Many are familiar with the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins. Those of certain religious faiths believe these to be the primary transgressions or general character defects that will ensure we suffer a rather unfavorable afterlife. Those who are not religious will likely still see the Seven Deadly Sins as behaviors that are to be avoided. Many of them result in much harm, be it to ourselves or to others. From a moral or ethical standpoint, this indicates that we cannot invoke these sins if we are to become better individuals while in sobriety.
Over the next couple of weeks, we intend to cover each of the Seven Deadly Sins, with a few related topics in between. For now, however, we would simply like to give you a basic breakdown of what each sin means, and how it factors into your sobriety. These should give you a basic idea regarding which of the Seven Deadly Sins have had the greatest influence on the character defects you exhibited while in active addiction, enabling you to focus on these flaws while moving forward and continuing to better yourself. Please note that the following are in no particular order.
People often confuse envy with jealousy, despite the fact that the two are actually quite different. A person who is envious will covet that which belongs to others; meanwhile, a jealous person is one who is overly controlling about ensuring they do not lose what they have, such as the common “jealous boyfriend.” (This difference will be covered in-depth in the coming weeks.) Envy may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but neither envy nor jealousy is particularly desirable in a person.
While envy may not be the deadliest of sins, it can certainly lead us down a dark path. If we have led lives of isolation, we may envy those with strong social lives. If we lack money or other material possessions, then we may envy others who by all appearances want for nothing. Our anger over the status of others will mix with our depression over our own lot in life, and we will soon feel as if we are living for nothing. It is at this point that we will likely turn to drugs and alcohol to ease our sorrows.
Sloth may not seem like it should be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, if for no other reason than the fact that no direct harm is done to anyone through sheer laziness and procrastination. Then again, think of those who are slothful in their attempts at child-rearing. Think of those who perform important jobs, yet never seem to be as alert as they should be. Some of these people may already be suffering from addiction or alcoholism, and this may even be the cause of their indolence. Either way, these are not people who are attempting to become the best versions of themselves.
When we recently discussed the notion of building accountability through punctuality, we noted that accountability still requires a lot of hard work. It isn’t all about showing up on time. Sloth will obviously not help you get anywhere in combating the loss of faith that many have experienced while watching you suffer from your disease. But if you work hard and do not let character flaws such as sloth run your life, you will begin finding many reasons to stay sober. Staying active is important to sobriety. Addicts must learn how to be bored without craving drugs and alcohol, but boredom should be avoided when possible. And trust us when we say that sloth breeds boredom.
When we refer to gluttony, we may easily refer to more than just food. While compulsive eating disorder results in uncontrollable gluttony, there are other forms of excessive behavior that can be troubling to the addict or alcoholic. After all, were we not incredibly gluttonous in our substance abuse? Did we not drink every drop and clear out every bag of drugs as if something inside of us required us to do so? And if we continue with our excessive behaviors, we will soon find that we become impossible to satisfy. If this leads to substance abuse, it may also lead to overdose and possibly even death.
On the other hand, we can’t let the pendulum swing too far in the other direction. Gluttony may be one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but letting ourselves get too hungry can be just as dangerous to our sobriety. Like all of the Seven Deadly Sins, the key here is balance. We cannot work too excessively for the sole purpose of avoiding sloth, and we cannot starve ourselves for the sole purpose of avoiding gluttony. If we truly wish to remain sober, we must find some sort of middle ground.
Those of us who are prone to envy will often be prone to greed as well, but that is not to say that these two of the Seven Deadly Sins are inseparable. There are some who take no stock in what others have, yet still crave more for themselves. The drive for material gain is all that consumes them. And much like the addict who suffers from envy, those who let greed run their lives will often find little reason to stay sober if they do not get what they want.
Also bear in mind that addicts and alcoholics are generally meant to help people when they can, as a part of their recovery. When one is consumed by greed, they are unlikely to do much in the way of performing service work. This is generally the case with all of the Seven Deadly Sins, but more so with greed than any other. The best way to counteract this particular character defect is simply to be as generous as possible. Start with those who are closest to you, and then begin branching out. As your sense of goodwill begins to increase, your greed will hopefully begin to fade.
The concept of wrath may be a bit foreign to some. In a lot of ways, it’s one of the most outdated of the Seven Deadly Sins. The word carries connotations of old-school revenge, the sort of thing you’d see in a superhero action movie. But the truth is that we harbor vengeful fantasies every day. In essence, it happens every time we alter the way we treat somebody because we have started harboring resentments toward them. And if we let these resentments go unchecked, they will almost certainly get the better of us.
Out of all the Seven Deadly Sins, wrath is one about which we are warned quite often when we enter recovery. We are told frequently that we must learn the benefits of forgiveness if we are to stay sober. If someone wrongs us, we must try to see that they might have as many internal struggles as we do. We don’t necessarily need to interfere with their lives, but we should wish the best for them. If you are the type of person to pray, now is the time. Do not selfishly pray for them to treat you better, but for their own life to clean itself up. If things get better for them, they might act better toward you. If not, at least you’ll know your heart was in the right place. This is far better than letting rage and fantasies of vengeance overtake you.
The big takeaway in the above section about wrath is that you must be mindful of your thoughts. This applies to lust as well. Most addiction specialists often advise against dating in recovery for the first year that a person has entered sobriety. This is because, even without drugs and alcohol in their system, the recovering addict may not always think straight. And depending upon which of the four primary attachment styles they fall under, a person may be inclined to jump into things too quickly. Of course, lust as defined by the Seven Deadly Sins has little to do with relationships.
As far as the seven deadly sins are concerned, lust is essentially a preoccupation with sexual desire. Not necessarily the same as sex addiction, although we will be covering this facet of lust in due time. Either way, you might say that lust carries with it some of the same problems as one of the other Seven Deadly Sins—gluttony. It is excessive behavior, and it is not long before the individual who gives in to lust will find themselves doing just about anything to satisfy their primal urges. If this includes having a few drinks on a date, then so be it. Many men and women have relapsed because they gave into their sexual compulsions. Do not become one of them.
There is a reason that pride is often known as the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins, as well as that from which all others spring. Because of our pride, we often suffer from entitlement. This quickly leads to greed, lust, and gluttony. It tells us that we should have little in the way of responsibilities, which leads to sloth. We feel as if we should never be wronged, leading to wrath. And we cannot fathom the notion of anyone having more than us, which soon results in envy.
The answer to pride is humility, and it is through humility that none of the above character defects will get the better of us. With enough humility, we can lead full lives of contentment under the banner of sobriety. Our recovery depends upon it, and we must not overlook the importance of living humbly. It may be an adjustment from our former way of life, but it’s about time we underwent such a change. Through humility, our lives will not be run by the Seven Deadly Sins. Through humility, we will become truly virtuous.