Shining a Light on Intemperance…



One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes his golf or his motor bicycle the centre of his life, or a woman who devotes all her thoughts to clothes or bridge or her dog, is being just as ‘intemperate’ as someone who gets drunk every evening. Of course, it does not show on the outside so easily: bridge-mania or golf-mania do not make you fall down in the middle of the road. But God is not deceived by externals…    C.S. Lewis


This from a man who had what might be described as a “complicated” personal life: money worries; dabbling in sadomasochism, a May/December romance with a war buddy’s mother; insecurities about his ability to communicate his Christianity; an alcoholic brother; and a strong yen for whisky (he said he’d prefer a case of whiskey to the honorary degree he got from the University of St. Andrews in 1945).


We all struggle with the things we can’t control. And I have always been intrigued by the notion that what is going on in the clockworks of another person’s brain is not necessarily reflected on their “externals”. The more I read and the more I get out and connect with others, I am comforted by the fact I am not alone in my, oftentimes failed, efforts to improve myself – to temper my addictions. If C.S. Lewis was a hot mess, then there is certainly hope for me to rise above my shortcomings.


I spent time in the studio of an amazing artist last night. I am haunted by the exposure in her work; the raw bile of her feelings meticulously mounted in re-cycled frames.  The exchange I took away with me (like a purloined miniature, pocketed while she wasn’t looking) was that neither of us knew the extent of the other’s suffering. We have known each other for years, but both of us were so good at lying and hiding our secrets, our intemperance was masked by our competence and false fronts. Last night she said, “I am just so exhausted from faking it…” which means she is ready to authenticate her work and her life, as is.


I am often appalled by the gratuitous sharing that social media has brought into the mainstream, but I think there is a positive in this glut of personal information we receive about each other. It is more difficult to isolate. It is almost impossible to hide. And that is where disorders want to live: under a fetid rock.


I still lie sometimes – it is second nature to me. I still want to be alone. I still hone my remaining eating disorders. I have my dirty secrets, but exposing them, talking about them, shining a light on them lessens their power. This morning I am going to try to remember that  “God is not deceived by externals.” And as much as I’d like an easier set of challenges, I’ll accept the ones I’ve got. And most of all, I will not be ashamed…


Today I’m not drinking because I shined a light on my alcoholism…

How come you’re not drinking?