The Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) has this to say in the subject of alcoholism:
The virtue of temperance disposes us to avoid every kind of excess: the abuse of food, alcohol, tobacco, or medicine. Those incur grave guilt who, by drunkenness or a love of speed, endanger their own and others’ safety on the road, at sea, or in the air.
The virtue of temperance is explained here:
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Four virtues play a pivotal role and accordingly are called “cardinal”; all the others are grouped around them. They are: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. “If anyone loves righteousness, [Wisdom’s] labors are virtues; for she teaches temperance and prudence, justice, and courage.” These virtues are praised under other names in many passages of Scripture.
Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. The temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.” Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.” In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.” We ought “to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world.”
To live well is nothing other than to love God with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul and with all one’s efforts; from this it comes about that love is kept whole and uncorrupted (through temperance). No misfortune can disturb it (and this is fortitude). It obeys only [God] (and this is justice), and is careful in discerning things, so as not to be surprised by deceit or trickery (and this is prudence).
One can see by studying Paragraph 1809 that the addiction of alcoholism makes it impossible to have a moderate attraction or use of certain pleasures. In some Catholic writings, particularly older ones, the phrase “inordinate attraction” is quite often used to describe something we would now use the word “addiction” for. Through temperance, our love for God is kept “whole and uncorrupted”, therefore, with the ability to develop the virtue (if that’s the correct phraseology, what I mean is to practice or make use of it) our love for God is absent. This may be the “hole in the soul” that I and plenty of other addicts and alcoholics have experienced while drinking or using.
This “hole” was only able to be filled with drinking and drugging. Obviously, the addiction just worsened the inability to employ temperance and the other virtues. Those other virtues as mention in the CCC text: prudence, or wisdom; justice or maybe a sense of fairness and moral certitude and direction; and fortitude, or strength. One can easily see these lacking in a well-developed untreated alcoholic. Finally things come crashing down and we are left with nothing. The “hole in the soul”, which was filled with a false spiritual feeling, is ever larger and threatened to consume us entirely. The betrayal of what we thought was saving us was complete. We hit bottom.
And so we arrive at some place. And we reach for either death or hope. If you’re reading this you either are or have grasped onto hope. Jesus is our only hope, without Him there is nothing.
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