A Letter to My Vices

Uncovering the true emotion behind our bad habits.

I don’t remember our first meeting; yet, you seem to have been with me through it all: From my awkward and often painful high school experiences, to the wild nights of college in New York City. Whether in the midst of a raucous crowd, or in the solitude of my suburban backyard—whenever I was hiding, you were there with me.

I’m talking to you: my crutch, my bad habits—the constantly shifting shadow that walks beside me. You take so many forms but I can always recognize you by the sting you leave in your wake. Whether it’s two hours wasted obsessively checking Facebook, a morning headache from the evening’s glass of bourbon, or the tiny angry voice inside of my head singing its refrain of “you’re not good enough.” On paper it’s hard to imagine these moments, our vices, as comforting—but we know better.

There is a certain charm in the sweetness of ice cream, and many of us have found solace behind a veil of smoke. We know it isn’t the healthy choice but there is an undeniable, if fleeting, comfort in taking the low road sometimes. We live in a constant fluctuation of habitual behavior. With conscious effort we can change our habits—but it’d be a lofty ambition to say we will ever be free of our ego and its base instinct.

But is it wrong to say I can take comfort in my daily sadhana and also a glass of whiskey? Are my self-indulgent vices OK in small doses, if I’m conscious of the habit? At what age do I need to be accountable for my own happiness again? Can I just stay in the comfort of habit, hiding behind the cloud of smoke (sometimes literally), and still fulfill my higher purpose?

I am approaching thirty years old. I know I am still so young and yet I am also so happy with each passing year and the wisdom and experience it brings. I am becoming less and less tolerant of wasting my vitality with long nights of parties, drugs, sex, and the raucous behavior of my youth. I don’t want you anymore, sweet vice. Yet, some part of me resists the idea of being “purely pure”—though it’s not the part of me that wakes up with a hangover and drinks coconut water on the way to early morning hot yoga.

But let’s call it like it is: No matter what behavior you are manifesting as, at your root you are fear. Fear that becomes anxiety. That becomes yearning. That becomes a void to be filled—with idle chatter or the Internet, another piece of cake, or another American Spirit.

That’s the truth of the matter: Fear, you are my real vice. You masquerade as wisdom—I can talk myself into sending one more text under the guise of being an open heart—but really it’s because I am afraid that the other isn’t thinking of me, doesn’t love me. You can tell yourself that you wanted that smoke; but really aren’t you just afraid to experience the sadness that you are burning away?

In the end, as it always does, life carries on. It’s a pattern: I accept my reality, I learn my lessons, the world turns on, and you, sweet vice, fade into the background. The occasional bad day may reunite us, but we are strangers now more than friends.

Today, I am living in the light of choosing what feels good—what really feels good—for longer than just one moment. The wheel of fortune keeps turning, and when my emotional winter returns, I wonder if I will lean on you again, or perhaps, in my moments of doubt, find a way to remember my strength and my worth. Maybe my fear will fade into the background, and we will part ways. Or, maybe not. But one can hope. And one can try. To err is human, is it not?

Photo via iStock

elizabeth-crisciElizabeth Crisci is a yoga teacher and artist in Fairfield County, Connecticut. She is the creator of Love by E, handmade gemstone mala and jewelry. She teaches in workshops, special events, and trainings in the Northeast in addition to a range of regular, weekly classes. She teaches smart and accessible yoga designed to make you feel good. She loves every minute of her work. You can find her writing and her teaching schedule on her website.