On Falling Off the Wagon

Have you ever “fallen off the wagon?” I just decided to get back on. I think a lot of ink has been spilled trying to figure out how to stick to new habits and how to make lasting change, but not much has been spent on the idea of self compassion for the poor bastard who has just been run over by “the wagon.”

As a society, we are perhaps better informed on success than we are failure. Most of our self help books are obsessed with success. I think that perhaps the key to success is a deeper understanding of failure.

Six months ago, I was doing really well. My life was firing all on cylinders. I was approaching my ideal weight. My wife and I were eating a ketogenic diet. I was exercising almost every day. I had broken my phone’s hold on my attention. I was almost exclusively reading during my down time, which I considered an improvement over my former two hours TV every night. I’d cut out soda, refined sugar, and processed food. I felt great and looked great. I went to bed each night feeling like I’d adequately met my God-given responsibility to use my gifts to their greatest effect.

But then I fell off the wagon, then the wagon backed over me, and left me behind. People fall off the wagon for an infinite number of reasons. A traumatic life event has a way of making people put down the dumbbells and pick up the donuts. An important part of maintaining positive life changes long term is habit and routine. Any jostling of routine can derail a positive change, even after months of success. For me, the jostling was my brother’s return from college.

My brother is eight years younger than me, and he’s presently a college student. He stays with me during his visits home. My brother is also the best cook/baker that I know. He makes homemade donuts that are mind-blowingly delicious. The combination of his presence and the holidays killed all of my momentum. I ate like shit, and I played video games until the wee hours of the morning, just like I should’ve. Christmas is a time of feasting and family. Christmas and Thanksgiving around the problem, it’s how we behave during the period before, after, and in between. Feasting is not bad, but feasting is not meant to be a lifestyle. The Christmas recess from school knocked me from the wagon, but I chose to stay there.

The writing resumed pretty quickly. But my struggle with food and my addiction to social media returned in force. I was leaving my phone in the kitchen or in the bedroom. I was eating leafy greens with every meal and fruit for a snack. But now my phone was thoroughly glues to my face, and my ass was glued to the couch. I’ve been off the wagon for a year. And of course, the New Year is a reflective time.

The best thing about the wagon is that it’s always available for boarding. You can get up and resume your good work any time. You could even do it right now! What a novel idea.


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