Conversion And Sobriety

Conversion And Sobriety July 24, 2023

An issue for many addicts choosing recovery is the obvious connection between evangelical ideas of conversion and becoming sober. The first 3 steps of the twelve in most programs are about being powerless to save ourselves, admitting the Higher Power is only capable of saving us, and surrendering to the Higher Power. For an addict who is also eXvangelical, it sounds all-too-familiar. It should. The Oxford Movement, from which the 12 step program Alcoholics Anonymous separated, was both fundamentalist and prosperity gospel oriented in its’ theology. Emphasizing a change in one’s spiritual life is important to recovery programs even though they insist they are not religious. Conversion appears necessary.

What Conversion Means

People who are deconstructing from the religious ideology of evangelicalism are undergoing a kind of conversion. Some claim they are de-converting. But I do not think this is the case for the people who were raised with evangelical thinking. For these people who are raised in evangelical culture, claiming Jesus as Lord and Savior is not conversion as much as it is a rite of passage. “You will one day, when you are older, need to turn to Jesus for salvation.” This is definitely not conversion. Many young people speak of being “ready” while confessing to being “sinful.” True conversion requires a sense of change in who the person desires to become. For eXvangelicals, it is deconstruction.

Sobriety and Deconstruction

Sobriety is a gift. But it is a package addicts must open. It too involves changing what people desire to become. 12 step programs attempt to avoid any appearance of religion while claiming spirituality. The trite statement, “Religion is for people afraid of going to Hell while spirituality is for people who have already been there,” is nonsense. It is a distinction without a difference. Spirituality is going to be religious in expression. This is the reason we have 12 steps for Pagans and Dharma Recovery. As one pagan friend in recovery said about Alcoholics Anonymous, it is still basically Christian.

Deconstructing from fundamentalist Christianity while becoming sober is difficult. Testimonials in Speaker Meetings may as well be “testifying” in church. If it is not the same thing, why does it sound the same? The difference is in the goal. Evangelicalism and fundamentalism are about following the rules in this life looking for a reward in the next. Prosperity gospel is about following rules to bring about abundance of material goods in this life. Sobriety is about living. Without being sober, nothing else will matter.

Conversion and Spiritual Practice

Sobriety is a type of conversion because the alcoholic/addict changes behavior to reconstruct a new way of living. Spiritual practices become means to staying sober. Yet, they must be practices that get people out of their own heads. If one remains self-focused and trying to chase “mountain-top” experiences by doing spiritual practices, they will not amount to much. Addicts chase the experience of the first high or drunk. Chasing a “spiritual” high will leave a person just as miserable.

Sobriety is spirituality without the spiritual inebriation so many non-addicted people attempt to achieve. As a Zen practitioner claim says, “Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water. After enlightenment I chopped wood and carried water.” The difference is in the mindset. One could easily resent not having the feeling one believes they should have by being sober. It is often best to be satisfied with life as it is for one day.

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