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September 1976

Sloth

Sixth in a series dealing with seven deadly character defects

SLOTH HAS LONG played a false role as a minor defect, more to be smiled at than feared, a back-row fault the alcoholic could ignore. The word itself usually expresses indolence, scarcely a serious item. So It is necessary to find out just what sloth means. It must be a lot worse than sitting in the shade to watch the dancers.

Since sloth is spiritual, it might be well to see what some authority on spiritual matters believes. One of the best is St. Thomas, whose writing is full of pertinent ideas for an alcoholic. He says that sloth is "melancholy in the face of spiritual good." (The AA who is sober, but always seems to have some dismal complaint?) The real evil of sloth, then, would be a stubborn refusal of joy, a grim holding on to guilt, depression, and melancholy, which can lead to despair--loss of hope. One of my sponsors said the chief factor that can cause a recovered alcoholic to drink is a loss of hope, from any cause.

For the alcoholic, sloth means being aware of the AA path of recovery, yet refusing to follow It, because the whole sobriety package seems too hard to accept. There are a lot of Gloomy Gus and Melancholy Minnie types who revel in their miseries and bog down completely, often tainting the lives of all close to them. They spurn help or friendship, and if they are "slippers," as is often the case, they keep mumbling, "It's no use. I can't forgive myself. I can't stop drinking." They guzzle themselves right into the grave, or into some mental hospital where their last state is worse than the first. (This is not meant to slight clinical depression, a genuine illness requiring all the skill that dedicated psychiatrists can and do give their patients.)

When we consider that sloth can take an alcoholic right to the gates of doom, it ceases to look minor. It takes its place among the most rightly feared of the seven deadly character defects that can trap the alcoholic.

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