Review of “Spiritual Sobriety” – Elizabeth Esther, author

by Clark Roush, Ph.D.

If “Girl at the End of the World” is about abuse, hurt, and despair, “Spiritual Sobriety” is about restoration, healing, and hope. Elizabeth share the next part of her faith journey in a way that shows a light at the end of the tunnel without implying she has THE light at the end of the tunnel. Her book is a hope-filled, “here’s what worked for me” story of recovery, living in the present, and using a renewed outlook on faith to craft a new way of living – one that breeds a future outcome vastly different than her previous life.

Elizabeth’s writing is clear and succinct, and she continues her acute self-awareness. She is transparent about the difficulties of being spiritually sober, and lines out some principles salient to her current walk. In a most inviting way, she welcomes the reader into her new life and provides her blueprint for getting there – just in case the reader might want a similar journey. Her writing is devoid of judgment, which is refreshing and invigorating. She offers a way into what she has found.

I found the subtitles to her chapters possibly more interesting than the chapter titles, and they give the reader a sense of the road map used to navigate one’s self towards spiritual sobriety. Here are some of them: “Reality and the Religious Addict,” “Searching for the Real God,” “Developing a Sober Thought Life,” “The Discipline of Kind Speech,” “How Sobriety Keeps Us from Burnout,” “Recovery in Our Relationships,” “Recovery in Our Churches,” and  “Relapse.” Elizabeth’s real world approach is certainly theologically sound, but thankfully, this is not a theology treatise. It is life-in-the-world approach to God, faith, and living.

Her section on the “misuse of God” was both breath-taking and heart-wrenching. Most of us have either been there, known someone who was, or been guilty of it in our pasts. It beautifully frames the remaining narrative in an engaging and convicting manner.

Her 11 “Common Beliefs and Behaviors of Sober Christianity” by themselves make the book worth reading. Elizabeth has done some thorough and pensive work on her head, her heart, and her beliefs. Be sure you spend sufficient time soaking these in.

Her thoughts and feelings are supported by some great thinkers and writers: Reba Riley, Sylvia Plath, Dennis Linn, Kathy Escobar, St. Francis de Sales, Richard Rohr, Krista Tippett, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Micah Boyett, Maria Popova, Henri Nouwen, Pope Francis, Thoreou, and Michael Helms – to name a few. It was a wonderful choice to also include quotes and anecdotes from “just plain folk” as they responded to Elizabeth’s questions. This provides a beautiful balance between the scholarly and the practical that some writers elude. This reviewer believes hearing from both spectrums weaves a rich tapestry of experiences for the reader.

This can be a quick read or a slow read – whichever the reader prefers, but it really should be a MUST read. The reader will be both challenged and inspired. The reader may take the journey Elizabeth has taken and find themself in a very different place. If the reader can’t fully relate, it will be a resource for ministering to others and helping them with their journey. I highly recommend adding this not only to your library, but to your personal walk. Brava, Elizabeth – you’ve done it once again!!