#235 – Sober Spirituality with Erin Jean Warde


Episcopalian minister Erin Jean Warde joins Veronica to discuss her new book ‘Sober Spirituality.’ They discuss the role of alcohol in religion, how it has been misrepresented, what spirituality means, and faith-based recovery.

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about this episode

“I want people to be able to start now – wherever now is.” – Erin Jean Warde

Breaking away from communities that normalize drinking and choosing a path of self-love and spiritual deepening isn’t easy. It’s a reminder that we sometimes have to let go of what is familiar to grow.

Today, I’m joined by Episcopalian minister Erin Jean Warde to discuss her new book ‘Sober Spirituality’ and start to unravel the complex relationship between religion and alcohol.

Erin’s journey began with her Southern Baptist upbringing, where drinking was considered wrong. Her transition to the Episcopal Church introduced her to a different perspective, where drinking was more accepted. Over time, the drinking culture within the Episcopal Church became an identity marker for her and was so intertwined with her spirituality that it became challenging to separate the two.

In this episode, Erin and I discuss:

  • The relationship between alcohol and religion
  • Erin’s experience with the drinking culture in the Episcopal Church
  • The Episcopalian faith and its connection to the Anglican faith
  • The intersection of alcohol and spirituality in the Episcopal Church
  • How clergy often struggled in caring for themselves and how it contributed to the alcohol crisis
  • Erin’s decision to quit drinking and the desire for a better life
  • Challenges of sobriety and coping mechanisms
  • The dynamic nature of spirituality
  • Erin’s perspective on spirituality within her Christian faith
  • The history of alcohol as a drinkable water substitute
  • How the risks of alcohol consumption have changed over time


About Erin Jean Warde

Erin Jean Warde (MDiv, Seminary of the Southwest) is an ordained Episcopal priest, spiritual director, recovery coach, and speaker who lives in Austin, Texas. She offers a course (Discerning Sobriety), Substack community, and podcast. She is also a founding editor and editor at large of Earth & Altar and has written for Mockingbird, the Christian Century, and Grow Christians.

key highlights

The Journey to Sobriety

For a long time, Erin thought that hitting rock bottom was the only signal that you needed to stop. Since she hadn’t experienced typical rock-bottom situations like a failing marriage or losing a job, it was difficult for her to accept that it might be the right time to quit.

Ultimately, her decision to quit drinking stemmed from a desire to love herself, deepen her spiritual life, and find joy.


Sobriety as a Lifelong Process

Sobriety is a lifelong process of personal development and maintaining mental and emotional health. For Erin, her spirituality, particularly within the Christian tradition, and has played a significant role in her sobriety.

Her approach to recovery is as a first aid kit rather than a toolbox. She emphasizes the importance of immediate care and seeking greater layers of support and healing. The recovery process is one that calls for compassion and grace, as opposed to shame.


The Historical Context of Alcohol Consumption

In the past, alcohol was often diluted and consumed in a safe manner, especially as an alternative to unsafe water sources. However, in the modern world, we need to consider how this context has shifted and recognize the newer risks associated, such as drunk driving and health issues.


Interpreting Scripture and Looking Ahead

Erin’s approach to interpreting scripture involves considering the historical context, the actual message, and the current context. She argues that when all these factors are taken into account, there is no theological argument for alcohol cultures that cause harm to ourselves and others.

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