The Virtue of Sobriety

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

The virtue of sobriety is the answer to the vice of gluttony. Gluttony is overeating.  It is abusing the pleasure of eating instead of eating as a form of nourishment.  We should “eat to live” not “live to eat”.  The rule of thumb is when we are already full, we should stop.  Anything beyond that is gluttony.

Scripture’s response to gluttony is fasting.  The Church requires us to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday which means to eat less than usual on those days. Fasting would normally make us feel hungry the entire day.  The feeling of hunger is the essence of fasting. It is a sacrifice that we offer up as penance for our sins and to train us to control our bodily urges.  If we willingly comply to this form of penance required of us by our Mother the Church, we would now be trained to control our appetite for food and drinks on normal days.  Not to overeat and not to overdrink is a training to be detached from the things of these world and be attached to the things that are above.   That’s what sobriety is all about.

The virtue of sobriety is the counter-virtue we apply to anything that we could get addicted of.  Entertainment such as watching movies, listening to music, drinking alcoholic beverages and even gambling is not sinful by nature but nevertheless could get us hooked because of the sensible pleasure these would offer.  Sobriety means knowing when to stop engaging in these activities when we have to.  The goal of entertainment is for rest and relaxation so that we would have the replenished energy to go back to our daily work.  Entertainment is a means to an end or an instrument to a higher goal which is to rest.  We should not make it an end in itself because it could make us get addicted to it.

If we go to the root of any addiction, often times it is done to escape life’s problems.  A kind of diversion.  We don’t want to think or do something about our problems thus, we resort to life’s pleasures as a means to forget about them.  Or it could also be the unconscious self-image of emptiness:  I must fill myself because I am empty and worthless.  The antidote is (instead of filling ourselves with fleeting and passing delights) to fill this vacuum with God.  The vacuum is in need of Someone who is infinite in nature.   As to our many problems in life, God is always the answer.  Fr. Jim Lewis, an American priest is fond of offering this advice to everyone he counsels: “God is the answer.  Now what was your question?”


Particularly with addiction, which is an intense form of pleasure, we need an equally or an even stronger emotion or passion to counter it and that emotion is our love for God.  St. Augustine said, in para-phrase form, that a strong love of God is the answer to a strong form of addiction.  It is much like falling in love with a woman or man of your dreams.  You would willingly do anything or give up anything for that person, just to win that person’s love.  And to think that that you are doing it for a person, how much more if it is for an Infinite Being?  “The way to Heaven is Heaven (in itself)”, as St. Therese of the Child Jesus would say, meaning those who are working their way to heaven will experience a bit of heaven already here on earth.  The secret is to be intensely in love with God just like the saints.