Three-plus years. That’s how long I went without watching a single TV show or movie. I read plenty of books during those years. But I managed no sustained screen movement. Book reading was certainly a priority (as I explained in my post If You Could Recommend One TV Show or Movie . . .). But it was also more difficult to train myself to tolerate screen movement than reading.

Physical therapists would tell me to do an activity until I started to get a headache, and then stop. That’s not as easy as it seems. With reading, it was different for me. When I could no longer comprehend a sentence, I would stop. Continuing would only give me a headache, and immediately after, a setback. But video was harder. I never could get it right. I’d either feel a twinge and stop way too soon and not make progress, or I’d not feel anything and suddenly be beset with a headache and a setback. For a long time, I gave up and didn’t try to watch TV.

Finally, I hit upon a plan that worked. I would start by watching a YouTube video for 30 seconds, using my phone to time it exactly. When the alarm went off after 30 seconds, I would look away from the screen and turn the video off using my peripheral vision. The next day, I would increase my time by 30 seconds. So on day 2, I would be at 1 minute; at day 3, I would be at 1 minute 30 seconds; and so on. When I got to 7 minutes 30 seconds, I would increase by 10 percent from then on, in this case adding 45 seconds instead of 30 seconds. Eventually I switched from YouTube videos to an actual TV show on an actual TV.

Relying on time instead of elusive feelings has been a game changer for me, and not just in watching video. This has also helped me drive, use the computer, listen to podcasts, talk on the phone, and do so many things. Of course, if my head really starts hurting, I will stop no matter what the timer says. But this generally doesn’t happen if I have timed it right.

How does it feel to have watched an entire TV episode for the first time in three-plus years? Honestly, now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’m starving for more. I want to binge watch the entire season! But I can’t. I must be measured, carefully timing my TV viewing. Otherwise, I’ll be able to watch nothing at all.

Have you abstained from something for years? What was that like?