On Vice

January 1, 2009

I gave up smoking in 2008. Not forever, just for the year. I don’t think I would have quit forever so I wouldn’t have tried so I would have failed. But I knew I could do it for one year, so I did. My goal in life isn’t to remove all vice from my life, it’s to manage it. There’s a difference between vice and sin, and I don’t try to manage sin, sin isn’t something one manages.

My rule for New Year’s resolutions are that they can’t be a sin I have to give up. Sins should be abandoned with no association to a date. So my New Year’s Resolutions end up being about little bad habits, smoking, drinking, speeding, cussing.

This confuses people because some are convinced that smoking is a “sin” because it harms the body and we only have bodies since many don’t believe in the soul. That’s the hysteria behind most smoking laws, not that it’s a supernatural evil to smoke, but that it’s harmful to the materials of your body.

I’m not advocating harming the body, but there’s a reason why great men have had no problem drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes, they were aware that there are artistic, immaterial merits to pleasure and taste that transcend mere health. Health is over-rated. Many unhappy, mean, stupid people are healthy. My children are already culturally programmed to not enjoy the sugar cereal they get as a treat, “This is bad for us.” I push it on them, “Don’t believe people who sum up the goodness or badness of something based solely on health. Cereal also tastes good.”

The smell of cigarette smoke never once bothered me in a restaurant. Now I miss a smokey diner. My children aren’t hurt when the lady smokes at the public park, but they ARE hurt when that lady cusses while using her cell phone. Soul pollution, not lung pollution. My soul will out-live my lungs by some measure.

I only gave up smoking last year to demonstrate to myself that I will be a slave to nothing…at least not for a year. Perhaps my person only found the strength to give up smoking because it knew I would smoke again some day. I’m aware that my feelings will orchestrate seemingly natural feelings to sabotage my plans. I can live with that as long as I don’t smoke for that year, perhaps I’ll quit forever some day, but not today.

So let it be known that as of today I can have a cigarette…I could easily go inhale a pack right now. But I set another goal knowing how badly I want to return to the vice of smoking. I won’t smoke again until I run a marathon. Take that! I wanted to run a marathon and know that I could never train for that distance and smoke at the same time. I need my lungs to be fat and juicy to take in enough oxygen.

I gave up coffee today for one year. That’s my 2009 resolution. No coffee. I usually drink just about two pots a day. No cheating with tea either. I knew myself well enough with cigarettes that I’d have to give up cigars, pipes and chew or I’d just use those to extend my tobacco slavery. I’m not going to go psycho on caffeine, because it’s in chocolate and diet coke and I have a little chocolate and diet Coke every week so big deal. If I start doing six diet cokes a day I’ll know that those will have to go too.

No coffee today.
No cigarettes today.
I ran two miles this morning.
I lost 28 pounds last year and kept it off. I’m at 192 right now (and 6’8″ tall).

My Beloved got me a jogging GPS (Garmin Forerunner) so I can keep track of my run distances. You might remember that last fall I got up to 16 miles on my long run. That’s my personal record. Then it happened. I helped set up our church fall festival and thought I’d throw a few hay bails like I did in high school. My back jacked. Muscles felt like a tangled up swing-set then drawn tight.

The hardest thing to do was to give up running. This was my new discovery this year and now it was taken away from me. My new vice that made me feel great was gone. I tried to run a few times and had to quit after a mile. After two weeks of pain I finally went to see a chiropractor.

I have to apologize to every chiropractor I ever insulted by calling your practice a bunch of voo-doo wave the bloody chicken leg around the office snake oil. My friends went to chiropractors for years and never got better. I was in so much pain that I finally gave this quack in Pasadena a try…90% of my pain vanished in my first 20 minute visit. I couldn’t believe it. He used this little jack-hammer thing that pushes the spine just a little bit at a time.

The pain comes back but not as bad with each recurrence. Just this week I got the go ahead to start running again. I did a mile the day before yesterday and I was terrified to agitate my back injury. We’re taking it slow. A lot is at stake with my running. I’m not talking about the smoking either.

I’m at work putting this image of me to death this year. It’s that image of the scrawny “inside boy” who finished last at every sport event because I knew I couldn’t do it. I finished behind the girls, behind the blind guy in the portable iron lung, I thought drawing was enough. I finished a half marathon in 1987 and said, “I could never turn around and do that again like those marathon runners.”

The marathon is a hairy run. I’m not setting myself up for failure in admitting that I may not be able to finish. I’m 42. My knees give me a little trouble on cold days and longer runs since I only jog on cement. My back is this ghost always threatening to come back on the scene and take everything away.

Ready. Steady. Go.

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45 Responses to “On Vice”

  1. Bob McGowan Says:

    Happy New Year Doug! Glad to hear that you’re back running again. You know the difference between a runner and a jogger? The runner has a fancy watch. Good luck with your back.

  2. Sean McGowan Says:

    Thanks for sharing that. I really enjoy reading your stories.

  3. cuyler Says:

    how did you make running something you actually wanted to do? i’m trying to search for ways for me to lose some weight, and i heard that running was one of the quickest, but i can’t seem to make it stick. i’ll run for up to a week and then just lose interest in it. it’s frustrating. i guess i’m asking if you had a similar problem, or if you just kind of toughed it out.

    • tennapel Says:

      Cuyler, I definitely had the same problem. False starts, no motivation, no fun. In 2007 I did some jogging for a few months and it didn’t sick, which was the pattern for most of my life.

      I went obsessive crazy with my commitment to run in 08. Even with running almost every day for the first three months, I didn’t really get my running legs until 4 months in…and then I was deeply hooked. I lost a total of 32 pounds at that point and my muscles started snapping along. I could lean into my body and it gave back strength instead of giving up.

      You have to kind of trick yourself into thinking every day that you’re gonna die if you don’t run that day. Make manly competitions out of distance, speed and frequency.

    • mgr Says:

      Running sucks. It’s tedious and gives back little.
      I highly recommend karate warming-up style training for strength, health, etc.
      I myself hate running. I run, but it doesn’t compare in any way with a battery of exercises taken from karate routines.

      K routines have running in short distances; then push ups, stuff, 30 feet run, again. You might find and learn from people who run long ds, so look for routines that have it in bite sizes all over. It’s really cool.

  4. Ian Says:

    Good to see you back, Doug. Best of luck with your goals this year- every one of them is more than worthwhile, I can say that from personal experience. Kicking coffee was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, even quitting smoking was easier, but you’ll be absolutely astounded how much better you feel after a month or two without.

  5. erk brown Says:

    Some tangential reflections, if you don’t mind.

    I got a copy of Cicero’s On the Good Life for Christmas, and he’s using all of the Greek Philosophers to argue that “Good men are always happy” that it’s about orientation of your soul, pursuing virtue. Which is good stuff, especially from someone who died 40 years before Christ was born.

    Now in our modern era we believe a good man is one who properly orients his body, his materials, and anyone who can believe that is miserable when their looks and health go.

    And finally the wonderful thing is that, as Lewis points out, Christ didn’t come and die so that we could live a good life, he came so that we can have a divine life, which is truly the most wonderful thing.

  6. Josh Says:

    Thanks for sharing that,
    I love the way you look at things, especially the whole vice and sin thing,
    They’re inspiring words for sure


  7. Way to go Doug, and Happy New Year. I was wondering if you were totally kicking the smoking habit permanently for this year and you will. I myself is making a few New Year’s resolutions and it’s going pretty good so far. Doug the way you use to run reminds me a bit about myself in a little Elementary school marathon. But these days I’m the fastest man alive, and I’m just eighteen. Wont become nineteen until July. Tea however is suppose to be good for you more than coffee, but I find coffee really fascinating stuff. But I never even taken drink of a nice hot cup of joe.

    Anyway Happy New Year to everybody in Newt land, and talk to you some more on the forum.

  8. Barabbas Says:

    Glad to have a post from you Doug. I completely concur with your thoughts on the whole supremacy of personal health mentality in our culture. Glad to hear you are going to start smoking again…eventually.

  9. Daniel J. Splitt Says:

    I bet you twelve cents that in ten years cigarettes will be illegal completely. For real.

    It started small, it began with segregation. Its bizarre for someone in my generation to even imagine that there used to be smoking lounges in high school. There were always smoking and non-smoking sections in almost all restaurants.

    Then some restaurants started not allowing cigarettes at all. Some hotels don’t have smoking rooms.

    I live in Illinois and go to school in Minnesota, and to commute I take an Amtrak train. Between Milwaukee and Winona (roughly 4.5 hours, assuming the train doesn’t hit a truck attempting to beat the train through an intersection…) the smokers are forced to sit on the train without a cigarette.

    The state of Illinois has banned smoking in ALL public buildings. My high school doesn’t allow smoking on school grounds at all. My college won’t allow smoking on its property whatsoever starting this semester.

    If I’m wrong you could totally get twelve cents in ten years!

  10. chris Says:

    as alwalys, well put doug! i wish i could get into running or some form of exercise as I literally feel my muscles atrophying…

  11. Neil Says:

    I didn’t even know you were blogging again! I saw you comment on Greg Koukl’s Facebook and looked this up. Glad you are back at it, at least partly.


  12. Hi Doug,

    In 2005 I ended a job at Disney vastly overweight and smoking. I started running, incrementally quit smoking, and have now completed five marathons. (Though I haven’t worked at Disney since. I always felt it was bad for my health.-:))

    What helped me was to pick a marathon and work backwards as far as planning my weekly distance and long runs.

    Hope the back heals. Best of luck with your running.

  13. Ken Says:

    I found your website thanks to Michell Malkin and just wanted to comment on your smoking – running regime. I had a friend within a group of coworkers that were all training to run the LB Marathon. He smoked yet trained with the rest of us.
    We ran on our own during the week, but on the weekends, we ran 10ks and such. He would show up at our desinated meeting place smelling of smoke. I asked him one day, “Did you just finish a smoke?”, he would smile and say y”Yep” with a grin. Whatever.
    On marathon day, we all ran our race and finished at our best times. as we met afterwards, he comes through and asks the guy he rode with for the keys to his truck. The guy asks if he is goiong to change and check out some activity going on. He says, “Heck no, I’ve been running for 5 hrs, I need a smoke.” We all busted up laughing, but he made it.
    Also, he was tall and thin like you decribe yourself to be as well.

  14. Spacie G. Says:

    Blog more!

  15. Sean McGowan Says:

    “If I were on stilts, I’d be running all sorts of marathons.” – Bill B.

  16. Brent Says:

    You don’t know how badly I needed to read that.
    That whole vice/sin thing.
    Thanks a billion, doug.

  17. eugenio Says:

    Somali Militiaman: “That’s right – none of you Americans smoke anymore. You all live long, dull, uninteresting lives.” (from Blackhawk Down.)

  18. TVsKyle Says:

    If you last even a week without coffee, you’re a stronger man than I.

  19. EmilyFalcon Says:

    See, this is what the difference is between normal artists and sequential artists… we actually use more of our brains!
    (Not an stab at artists, just straight facts… as both artists and writers we use more of our brain capacity.)
    Either way, good luck and lots of prayers on the no smoking/no coffee/marathon running stuff!
    Great goals there and very refreshing to see someone awesome doing awesome stuff! :)

  20. Bobby Hunt Says:

    Doug, I didnt know you had started smoking…Glad you quit…Of course I havent seen you in quite some time…Hope all your family is well..You’ve been heavy on my mind, thoughts and prayers lately for some reason..Of course I guess that the fact that my 15 year old son loves skate boarding, drawing and has a huge interest in video stuff reminds me of you when we were growing up…I have actually been trying to contact you just to say hello and catch up on whats going on in your life..I wanted to say hello and maybe we can exchange info at some point. I havent even run into Jim in a long time……Bobby

  21. "Lone Joan" Joan Lienemann Says:

    Doug !
    I just read the latest American Library Association News and you did it again! “One of the top teen reads” for your latest graphic novel, Monster Cat. Congratulations! And they used your cover as the graphic with the article. Way to go!

    Lone Joan

  22. "Lone Joan" Joan Lienemann Says:

    “Monster Zoo” ! (I had a “senior” moment)

  23. Clifford Says:

    No coffee?

    Wow. I mean… yeesh.

    This is going to sound nerdier than … well… you’ve been to comic-con but the last three words of your man-bear-blog, remind me of one of the opening songs to Full Metal Alchemist, an anime that some say is the best ever made even though it’s kinda “hyped”… So from now on, I am going to envision your theme song as “Ready. Steady. Go.” by Larc~en~ciel. Hope that didn’t ruin the blog.

    Doug=Owner of N00bs

  24. Bay Lee Says:

    Hey hey, first time poster, long time fan. Just dug up your blog here amongst the giant pile of insanity that is the interwebs. It’s good to see someone your age who hasn’t simply given up on their own body, and, as is the case with far too many people, their own life. It’s tough to love other people, and tougher to love yourself. Keep doing what you do! (namely Sockbaby) :3

  25. Mike Says:

    Just passing by.Btw, your website have great content!

    _________________________________
    Making Money $150 An Hour


  26. I have been trying to break some bad habits myself mostly I’ve kept my news years resolution. However the others have been a pain to break, I hope they do not continue on, I just don’t know what to do. With help from God, my selfcontrol, friends, etc that I will move on, and go sober completely.


  27. I have been trying to break some bad habits myself mostly I’ve kept my news years resolution. However the others have been a pain to break, I hope they do not continue on, I just don’t know what to do. With help from God, my selfcontrol, friends, etc that I will move on, and go sober completely.

  28. TenNapel Says:

    Eddie, it’s also important to fight even if you lose. The usual response to losing these kinds of fights is to change one’s world view so that now it’s acceptable, or even a virtue!

    Right now, I’m fighting cussing. It’s a bad habit. It’s not the grand-daddy of vice or sins but I think it’s immature, I’m 42 years old, and I should have been done with it by now. But it would be much easier to just say that because it’s hard to give up and it brings me pleasure, that I have the right to do it and should just go easy on myself.

    The good man conquers his appetites because they’re there to conquer. I admire that you’re still fighting. We win some, we lose some. But we always fight.


  29. Thanks Doug for the hand on the shoulder, I sometimes couldn’t imagine you cussing like a sailor. Sure it’s not the grand-daddy of cussing, but good for you.
    I will keep fighting no matter what, it’s like that little wooden boy trying not to give in to temptation and Gimini is by his side. My favorite super hero who doesn’t have superpowers is Batman, he concurs vice like a Hun. he wont back down for nothing. god bless you Doug and to your family.

  30. ShadowWolf Says:

    This is my first time reading your blog- I live in Ohio- 21 currently and played Earth Worm Jim when I was young.

    I am currently running and working out to prepare myself for the airforce. Believe it or not I also had a back injury a short while ago which scared me. The pain persisted for a good 5 months, but is finnally going away. I have no clue what caused it but it seems like it is finnally over- I know what you mean about your back being a ghost waiting to come back, I guess you just have to keep up on good habits. I am 6,4 so maybe its just a thing with us tall guys. best of luck.

  31. tennapel Says:

    Nice to meet you ShadoWolf, I hope your workouts for the airforce go well. Let me know how it all goes. One thing that helped my back was to not work sitting for more than an hour without a break. Get up and walk around for a few before getting back to it.


  32. I’ve been getting help from my best friend Aaron, and he is really understanding cause he was in the same situation as I was in. I will pick up a more healthier addiction that keeps me distracted from the bad ones.

  33. GF Founder Says:

    wow, i love what bringing up ‘vices’ does to stimulate conversation, LOL. i got second-hand news from my wife that my 15 yr old son was concerned about my ‘fitness’. i don’t drink, smoke, and (was) only 10 lbs overweight according to “the indices”. But that news was enough for me to hire a trainer that would hold weekly teleconferences with me (while I’m in India) and be that accountability partner I so desparately need after 30+ years of virtually no exercise. I’ve lost 15 lbs and going for another 10!!

    btw, I’m 51 and lovin my new found source of endorphines and dopamines. would that be a vice?

  34. FelixofMars Says:

    Its really good that you did it anyway Doug, Smoking and Drinking or well any drug are clearly not a good thing so attempting to lessen it or stop altogether is a worth cause.

  35. C. L. Wilson Says:

    This is brillant. Your writing, your thinking and your theology are spot on. So glad I found you thorugh Bully Pulpit!

  36. Seth Says:

    Posting in a blog by a man who would hate his own children if they were gay.

  37. Owen Says:

    Probably don’t matter to you but earthworm jim is the greatest game in the world.don’t be hatin’


  38. I’m happy for the people on this post that they make their own personel commitment, to achieve something that will beat vice. The sad thing is that vice is all around us, I wish it wasn’t, but you have to do the best you can. I have had some changes with myself, but nothing dramatic. I know that people can change greatly in a positive. My prays go to you and all the other people who are related to you. Thanks

  39. Cederash Says:

    Млин, спамеры просто достали уже этим своим примитивом!

  40. Ferinannnd Says:

    Отличная статья, спасибо!

  41. Avertedd Says:

    Млин, спамеры просто достали уже этим своим примитивом!

  42. MikeCruz Says:

    Hey Doug, I had been to your site before..but this is the first time Ive actually read your Blog-ish type thing. Before I actually get to my point I just want to tell you sincerely.. thank you..For giving me hours of happiness as a kid (I am 25), and perhaps warping me a bit with the seemingly random things in your universes (EWJ and The NEverHood), I learned that there is always method to the madness…Anyways..As far as vices go The Word says, I believe in Proverbs…”That A man with out self Control is like a City without walls”..essentially he is easily conquered by outside forces as cities had defensive walls back in the day to protect from would be enemies. Be blessed and good luck on your “Fast” from Cigarettes and Coffee..Yes..Cereal Tastes Delicious…


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