many* things you turn to. I don’t know, I mean, it would be weird to me to think of meditation or yoga or some such as being an addictive behavior even though, really, if I *need* to do it to feel better, maybe it fits the bill. Talk about a cultural anthropology question!

Also, I am not easily offended at all and would love to read the “Race for the…?” post that I apparently missed out on. I need some laughs today and it is apparently hilarious :) Are you up for emailing it to me?

Cheers,

Ellen

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Caffeinated • June 20, 2008 at 6:24 pm

I used to smoke, and it was hard to quit – but yes, I was thinner then. Then I quit, gained a ton of weight, and it’s definitely food now. Although I know smoking is horrible for you, a part of me almost wishes I could just go back to smoking – you can quit smoking by never smoking again, but you can’t not EAT again… I think the food addiction is harder to beat…

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Jenna L • June 20, 2008 at 6:29 pm

One of my strangest, hardest to control vices is eating chips and salsa…no other food becomes such a compulsion to me. Whether I’m stressed out, bored, or basically just if it’s around, I eat and eat and eat them. I would love to find a way to fit chips and salsa into my life in a healthy way, but for now I have to cut it out completely.

I also fall back on smoking. I don’t even like the taste, but as soon as I get it in my head that I want a cigarette, I keep thinking about it until I have one. It’s my worst habit and the one that I need to stop the most.

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Deb • June 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm

1) Bingeing on sweets and other carbohydrates, specifically and in no particular order: Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, Snickers, M&M’s, chocolate cake, bagels and cream cheese, peanut butter toast, sugar and cinnamon toast, Lucky Charms

2) I am also know to release my pent up frustrations and aggression by speaking very ill of others behind their backs, cursing like a &^%*ing sailor, and just generally being hypercritical of everyone around me.

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jae • June 20, 2008 at 6:55 pm

My vices would be eating, losing myself on the internet, picking my cuticles/nails. And when things get really really stressfull I will start to whack at my hair. Sometimes I have to physically hide the sissors from myself so I don’t wind up bald.

I too wish that I would jump on the treadmil or do yoga when I’m stressed or depressed or feeling heavy minded. If you ever figure out how to change that let me know. :) ~j

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ginna • June 20, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I have a definte addiction to caffeine. I’ve been a long distance runner for 24 years, and run quite a lot, but don’t consider it a vice.

A very difficult bad habit to break for me is my addiction to television.

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Helen • June 20, 2008 at 8:53 pm

This is a loaded question for me and I don’t know the answer to it yet. However, I suspect that the answer is “yes, just hope to transfer your addiction to something healthy”. I smoked for many years (finally quit 5 years ago). I was thin at that point (for probably the first time ever) and, yes, I did gain weight (which I’m just now taking off). I gained weight because I gave myself permission to go back to THAT food “addiction” when I was quitting smoking. Last year, I realized that I was drinking too much (that led to eating too much too and not exercising enough). Now that I’ve got that under control, I am switching my fixation (I hesitate to really use “addiction”, because part of me thinks that addiction is a physical kind of attachment…but maybe not…I’m not even sure what I think!). What am I switching it to? Not sure yet. Maybe it’s my Trader Joes Fruit Floes for dessert. Or my water with fresh-squeezed lime juice when I get home at night. It’s all about the “treat” to me. And, despite years of talking in therapy about that, I’m still not SURE what it’s all about. But it sure is interesting to try to figure it out!!!! ;-)

Sorry, I know this is discombobulated…wanted to quick write a reply as I’m running out the door…but I hope you get the gist and thanks for reminding me that I need to focus on figuring this out again…

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MizAngie • June 20, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I have ZERO bad habits, flaws, crutches, or imperfections. NONE. NADA. Well, except maybe lying. Ha!!!

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Jamie • June 20, 2008 at 10:10 pm

When I’m really stressed, I smoke. But thankfully, one or two really kills the craving. Shopping and crazy desserts are others vices when I’m stressed/depressed.

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Alex • June 20, 2008 at 10:39 pm

Eating was definitely a vice for me and it can become one again when I am in an emotionally stressful period (not busy stressed, though — then I eat less). Sometimes I will smoke weed just to forget about whatever I currently am dealing with, but that has decreased a lot. I used to bite my nails, but that habit has been on the decline for years and I think I finally kicked it.

The last vice I have to kick is pulling out my hair — it’s called trichtillomania — and now that my nails are longer it actually has helped because it makes it more difficult. This is the year of transformation for me – I’ve already lost 25 pounds (10 more to go!) and quit biting my nails, so if I do that too this will have been like the most successful year of my life!

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Meg • June 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

I don’t know that I have a specific vice, more like a series of unhealthy behaviors that are all comforting to me.

A few of them: mashed potatoes, chocolate, lobster, oversleeping, playing hookie from obligations for a day….

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Kayla • June 20, 2008 at 10:42 pm

umm, chocolate chip cookies, my very own homemade kind, aka SAHM heroin.

Procrastination/task avoidance via blog checking and surfing – a strong alternate, depends on whether I’m in control of my diet or control of my procrastination, can’t quite seem to get the two working at the same time!

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s • June 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm

pq, i just bought your book and read it all in one day. it was awesome.

anyway i wanted to say that mine is probably working/studying while drinking coffee/some caffeinated beverage while eating carbs. like, a box of granola bars. except i don’t do that anymore.

anyway, yeah.

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Carolyn • June 20, 2008 at 11:39 pm

I feel very strongly about this post. I do think people can transfer habits or addictions. I am sure there is something psychological there, but realizing and trying to use positive habits is great!

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gknee • June 21, 2008 at 12:00 am

Hi PQ-

food is the favorite bad habit of “good girls”, in my opinion. I tried the party life in my 20s but I actually liked paying my bills and keeping a job more than drugs and alcohol. Some of my compatriots were not as clear on that. I’m working hard on getting over using food. It is tough– love that instant gratification. I do find that if I make a concerted effort to not pick up the food, I tend to deal with life more directly. (at least on good days)

I also have the nailbiting and the shopping problem. Sometimes I can get a “fix” by purchasing crap at Walgreens. It really doesn’t matter what– it just fills the empty space.

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Ashley • June 21, 2008 at 12:04 am

Ok, I’m not sure how PG PQ likes to keep her blog, so I’m warning you up front, this comment is not for kids.

I use to smoke and I use to date a guy who was a recovering alcoholic who had started smoking when he quit drinking. When we both decided to quit, we ended up having sex constantly. Sneaking home from work on your lunch break sorta constantly. So yeah, I think you always transfer your vice.

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Jen • June 21, 2008 at 1:04 am

Everyone has at least one vice and one grace. It could be many, but every person has a least one. If you know someone who acts like they don’t have at least one–that is the person you really need to watch out for.

Jen

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jenny b • June 21, 2008 at 1:54 am

My vice(s) depending on which stress i have (college is quite crazy) is either sleeping/napping or eating bite size foods such as popcorn or chips where you can eat way too much way too easily. I call it napping, others call it sleeping. I guess after 2 hours it’s not a nap? After asking my boyfriend what my vice was when stressed he replied “crying.” I think he doesn’t get the difference between stress and pms/being a girl. :D

I’m starting a weight loss goal – for real this time – and your blog kind of says everything I think on a daily basis. I’m so glad I found you! Thanks for the inspiration and motivation!

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Lee • June 21, 2008 at 6:50 am

I, like most of you, turn to smoking and eating. As bad as those are, they’re better than what I used to do, which was get pierced or tattooed.

But I think I’ve come up with something more productive and less heart-failure inviting.

Why don’t we all pick one cause to fight for and take one action to advocate each time we are stressed, upset, bored, etc.

Genocide in Darfur, violence against women, child abuse, animal rights, cancer, autism, the environment – the list goes on and on and on.

If people decided to write a letter, draw a picture, make a donation, do volunteer work, publicize, BLOG!!, or any such thing every time they needed relief from pain, discomfort, stress, anxiety or whatever, the world could be a better place. You could do something small – like buy a bum a cup of coffee or find a pen-pal-type organization and write to people in jail. Seriously, just anything to keep from ingesting/inhaling processed chemicals!

Clearly, this is idealistic: it’s difficult to get motivated and then to stick with it, especially when it’s in response to a bad or depressive mood. But combating negativity with productivity is a pretty sweet way to win the war. Pastaqueen, an awesome chick who we all love, is our very own example of this. So… let’s do it!

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judy • June 21, 2008 at 7:35 am

FOOD THE BIG VICE. Next big vice spending. Trying to work on this so have used knitting, reading and walking. I too have heard that you transfer vices but I don’t think it has to be. Think transfer vice was always hanging around in your life at a lower level and then just becomes larger when primary vice stops.

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Befreckled • June 21, 2008 at 7:56 am

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ brings our only hope for freedom from addictions:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. (John. 8:36) A wildly unpopular idea in our day and age. All addictions – food, exercise, smoking, drinking, you name it are our attempt to fill a hole in our lives that can only be filled by God. And yes, I know Christians who are addicted to many of those areas, too. Knowing the truth and doing it are two different things, as any dieter can tell you!

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Cindy • June 21, 2008 at 10:05 am

Eating…as someone already said, its not food so much as the actual act of eating that I fall back on in times of stress. I used to eat under stress as well as out of habit, which got me to my highest weight of 335 pounds, where I remained around that figure for about 25 years. Then I tried to change my lifestyle and lost 130 pounds by changing my habits, one by one. The VICE of eating under stress is still there and I have unhealthy moments, urges, binges, bad cycles, etc… sometimes far too frequently. I, like you, wonder if these will ever go away or if these are my demons for life. I have decided that I will never be “cured,” I will always be someone who, given the chance, will overeat. I conclude that to survive I must be eternally vigilant and not let my guard down. Those bad habits are waiting in the wings, looking for the moment to pounce back into action, as they sometimes do. I sometimes feel sorry for myself, thinking life isn’t fair—that it shouldn’t be this hard to maintain weight loss and I should be able to enter the world of the thin and pretty and all should be well….happily ever after. But life isn’t a fairy tale, and as you said in your book, we don’t get a “do-over,” so I’d best stop looking at things that way. Just keep doing the best I can, that’s all I can do…

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K • June 21, 2008 at 10:46 am

Webcomics.

No, really. When I’m stressed, I tend to seek out a new webcomic (or sometimes a blog) and read all the archives. Then I get frustrated because I want more NOW.

And, yes, sugar.

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Lisa • June 21, 2008 at 11:06 am

I thought about it long and hard and sorry, I don’t want to bum everyone out but I have no vices. I’m practically perfect in every way. Oh, wait. Narcissism.

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G.G. • June 21, 2008 at 11:57 am

I think I totally missed the point of your post with my over-philsophical comment above, but I’m about to make another one. I think the big difference between a vice and a virtue is whether it’s self-destructive or whether it enriches your life. Exercise can be a virtue if it makes you healthier and improves your quality of life, but if you do it to excess and it begins to hurt you, then it’s vicious. Same with eating, drinking, spending, having sex, procrastinating, etc. Things are rarely black and white, good or bad, in and of themselves.

That said, some things may be vicious, no matter what, though–they are just destructive by nature (like smoking or drug use).

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Melinda • June 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

My lifelong vice is eating, or more correctly, feeding myself. I have been successful not eating (and losing weight) when I substitute shopping, web surfing, talking on the phone, talking to myself, writing down my thoughts, or fantasizing about love and sex. All of those can be destructive in their own ways, but that last one has not only helped me to lose weight, but to keep it off. It also seems to me to be sustainable (and cheap). I do worry that spending time fantasizing may discourage me from pursuing actual love and sex in my life. I’m over 50 and I don’t have a husband or boyfriend, so I suppose I’m only hurting myself with that one. But I’m keeping the weight off, which is good for me in so many ways.

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day • June 21, 2008 at 6:57 pm

eating

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cheryl • June 21, 2008 at 11:26 pm

It’s not unusual to substitute one vice for another. I suppose that you need to figure out which is the lessor of two evils. My physical therapist said ( and I had heard before) that exercise releases natural pain killers, endorphins, so most people do feel better during or after they work out. I have never experienced the “runner’s high”, but maybe PQ has.

Anyway, chocolate, warm caramel and sweets in general do it for me.

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Sue B • June 22, 2008 at 10:43 am

If we’re defining vice as ‘any trivial fault or failing, act of self-indulgence, etc.’ then mine would be office supplies. Pens, paper, notebooks, binders, you name it, my home office runneth over.

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Heather • June 22, 2008 at 11:10 am

Mine is an exercise addiction… Perhaps a too much so. I don’t hurt myself, and I really have no interest in life being any different, but it gets a little scary if I’m unable to exercise… and I do give up large sections of my social life for exercise. :o

If things are going badly, I up my exercise and feel better. Unfortunately, I don’t handle being unable to exercise like the most healthy, well-adjusted person ever.

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Carolina • June 22, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Reading.

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BrightAngel • June 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm

I believe each of us is the person we were meant to be.

We each exibit what we Are, and what is Important to us, by what we Do, i.e. by our behavior.

We can Change one behavior by substituting another behavior,

but we can’t just Eliminate a behavior.

So Yes.

My 63 years of education and experience

says there has to be some kind of self-serving trade-off in order to effectively change any adult behavior.

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e • June 22, 2008 at 4:00 pm

1. drinking way too much good beer

2. smoking

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MB • June 22, 2008 at 7:36 pm

Exercise doesn’t sound like a bad vice to have.

My worst vices are chocolate (covered pretzels), bread, pasta … ya know, all the stuff that makes me fat. Actually, it’s too much food in general.

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Bethama • June 22, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Hm. Eating, nail-biting, hair-pulling, clutter, internet, avoiding socializing, coffee, watching TV, spending money on knick-knacks that I never use, testiness, sarcasm…

And despite all that, I think I’m doing better right now than ever before.

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Heather • June 22, 2008 at 10:16 pm

Hmm, snacking, reading, and recently internet shopping. Ironically the latest fetish has been workout DVDs. I have a growing library, most of which sit on the shelf gathering dust. Funny how I feel better about it if I sit and watch one…almost like working out, but not quite.

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RG • June 22, 2008 at 10:18 pm

What a great post! I think we all know the destructive addictions. What an idea to think we can replace them with a productive “toolbox”. Or at least a less-destructive set. My existing ones are potato chips, vodka, pizza, chocolate, internet, games, whining to friends, and obsessive thoughts. I would like to replace these with: cardio (I did this for awhile after getting a job with an on-site gym), being funny, cleaning, studying, listening to music/ dancing, cooking, eating vegetables/ gum, making art.

wouldn’t that be cool, if instead of getting stressed out about work issues I could write a comic strip like dilbert?

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Lesley • June 23, 2008 at 5:56 am

Eating and reading. Basically self-medicating with the food and hiding from the world with the books. I’ve only just noticed that, when things are going badly, I do both together. They are the opposite sides of the same coin.

It’s a good question and I thank you for asking it….sigh

Lesley x

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Kimisha • June 23, 2008 at 7:15 am

Other than eating, I would say spending unneccesary money, whether on groceries or nick nacks at the dollar store.

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Heather • June 23, 2008 at 8:55 am

When it’s not food, it’s buying shoes. I have over 140 pairs now. I need to find a new one, as the weight’s going up again and I have no more closet space!!!

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Midwest gal • June 23, 2008 at 10:14 am

I do think most people need a vice. I used to smoke pot constantly — for about 20 years. I never drank during that time. Now that I’ve quit smoking entirely, I do have a few drinks several times a week.

Food — spicy/cheese combined — hot Doritos or potato chips, or sharp cheddar with hot pepper powder on it. I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth.

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RG • June 23, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I’m still confused about the “need” for a vice. Most of them seem clearly maladaptive. Do we choose our vices based on our personality? Or based on the cause of stress? And does it matter what they are, or could we theoretically say “no shrimp unless I’m really stressed” and then we could anchor having shrimp to being good to ourselves and that would make us feel better?

I’ve recently acquired a new vice – alcohol. I use it primarily when I’m too revved up to sleep. I guess I used to use carbs then, and now I find that alcohol is effective on fewer calories.

But another of my vices is old: playing stupid internet games. I always regret it after doing it, often for hours and days/weeks. It’s convenient – I use the games when I’m trying to make myself do other work on the computer – but it’s hard to modulate. I’ve tried doing the “work 10 minutes, play a short game”, and sometimes it works to jump-start me on something I’m actually ready to do.

I think blogs are a kind of helpful vice. Better than chatting with coworkers, who may take much longer to build up to a good conversation.

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asithi • June 24, 2008 at 1:19 am

Recovering alcoholics do tend to turn to food when they quit drinking, usually due to low levels of serotonin and beta endorphins (brain chemicals). Even children of alcoholics have this tendency even if they never drink.

As for me, my vice is either ice cream or over exercising. If I am angry or annoy, I tend to turn to exercise to get rid of the bent up emotions. When I am feeling tired or anxious, it is usually ice cream.

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julie • June 24, 2008 at 7:22 am

I think the best way I’ve found to come to terms with my food addiction is through OA.

It’s three simple steps, that’s the key, simple but not easy.

1. We admitted we are powerless over food, that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

See, pretty simple, I can’t, a Higher Power Can, I’ll let ‘em.

Try 6 meetings, you might find OA is for you.

If not, you’ve lost 6 hours at most, and I’ve found you can’t eat during meetings.

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Em • June 24, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Smoking pot is definitely my favorite low-calorie coping mechanism. I’d like to think I have it under control, but I’ve definitely had weeks where I come home from work and need to smoke every night, which most people would probably consider excessive. In some ways it’s much easier to hide than alcohol or food – I’m a good stoner and nobody really knows when I’m high – I can run errands or talk on the phone with friends. But I know deep down I get much less done and end up feeling like I’m walking around in a fog wasting my life. I’d like to think I could quit whenever (sometimes I go a week or more without even thinking about it), but I just don’t know since I’ve never really tried.

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Lyn • June 25, 2008 at 1:07 am

I have finally started turning to the exercise bike for stress relief. I always hated exercise. I never thought it would happen. But after I ride I always feel so much better. And now, when things are rough, I want to ride my bike.

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Karen • June 25, 2008 at 9:28 am

Brownies. That’s why I gain weight at Christmas -that’s the only time I give myself permission to bake goodies “for the children” who are all grown and moved out.

Warm brownies topped with Breyers vanilla ice cream. Brownies with coffee. Brownies with coffee ice cream. Brownies with a glass of milk (or eggnog). Christmas baking is my enemy!!!!

By the way, the annual eating season begins Oct. 31 and ends Feb. 14th. Or 15th – whenever all the Valentine’s chocolate is gone.

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Debie • June 27, 2008 at 7:14 am

Spending

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Stacy • June 27, 2008 at 5:39 pm

OK. This is really gross, but here I go: Picking is my vise. Not picking up a cupcake or a candy bar (which, of course, I thoroughly enjoy!), but picking at my body. When I’m really stressed it begins without me really even knowing it. First my fingers explore the surface of my scalp. Subconsciously, I think this is the place scabs are the least likely to be seen. And before I know it, I’ve started picking a scab or a pimple or just digging at a spot on my scalp so that I may later harvest a future scab.

When I was a kid I used to keep a scab collection on the top of our bathroom medicine cabinet. When my sister found it she almost threw up.

I sometimes wonder if this may be a form of self-mutilation, like cutting. I’ve quit for more than a year at a time but I can’t seem to rid myself of this disgusting and embarrassing vice for good. Maybe admitting it publicly, in this post, will make me stop.

Oh shit. I just found my fingers in my scalp.

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Tracy M • June 29, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Textured food. I go for whole cashews, macadamias or sunflower seeds on thickly buttered bread. There’s something about the crunch that I find deeply distracting when I’m stressed or hurting. I think it’s partly something to do with the internal head space noise of eating crunchy food, blocking the world out in that ‘leave me alone’ kinda way LOL

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Michelle • June 30, 2008 at 11:20 am

Are you kidding? It was hilarious! Had me laughing out loud. I can understand not wanting to deal with crap though. And cancer humor is hard to defend. Even though it made sense to me :)

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HEATHER E • July 1, 2008 at 12:10 am

spending money (shame I don’t have enough) on crap I don’t need. The internet. I am in front of a computer for 9 hours a day at work and come home and surf the web on my lap top with the TV on. It is sick. I blame adult ADD.

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Karen • July 13, 2008 at 4:46 pm

This is a bit late in the game but:

My vice is definitely food, even after losing 80lbs (Still not at my goal weight, but I’m MUCH thinner and fitter than I was).

I think my husband doesn’t have any vices of that sort though (or none that I can see). Which doesn’t mean he’s perfect of course (he lets dirty dishes just PILE in the sink til I tell him to clean them. Ugh.) But he’s very well-adjusted.

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cristina • September 3, 2008 at 6:07 pm

My main “vice” is oversleeping. Apparentlly, it’s not as bad as other vices, but the problem is that it prevents you from getting things done, and makes me feel bad because I am wasting so much time. I think it is related to procrastination. Not good

Other vices of mine are pointlessly surfing the web for long hours, watching too much tv, and shopping. I also eat when I’m feeling anxious, but it only makes me feel good when I can find something delicious to eat.

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Lauren • April 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

Honestly… I don’t think I have one. I don’t know.

This might sound cheesy but if there is anything I do to relieve pain/stress to combat negative feelings it is simply to be around my BF. I know that probably sounds corny and some people might not believe it, but when you love someone as much as we love each other, their mere presence is very uplifting. There’s even been studies done to show that just physical contact with your loved one can reduce stress and lower heart rate and blood pressure.

So I don’t think that’s a negative vice. I do not indulge in destructive behaviors to combat pain or stress. The worst I can be said to do is blow things off, procrastinate, play video games and ignore the world when I get stressed, just so that I don’t have to think about it.

I’m really sorry about your pain. The last two weeks I had insane pain from TMJ and then an abscessed tooth, for which I had to have a root canal. And it still took a week for the pain and swelling to go away after that. And I know it wasn’t chronic pain, but for two weeks it was a constant ache in the right side of my face, and you really can’t think of anything else when it’s like that. I think it being in the head makes it worse… if it were pain in a foot or leg maybe you could ignore it a bit better. But jeez. I only realized how bad the pain had gotten after it was finally gone. So I sort of understand what you mean when you talk about it consuming your life.

I hope you are better now.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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