It is a generally accepted rule which states that doing good things will lead to good things happening for the individual. Conversely doing bad things usually leads to negative results. Most people will be able to point to examples of those who have benefited from acting unethically, but it is difficult to assess the real results of these actions on the individual’s internal state. Despite their outward success they may have to contend with internal demons as a result of their bad behavior. There is plenty of evidence to support the conclusion that living ethically is the surest way to find happiness in life. It may be of particular important that those people who are recovering from an addiction should lead a more moral life.

Ethics Defined

Ethics can be defined as a set of principles for right conduct. These principles have been discussed and analyzed for thousands of years. Much of this work has been done within the discipline of moral philosophy. The aim is to find the justification for ethical principles so that the individual will have a much better idea of what constitutes right and wrong. These ethical principles are universal but people are often introduced to moral conduct as part of growing up with a religion.

Ethical Living Defined

Ethical living can be defined as an attempt by people to live a more principled life. The individual has decided to use ethics and moral principles to guide any decisions they make in life. In recent years ethical living has become closely associated with the sustainable living movement , but this is only one area of moral thinking that the individual may decide to be concerned about. Trying to live a more ethical life still involves making individual choices, and the individual is unlikely to get it right all the time.

Ethics in Addiction

Those individuals who have fallen into addiction are likely to spend a great deal of time living unethically. Their behavior can not only be harmful for themselves but also for other people. The unethical behavior of addicts can include:

* Living a dishonest life. For instance, the individual will often be willing to lie in order to protect their addiction.
* The individual may be willing to steal and embezzle money in order to support their habit.
* Some addicts will act in a physically or verbally abusive manner. This will cause harm to other people.
* These people will be willing to use manipulation in order to get other people to do things. For example, they might guilt trip a loved one into giving them money.
* Inebriation will mean that the individual will be more likely to engage in criminal activity.
* It is more difficult for those who are inebriated to behave ethically because their mind is too clouded.
* The additive personality means that this type of person is more likely to act impulsively. Decisions made like this are often going to be unethical.
* Many of those who are caught in addiction will also have a sense of bitterness and anger towards normal people. This may mean that they will deliberately try to hurt them.

Ethical Living in Recovery

The main reason for why most people will abandon their addiction is because their life has become unbearable. Giving up alcohol or drugs is a great start but it is unlikely to be enough to make everything right in the individual’s life. This is because it was usually the unsatisfactory way they engaged with the world that made substance abuse so attractive in the first place. In order to really gain in recovery the individual is going to need to approach life in a new way. The addict already knows that an unethical life has not brought them any closer to happiness so it makes sense that they now try the opposite way of living.

In Alcoholics Anonymous they like to use the metaphor of the sober horse thief. This refers to the idea that you can sober up a horse thief, but they will still be a horse thief. In order words, just because somebody gives up alcohol or drugs it does not necessarily mean that they will become a better person. More work will be required in order to achieve this.

Benefits of Living Ethically in Recovery

There are some definite benefits to living an ethical life in recovery including:

* Many of the recovery programs such as the 12 Steps advocate ethical living. This is because it is known that those how decide to live such a life are less likely to relapse.
* There is a wise saying that states that if you keep on doing the same things then the same things will keep happening to you. Ethical living is a new approach for people in recovery and it is sure to produce better results than their old way of doing things.
* Those people who have religious convictions are likely to suffer a great deal of guilt when they live unethically. They can escape this guilt by living more morally.
* Even those people who have no religious beliefs can still feel bad about themselves if they are doing things that would be considered unethical. This is because most humans have a desire to view themselves as one of the good guys.
* Those individuals who live an ethical life are less likely to come in conflict with other people.
* Ethical living usually means that people are causing fewer problems for themselves and other people.
* It feels good to do the right thing.
* Those individuals who attempt to live a moral life tend to be more attractive as human beings. The only exception to this is when they allow such efforts to become dogmatic and begin judging other people.
* This attitude to life is all about empowerment and freedom. The individual no longer just does things because they are told to – they understand for themselves what is right and what is wrong.

Dangers of Not Living Ethically in Recovery

Those people who enter recovery but continue to live unethically are unlikely to find much happiness. The dangers of this type of approach to life include:

* Those people who live an unethical life in recovery are likely to develop dry drunk syndrome and suffer as a consequence. The dry drunk is physically sober but their mental state and behavior resembles those who are still trapped in addiction.
* The reason why most individuals will enter recovery will be to escape their pain and find happiness. Unethical living will have been part of the reason why they felt so unhappy.
* Feelings such as guilt can be highly dangerous for people in recovery. It can easily drive the individual to relapse.
* In order to find success in recovery it is good for people to have high levels of self-esteem. Those who live unethically are unlikely to value themselves very highly – even when they put on an outward show of arrogance.
* Those people who have been trapped in an addiction are likely to have caused a great deal of pain for other people. If they continue to behave unethically it will lead to further pain for these loved ones.
* Unethical behavior is frowned upon in society. Those individuals who are caught behaving this way will often be punished.

How to Live an Ethical Life in Recovery

Thankfully ethical living does not require that people turn into saints. It just means that the individual makes a conscious decision to live a life that is moral and leads to less harm. In order to live more ethically the individual can:

* In order to live an ethical life the individual needs to consider the consequences of their actions. This means that they need to avoid the impulsive behavior that is so much associated with the addictive personality.
* Living ethically means that the individual is ready to take responsibility for their actions in the world. This means avoiding making excuses or looking for justifications for unethical acts.
* Recovery is all about progress and not perfection. The individual is likely to make ethical blunders and the goal is to learn from these.
* The study of ethics is not only the business of moral philosophers; it is something that impacts everyone. It is recommended that people do some research into this subject so that they can better understand the arguments that support ethical action.
* It is important for people to realize that there are many ethical dilemmas where they might not be any easy answer. Sometimes the individual will be expected to make a decision for what is ethical and what is not.
* Ethics for people in recovery is probably more effective as a means of personal growth than as a means to judge other people.
* Ethically living is not about following the rules. If the individual decides that a rule is unethical they may decide not to follow it.