How Anne Lamott Got Sober

A story of meditation, black coffee, and Safeway cakes.

Check out the rest of Anne Lamott’s interview at

Question: How did you get

Anne Lamott: How
did I get sober?  Well, I had—when
my dad died when I was 25, my younger brother had been 20, my brother
and he worked in landscape architect, he was a laborer, and one of his
friends had a father who was sober, named Jack.  When
our dad died, Steven moved in with this guy Jack and
there were all these sober people around his house all the time talking
how much they loved being sober and prayer and meditation and helping
and they always had these horrible cakes from Safeway that I happen to
prefer to good bakery, because I mostly just like the icing, and they
always had
this swill, this terrible coffee. 
And I was always drinking too much of this swill late at night,
if I drink coffee at night, I would sleep again several days later.  But, I got to be friends with this
character named Jack and he’d been a total lush like I am, and he said,
know, “We’re not drinking, one day at a time, and everything that we’d
dreamt has happened for us.”  And I
said, “Well, I’m very religious, very spiritual without your little
cakes and swill.” But like most drunks that had gotten sober, I got to
the point
where I was deteriorating faster than I could lower my standards.  You know?  So, I was getting to a
point where I was living in a way
that involved waking up sick and with a lot of shame and just kind of
confusion.  And one day I called
Jack and said, “What do I do?”  And
he said, “Why don’t I come over and we’ll talk.”  So,
that’s how I got sober and that’s how I stayed sober as
people said, “Why don’t I come over and we’ll talk, and drink our bad
like communion together.”  Our bad
coffee and our Safeway cakes.

Question: What is the
spiritual path you’ve taken since sobering up?

Anne Lamott:
Well, I became a Christian before I got sober. So I was a drunk, bulimic
Christian. I wondered into the biracial church across the highway from
where I
lived when I was still drinking very heavily and using.  And
the only reason I went in to this
church, which happened to be Presbyterian, was because it was across the
from a flea market and I was there a lot of Sunday mornings when I was
so hung
over.  And when I’m hung over, I’m
drawn to greasy food and lots of it. 
And then I would hear this gospel singing or the songs of the
Rights Movement.  When I grew up,
my parents were old lefties, I grew up on the Weavers and Pete Seeger
and Joan
Baez, and they would be singing a lot of the Civil Rights anthems, and
so I’d
wander in because I’d run out of good ideas, and no one at my church
me.  There were about 40 people and
still are only about 40 people. 
But they didn’t try to get me to sign on the dotted line, or tell
who shot the Holy Ghost, they just let me sit there and—they just let me
there.  And the air was
nutritious.  Because there were
people who had put their money where their mouths were and they’d done
the work
of social justice and they were true believers.

And I lived in the Bay Area, and still do, in the
years of
Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso and Gary Snyder, and Lawrence
Ferlinghetti at
this founding City Lights.  My
father loved the Beats and worked on a magazine that was very
avant-garde in
the Bay Area with Evan Connell and a couple of people that were just
giants.  It was called Contact magazine, so I’d
Allen Watts was around on his progressive Bay Area radio stations like
KPFA. And so I grew up with the consciousness that Christianity was for
people who
were really stupid, but that there was something magical in the
religions of
the East and that Buddhism was okay, and Hindu was okay because—Hinduism
okay because Ginsberg was so wildly passionately, sensuously East in his
understanding of things, and so joyously so.  And
so I’ve always understood that meditation had to be part of—or
was part of the natural path and so I’ve always sort of dabbled in it.  And the main expression of my spirituality has been
this little church that I go to, and my sobriety.  The
path of recovery and—I’m a terrible
Christian and meditating is very hard for me, and I do it. 
I do it badly, like I do a lot of
things.  I believe in doing things
badly.  I believe in listening to
the—what calls you from your heart and your spirit and if you do it
badly, like
learning to dance, you do it badly or you’re going to kick yourself when
grow old and you meant to do it.Recorded April 6, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen


24 thoughts on “How Anne Lamott Got Sober

  1. I'm sober, and an atheist, and Ann Lamott is very well spoken and intelligent. Her beliefs are her own to have, and it makes me sad to see other atheists here attacking her. It's rather evangelical to go around decrying other people's views and pushing your own worldview, don't you think?

  2. Reading some of the posts here makes me sad. I get the feeling that most (not all) atheists won't be happy until there exists in the world the same intolerance against people of religious belief that non-religious persons have long experienced. Must there be an atheist Inquisition to purge the land of believers? Do we have to 'even the score' this way?

    In my opinion, atheism would garner far more converts by extending a friendly hand where it is needed, and by turning the other cheek (sorry, atheists, but Jesus was on to something with this one) once and awhile. Posting screeds against an alcoholic who found solace in religion is just stupid; it makes "your side" look peevish and uncaring. Instead of attacking a person as 'weak minded', or 'juvenile' (talk about the pot calling the kettle black!) for turning to spiritual aids in times of need, why not express HAPPINESS THAT THE PERSON HAS OVERCOME A TERRIBLE PROBLEM IN THEIR LIFE..and calmly explain that they might have found the same help in rationalism? Or is it just too much fun to bash and ridicule people?

    I am certain I will be Flamed over this post, even though I am attacking NO ONE – I hope I'm wrong, but somehow I doubt it. Sad.

  3. that is good drinkin ain't worth it never was much fun for me i like my cognitive abilities. my point is you should never feel powerless and they should never tell someone that . ive had substance problems in the past but telling someone there powerless and they need your help is bs willpower comes from within

  4. no not true it's because group like aa and counseling services make you feel that you have to give yourself over to god, they also tell you the worse possible thing from the beginning you are told to believe you are helpless and powerless over alcohol and drugs. aa and counseling services make you feel like you need them to be sober it's a racket and very very profitable they don't care about you only the money

  5. I prefer her writing to her videos. I am surprised by her Christianity, she seems smarter than that; but I have known more than a few people with substance abuse issues and many seem to need this sort of thing.

  6. No where did I say "low-lifes." It's common that people with addictions go from one addiction to another. As we both noted. Typing this with right hand, left hand holding a mug of coffee. Cheers!

    Actually, I'm not addicted to coffee. Oddly enough, I'm addicted to fruit! But drink alcohol, sometimes, and coffee, daily, in moderately. I believe one should indulge moderately rather than perfunctorily. Some would say, that's just semantics! But that's my opinion, and yes, it is semantics. Cheers.

  7. my 34 yo daughter returned from the Ibogaine clinic in cancun where she was treated with iboga, please do the research online .you will not need the pills.she was alcoholic, depression with anxiety. now ,she is cured with no desire to drink and off all of her prescriptions. AA did not work,and only has a 3% cure rate, iboga is 85% cure, at least KNOW there is a cure for it,this may bring you hope.

  8. "…positive…counsel from bible teaching"? What exactly did you get from the Bible that was positive? What did you get from the Bible that you could NOT have gotten without it? I ask, because I've read it and find it to be a horribly immoral and juvenile book of mythology, NOT something to turn to in times of need.

  9. Please don't wait for a god to help you. The best way to get help is to ask your loved ones. No god is going to help you, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can get help. I wish you the best!

  10. I do understand what you are coming from, may I tell you my friend's story though, after 20 years of abusing drugs and alcohol, knowing that I am a Christian he came to me on the verge of suicide, marriage almost over,(actually ended up in a psyche ward) and said to me "I am tired, I really need God, please help me, I spoke to him about asking Christ into his heart for a few minutes, prayed 3-4 minutes with him. 13 months later, his words are, no craves Jesus did heal me. God is real.

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