*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

A priest and recovering alcoholic tells his story of spiritual awakening

by
15 March 2013

iStock

Sir, - "Peter's" story in Anna Drew's excellent article (Features, 15 February) mirrors my experience to a large extent. Eighteen months after being granted the gift of sobriety through the wise advice of a psychiatrist and the fellowship and programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, I began seriously to question the sincerity of my calling as a priest. Was I, in "Peter's" words, "a square peg in a round hole"? Was the priesthood, like my addiction to alcohol, merely a bolt hole from reality?

The depth of fellowship that I experienced in AA meetings seemed to contrast markedly with what I perceived at that time as a certain shallowness in parish life. Owing, however, to the guidance of a wise spiritual director (whose brother was a recovering alcoholic), coupled with the support of a close AA friend (known as my "sponsor"), I was brought to understand that what I experienced in the AA meetings could, if I was willing, be translated into the life of the Church.

There was, I discovered, no conflict between my life as a member of AA and my vocation within the Church. It was simply a matter of working the 12th step of the programme of recovery: "Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practise these principles in all our affairs."

I cannot claim to work these steps perfectly, except the first part of the first step: "We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable."

As the book Alcoholics Anonymous puts it, "We are not saints." But I can vouch for the fact that, though my life has not always been a bed of roses during my 26 years of sobriety (one day at a time), my priestly ministry has been enriched beyond my wildest dreams.

My fears, whether of parish gossip or police traffic cars, have dissipated. Although I am now retired, I have been offered locum work as an NHS chaplain, and a teacher of Latin - opportunities unthinkable a quarter of a century ago.

Name & Address Supplied

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Train-a-Priest Fund 2022 Appeal

Please consider a donation to TAP Africa this year. Every penny you can give goes to ordinands in Africa who face financial difficulty, to support them as they complete their training. 

Donate online

Read more about this year's appeal

Forthcoming Events

24 May 2022
Disability and Church: Intersectionality
A joint webinar from HeartEdge and Church Times.

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

More events

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)