the stress of sobriety

The problem with writing about religion is that you run the risk of offending sincerely religious people, and then they come after you with machetes.

Dave Barry

i’ve been writing about religion and the protestant western church for years now. if i had to take a guess, i’d say at least 10 years.  i was raised to not see the Church just as it is, but also as it is intended to be.  this is the very thing that breeds inner conflict, but this is also the very thing that saved my life.

as i looked back, i realized that i’ve spent many of my years in leadership trying to get people to stay in their church.  i wasn’t the only one.  as leaders, many of us grit our teeth in public and shout in the privacy of our cars.  we are conflicted with the institutionalization of the Church.  very few speak up, since our salaries, positions, titles, and reputations are possibly at stake.  we speak our convictions in dark corners and convince ourselves that God will change the hearts of men, the men in charge.  we keep peace for the good of the whole and we sip on the wine of “one day we will see breakthrough.”

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

George Bernard Shaw


there are many different “wines” that we sip to stay happy & motivated.  the wine of “human ambition and the exhilaration of ladder climbing”, the wine of “there is a reward waiting for me at the end of this”, the wine of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”, the wine of “i am blessed as long as i stay faithful”… there are many different flavors, being grown in different vineyards with different elements and influences, but they all come from the same fruit source.

“They hit me,” you’ll say, “but it didn’t hurt; they beat on me, but I didn’t feel a thing. When I’m sober enough to manage it, bring me another drink!”

Proverbs 23:35 Msg

i was a drunkard for nearly two decades.  i was wasted on misplaced hope.  i was intoxicated on insecurity and ignorance.  but i stepped away.  it took more than 28 days.  i took on sober living in solitude.  eventually, i found others that were doing the same.  we held each other accountable and we encouraged each other in the Truth.  and when i was ready, i made my return to the fellowship, but this time amongst more recovering addicts.  i was aware of our tendencies, our weaknesses, our ambition, our sense of entitlement.  i was aware of the present condition of both myself and the Church… i was sober.

perhaps you have known sober folks amongst the  fellowship.  many sleep with mouth guards, take high blood pressure meds, and speak in terms of seasons as opposed to indefinitely, conditionally, loyally, or even culturally.  there is a stress to being sober.  there is a pain in being awake and aware.  there is a responsibility that comes with clear vision and self-control.  it’s not easy being a designated driver.  it’s not so simple to show up sober and leave sober when you shake hands and hug others that reek of cheap wine.  i maintain sobriety for the journey… one day at a time.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ

1 Peter 1:13 KJV



*excerpts from the chapter: “Sunday Morning Happy Hour” by Julia Kate Swodeck

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  • Comments (8)
  1. “very few speak up, since our salaries, positions, titles, and reputations are possibly at stake.”

    I’ve been around church leaders my whole life who would murmur questions, comments and concerns in the privacy of a quiet office or a desolate coffee shop. I’ve seen them have serious convictions with decisions made, swallowing them like a jagged piece of glass. They are not a remnant of complaining, unfocused, sinful leaders…they are the majority. They are seers, yet unwilling to speak.

    So what holds them back? For some, the obvious…money, position and self-glorification. But for most…fear. Fear that God will not help pay their mortgage if they speak “against” His church. Fear that the congregation will not be able to stay strong in the light of truth. Fear that those feelings are some sort of wretched humanistic stronghold that needs to be silenced.

    I love the correlation of a drunkard to one in this position of fear. These leaders, in the same way, are like a man who has been held in bondage by wine. He is still a “good” man who has become unproductive, paranoid, pseudo-invincible and even violently abusive at times. I have compassin for these leaders, because I know “it’s just the wine talking”. I know they are not in their right mind, they are not fully sober.

    Being iober is like a scene right out the Matrix…it’s an unthinkably disturbing journey of truth. At times we may want to return to the lie and find comfort in the silence, but if we stay strong in our quest, we begin to see the kingdome in it’s true beauty. We begin to breathe. We begin to finally connect not to the God of our understanding, but to the God is who is immeasurably more than we ask or imagine.

      • JuliaKate
      • July 13th, 2010

      Thank you for adding this. It’s tough to post excerpts without going into long explanations of perspective, but you assisted with that. The red pill thinking of the Matrix is very much a part of what I am referring to with “sobriety”. There is an interesting thing with being deceived that Jacob taught me… You will never know what it feels like to be deceived…never. You can only know what it feels like to have been deceived. Having felt that, sobriety is a freedom which allows for true intimacy with our God. No drunk dialing or Monday morning hangovers… Just awake & aware anticipating His movement. Good stuff;)

  2. Wow

    • Syl
    • July 13th, 2010

    Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery

    If we only accepted the gift of freedom rather then try to understand it. It is not up to us to figure out how He works. There are times that it feels that every Sunday sermon needs to be filled with answers and if an answer is not given, then something is ‘missing’.
    He never asked us to see the end from the beginning. He did ask us to live a life of love. He did not ask us to live a life with a plastic smile. He did ask us to live a life that trusts in Him.
    Thank you for sharing, Julia. It is the same thing that He has been sharing with me.

    A life of freedom in Him=sobriety

      • JuliaKate
      • July 13th, 2010

      thank you for sharing Sylvia. I am blessed to have friends that serve their God sober;)

    • Lauren
    • October 26th, 2010

    Thanks for sharing Julia. I follow all of your posts as I have been living in seclusion and sobriety for almost nine months. You remind me that although it feels so, I am not alone. Thanks for giving me permission to question and to discover my Lord through my own experiences instead of through the ‘shoulds’ of God’s people.

      • JuliaKate
      • October 26th, 2010

      i had no idea that you were on this journey, but thank you for letting me know. i will keep you in my prayers Lauren. and comments like yours remind me that i’m not alone.

  3. love it!

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