Abstinence is a self-enforced restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Most frequently, the term refers to sexual abstinence, or abstinence from alcohol or food. The practice can arise from religious prohibitions and practical considerations. Abstinence may also refer to drugs. For example, one can abstain from smoking. Abstinence has diverse forms. Commonly it refers to a temporary or partial abstinence from food, as in fasting. In the twelve-step program of Overeaters Anonymous abstinence is the term for refraining from compulsive eating, akin in meaning to sobriety for alcoholics. Because the regimen is intended to be a conscious act, freely chosen to enhance life, abstinence is sometimes distinguished from the psychological mechanism of repression. The latter is an unconscious state, having unhealthy consequences. Freud termed the channeling of sexual energies into other more culturally or socially acceptable activities, "sublimation".
Abstinence may arise from an ascetic over indulgent, hasidic point of view in natural ways of procreation, present in most faiths, or from a subjective need for spiritual discipline. In its religious context, abstinence is meant to elevate the believer beyond the normal life of desire, to a chosen ideal, by following a path of renunciation.
Hindus observe fast once in a fightnight on the auspicious day of Ekadashi (Eleventh Day). This is done to please Lord Sri Krishna by keeping themselves busy in religious activities on this day.
For Jews, the principal day of fast is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
For Muslims, the period of fasting lasts during the whole month of Ramadan, from dawn to dusk.
Both Jews and Muslims abstain from pork in their regular diet.
In both Christianity and Islam, amongst others, pre-marital sex is prohibited.
Also, Catholic Christians abstain from food and drink for an hour prior to taking Holy Communion, and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during Lent. Many Traditionalist Catholics abstain from eating meat all Fridays in the year. In the Anglican Communion, the Book of Common Prayer prescribes certain days as days for fasting and abstinence, "consisting of the 40 days of Lent, the ember days, the three rogation days (the Monday to Wednesday following the Sunday after Ascension Day), and all Fridays in the year (except Christmas, if it falls on a Friday)." Orthodox Christians abstain from food and drink from midnight on the day they receive Holy Communion, and abstain from meat and dairy on Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year, as well as during Great Lent. Catholics distinguish between fasting and abstinence; the former referring to the discipline of taking one full meal a day, and the latter signifying the discipline of eating no meat (fish is allowed). Some Protestants, especially Methodists and Baptists, have preferred to abstain from drinking alcohol and the use of tobacco.
Mormons absstain from certain foods and drinks by combining spiritual discipline with health concerns. Mormons also fast one day a month, for both spiritual and charitable reasons (the money saved by skipping meals is donated to the needy). The Seventh-day Adventist Church encourages the consumption of only clean meats as specified in Leviticus and strongly discourages the consumption of alcohol, smoking, and the use of narcotics.
In India, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, and Hindus abstain from eating meat and fish (basically, all living animals) on the grounds both of health and of reverence for all sentient forms of life. Total abstinence from feeding on the flesh of cows is a hallmark of Hinduism. In addition, lay and monastic Buddhists refrain from killing any living creature and from consuming intoxicants, and bhikkhus keep vows of chastity. In Theravada Buddhism, bhikkhus also refrain from eating in the afternoon, and cannot accept money. Jains abstain from violence in any form, and will not consume living creatures or kill bugs or insects.
In medicine, abstinence is the discontinuation of a drug, often an addictive one. This might, in addition to craving after the drug, be expressed as withdrawal syndromes. In the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous, a large fellowship following the 12-steps outlined by AA, NA is outlined to be "a program of complete abstinence from all mood or mind-altering substances." This description includes alcohol, because alcohol is a drug, and is widely known to include any kind of prescription narcotics, like pain-killers (opiates), anti-anxiety medicine (benzodiazepines) or diet pills (amphetamines). Abstinence is touted by rehabs across the world as the most effective treatment for the disease of addiction, where any use of any controlled substances can result in the obsession to use drugs clouding the mind, and, in the case of most drug addicts, the total loss of control to stop using once started again. The practice of abstinence is a learned behavior, and comes slowly over time - time spent listening and sharing in NA and AA meetings, behavioral health psychology group or individualized therapies, and hanging out with people in the recovery support community.
Abstinence from smoking is also recommended for those who undertake or have recently undertaken cosmetic surgery. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) said about this issue, in a paper about smoking and its effects on cosmetic surgery,
I believe that total absistence from smoking is necessary prior to major cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. A fast may be total or partial concerning that from which one fasts, and may be prolonged or intermittent as to the period of fasting. Fasting practices may preclude sexual activity as well as food, in addition to refraining from eating certain types or groups of foods; for example, one might refrain from eating meat. A complete fast in its traditional definition is abstinence of all food and liquids except for water.
Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game, marine mammals and slaughter by-products), poultry, fowl, fish, shellfish and other sea creatures. There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs and/or some products produced from animal labour such as dairy products and honey.
Smoking cessation is the action leading towards the discontinuation of the consumption of a smoked substance, mainly tobacco, but it may encompass cannabis and other substances as well.
Teetotalism is the practice and promotion of complete abstinence from alcoholic beverages.
Some common reasons for choosing teetotalism are religious, health, family, philosophical and/or social reasons, and, sometimes, as simply a matter of taste preference. When at drinking establishments, they either abstain from drinking or consume non-alcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee, water, juice, and soft drinks.
Contemporary and colloquial usage has somewhat expanded teetotalism to include strict abstinence from most "recreational" intoxicants (legal and illegal, see controlled substances). Most teetotaller organizations also demand from their members that they do not promote or produce alcoholic intoxicants.
A general abstinence from pleasures or leisure, either partial or full, may be motivated by ambition, career or general self-respect (excluding the point of view that even the latter examples may be regarded as sources of pleasure).
It is widely accepted that abstinence from addictive drugs gives successful outcome . However, it is not certain whether a general abstinence from pleasures of leisure yields higher productivity. Too much work generates stress and its potential adverse effects. Furthermore, the effort itself to achieve abstinence may consume willpower from its ultimate purpose. Total abstinence from pleasure or leisure is practically impossible and instead an individual work-life balance is necessary.Alcoholics Anonymous
Pagans in Recovery
Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT)