Can I Receive Communion While In Recovery For Alcoholism?

Note: The manner in which communion is administered, and the spiritual significance of it, will vary, to some degree, according to the denomination; different branches hold differing views on what communion means, what the elements represent and how they must be administered. Thus, these are general considerations. Speak with your clergyperson for the theological specifics of Holy Communion for your faith community.

Holy Communion is a deeply spiritual act, and also a profoundly personal one, in which a Christian receives the body and blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine. Depending on the practices of the individual’s faith community, communion may be served once a week, once a month or on special occasions. But regardless of the schedule, Christians agree that Holy Communion is sacred and an important part of the Christian life.

Things, however, can get a little sticky for the Christian who is in recovery for alcoholism. One of the sacraments is wine, one of the very things from which we are now sober. How do we partake of the sacraments while maintaining our sobriety?

If I Take Communion, Am I Still Sober?

Recovery For Alcoholism Can I Receive Communion-ChristianDrugRehab.comSince wine ingested under any other circumstances would break our hard-won sobriety, it’s common to wonder if a sip of the communion wine is permitted.

The simple answer is that, in most AA circles, especially in Christian 12-step groups, it is understood that the sacrament of Holy Communion is about the body and blood of Christ, not physical bread and wine. It is the context that makes all the difference. Thus, as long as your practice doesn’t involve sneaking the communion wine before or after the service, your sobriety is solid.

A Personal Matter

That said, part of growing in recovery is learning to make decisions that support, above all, the preservation of our recovery. When we live like our lives depend upon our sobriety (because they do, don’t they?), it influences and informs the choices we make as we live this new life. In the end, communion is an issue of personal conscience. Does a sip of wine ignite the desire to drink an entire bottle? Do you obsess about it before, during and after? If so, abstaining, at least for a period of time, would be the path of wisdom and spiritual maturity.

If, on the other hand, you experience the spiritual significance of the sacrament without craving, obsession or feeling anything other than gratitude for Christ’s sacrifice, by all means continue with the practice.

It is normal, in early recovery, to question our motives. We have seen how crafty our minds can be in justifying the most destructive and sabotaging behavior. Thus it’s often common for us to obsess about our sobriety, our actions and any misguided intention that could lead us back to the bottle and into the pit. For this reason, it may be helpful, for a period of time, to abstain from the wine. With time, you will begin to be able to discern good motives from bad ones. The situation will be clear and you will have peace around whatever you decide to do.

Tips To Still Take Communion While In Recovery

  • Pray about the matter and then relax and listen.
  • If your church offers grape juice or non-alcoholic wine and this makes you feel more comfortable, then you know what you need to do. Others will partake of only the bread.
  • In the end, your sobriety is not about rules. No one is policing you. As we grow in recovery, we heal to a point where we actually want what is best for us, and that path becomes clear and effortless.
  • It helps to remember why we’re doing it. Our lives are so busy that we barely slow down to get present in church. In that state, we aren’t thinking about the real significance of the act. We’re fixating on the fact that there’s an alcoholic beverage in the chalice or the little cup, and then we’re starting to get nervous.
  • When we take time to meditate on Christ and his sacrifice, we might approach the cup a little differently—not as a potential poison, but as a life-giving sacrament. With this intentional mindset, a slip is likely to be less of a consideration.

God is not using the communion wine to draw you into a trap—God does not tempt us. We have to trust His abounding, gracious, unending love for us. Ask God to lead you in the way of truth, for His glory, then await the leading. Trust that He will provide the answer, and wait on Him. Let’s remember, as the Big Book says, “We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous and free.”