Episode 48: How to Find Faith in Recovery: Faith as A Verb

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Episode 48: How to Find Faith in Recovery: Faith as A Verb

(Disclaimer: This transcript was made using AI technology. Please excuse any errors).

Music 0:00
Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery.

Unknown Speaker 0:06
Now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri,

Adina Silvestri 0:11
Hola Atheists in Recovery land and welcome to Episode 48 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And I'm excited to introduce you to a friend of mine, who is the CO pastor of Northstar Community Center, which is a Recovery Center in Richmond, Virginia. And I thought that today we would talk about faith and how to find it amidst all of the all of the chaos that's happening in the world right now. And so we talk about faith. We talk about faith shifting. We talk about how Teresa feels individuals don't recover in programs, you know, they don't recover in 12 step meetings and we'll find out why she feels that way. And I think that you are going to really like some of her approaches to religion and spirituality and faith. And so we also talk about radical acceptance and you need to have she says that you need to have radical acceptance in order to have any hope for change in recovery. And so I hope that you really enjoy this wide ranging conversation with my friend TeresavMcBean. Teresa McBean. Teresa is a co pastor of North Star community recovery church and RBA and executive director of the NACR an organization dedicated to helping communities better serve families suffering with substance use disorders. Okay guys. On to the show. Theresa McBean Welcome to the show.

Teresa McBean 2:00
Thank you for having me.

Adina Silvestri 2:01
So we met quite a while ago, I think it was maybe six or seven years ago. Yeah, I think so. And we met through the norstar community center. And you have an awesome program there for families, individuals and addiction and for people that are in active recovery. And I was a part of that program. It was fun. And I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about that. And you could kind of give our listeners a little background about you and some of the work that you do in the community.

Teresa McBean 2:32
So Northstar community has been around almost 21 years now. And we started because we felt like there needed to be more ridges to resources for families struggling with substance use disorder. And then pretty quickly, we realized also co occurring disorders and mental health issues. And so we started up as a kind of recovery ministry. We also wanted to be a bridge to the church. If anyone wanted that bridge, there were people out there that felt like they wanted that bridge. And it wasn't around 20 some years ago, a lot has changed in 20 years. They're more bridges now. And then. So that's, that's what we did, we started and then we ran an eight week pilot project, we didn't expect it to, quote, work or anybody to come, we did not plan for it working, and really rarely asked that question even now. And we've become a community resource. We have our own building. And we really see ourselves as a recovery resource that is open to spirituality and conversations about that within the context of both recovery co occurring disorders and crises. Thanks for that.

Adina Silvestri 3:47
So I wonder now if you could tell our listeners maybe a little bit about your spiritual background and sort of how it's informed the work that you currently do.

Teresa McBean 3:58
Well, I came from an irreligious background where spirituality was not a thing came to a position of kind of spiritual awakening in my own recovery journey in my 20s, when I sort of had to realize that the answers to what was ailing me, were not accessible to me in any way other than a power greater than myself. And that led me to a pretty traditional route in terms of faith to a large Southern Baptist Church in the Richmond area. And then a lot of change and chaos theory. And my friend Kathy Escobar calls it faith shifting in terms of trying to understand what it would mean for my particular faith experience, to be part of the solution and part of a support and a community rather than part of the problem. And so yeah, how I view my own faith has really changed in the last 40 Yours, but I'm pretty excited about where I am right now.

Adina Silvestri 5:02
Yeah. Can you tell me more about viewing it as a solution instead of a problem?

Teresa McBean 5:09
Well, sure. So I think that spirituality or religion or faith is a problem if we start from the position of what do you believe and if you believe you belong, because if you've got to believe something in order to belong, then you what you don't have is radical acceptance. And so my belief is that without radical acceptance, people never feel safe enough to venture into any kind of change. And in order for me to get well, I had to change alot. So I swim against the tide of non radical acceptance. And so my learning curve was to be a person who participated in radical acceptance. And if that's the case, then and this I think is true of us in our community. We start from the position of you belong. Yeah, we don't really care what Believe. I love that. Because if you belong, then we've got a really lifetime or short time. Some of our people are lifers, and some come and go to have conversations about what we believe. But there is no sense at Northstar community where there's somebody that sits at the top of a huge hierarchy that tells you what you should believe, and what you have to believe in order to belong. So we really are, we have a very flat hierarchy. And I think that sort of so what we want to do, if I were describing us is we were overlapping circles have two Venn diagrams, and it is where radical acceptance and the hope for change intersect. So if you could picture those two Venn diagrams with an overlap, our logo would be in the middle of where those two circles overlap. At least that's what we aspire to. Yeah.

Adina Silvestri 6:58
So as you started On this faith shifting journey, how did that change your recovery? Maybe?

Teresa McBean 7:06
Well, I think actually, my recovery changed my faith. And if it hadn't, I think at this point in my life, I would have neither faith nor recovery. But I think the inspiration for change came through recovery. So what happened is, in the early 80s, my, I have three younger brothers, and the middle of those three, got into recovery from a severe alcohol and cocaine addiction. And he asked me to support him by studying the 12 steps. And that's where I was exposed to that material. And I gotta tell you, it was such faithful material. And it made so much sense not only to my head but to my heart. And I think a spiritual journey has taken cleave all three centers of intelligence for to make sense. Our head in our heart and our intellect, in the 12 steps did that for me. So that was an immediate radical shift. Because to me, the 12 steps were very, very focused things right? And they weren't having arguments about what you believe they had one purpose, do you? You belong if the desire of your heart is to consider sobriety, hmm, don't ask people to be sober. They don't ask people to succeed. They ask people to work the steps. And if you work the steps, eventually you get to service and you get to this thing where you ask for conscious contact of your higher power and the power to carry out as well. I mean, that's or her will. Its Will you know if that makes sense to me. So yeah, that caused a great phase shift that now I started having trouble with organized church. The prerequisite of believing to belong like that doesn't even make sense. And it began to also help me understand why we see so little change within organized religion. In my opinion, this, people don't change. But it means that I've seen a lot more transformational stories coming out of the meeting rooms than I have, out of my own experience with organized religion. Mm hmm. organized religion just asked me to comply with beliefs, and then suggested that if you believe this, do that, and if you believe this, do that, but no one ever said, I need you to be firmly rooted and grounded in belonging. And then we'll have conversation, right the service work, the conscious contact, it's all at the end of maintaining belonging for season in time. It just makes sense to me and that's how we created our community.

Adina Silvestri 9:50
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Teresa McBean 9:53
To me as well. It's so frustrating to start with belonging, because belonging actually requires you To practice radical acceptance,

Adina Silvestri 10:02
can you can you maybe talk

a little bit for our listeners about what radical acceptance is? And I think I have an idea, but I'm not positive as well. So yeah, can you?

Teresa McBean 10:13
Well, for me what radical acceptance means is, you know, just what it says you're radically accepting of people that don't agree with you, people that do things that you think are not in their best interest and are definitely not in your best interest. And that's the position you plant your flag next day. Another some there couple exceptions, like if somebody is not safe to community, right, yeah. But in 20, some years, we've had to step out of radical acceptance for safety reasons. Three times lol, three years, right? That's not that's not a lot now. So I think radical acceptance is hard because now you can develop all these skill sets. You've got to learn how to listen. Well. You've got Learn how to tolerate conflict, you've got to be able to tolerate disagreement got to tolerate when you perceive that somebody isn't appreciating you. It's all these tolerances, and then with radical acceptance, then you, you are also sitting in a big pool of suffering, right? If you're accepting people whether or not they are working a decent program, whether or not they're doing well, and so, people die, people, only people make very poor choices and you're still kept in radical acceptance, you're still believing they have the absolute right to choose poorly. And even as we have this other circle, which is really committed to transformational change. So as a kind of stumbling, I don't want to really use the word leader. But I think in point of fact, I am a leader in that community, you're always walking a fine line, you have to have radical acceptance before you are able to inspire change. But I don't think radical acceptance without inspirational change is also good for us. Right? So you're always seeing where are you on the line? So, you know, maybe I'm too radically accepting if we're facilitating a group and the groups are like, we don't know what to do, why aren't you more helpful, right? Or, I'm moving too fast and change. If the group is saying, Are you saying I'm the problem? Because if you're saying I'm the problem, I'm not down with that, right. So if they think I'm saying they're a problem, I've moved too far out of radical acceptance. It's really hard. Like all judgey judgey mcjudgester all the time, and it's just like, Oh,

Adina Silvestri 13:05

well, I'm thinking also, it's radically accepting others, and at the same time really radically accepting ourselves and our limitations and our failures in her. I think that that's also equally I guess you'd have to start with yourself first, right before you can start accepting others. Yeah. Yeah. So I wonder if we could shift now to talk about this phrase that I've heard a lot recently. And actually, it came to me and in a podcast that I did, and I'll link to it in the show notes, but I kind of want to get your thoughts on this. Sober people say that religion is for people who are afraid to go to hell, and spirituality is for people who've been there.

Teresa McBean 13:53
I love that quote. Do you remember who it's from? I use one of my books did you and I source idea. I totally By that, I totally buy. That doesn't mean that religious people cannot be spiritual. But if we're only looking at our faith lens through the lens of, again, a set of beliefs, Creed's tenants, I just don't think in terms of how humans grow. It makes it possible for a person who's thinking of religion in that way to be able to actually recognize that they are in or have been to hell, right? Because you have to be very well defended. If your principle is you've got to follow these tenants or else you're doing something wrong, then you've either got to lean into denial or self loathing. I mean, there's just there's just no place for change in that system, in my opinion, based on what I think is required for people to actually be transformed.

Adina Silvestri 14:57
Yeah, and I think that probably a lot of the listeners would agree with that. as well. I'm wondering if we could take our faith based discussion to a more on a more global scale. And maybe just talk a little bit now about faith amidst all of this chaos and suffering that we're experiencing right now, as we record this, we're in the midst of COVID-19. There are a lot of riots going on, all over the all over the world, really innocent people being killed.

Teresa McBean 15:29
Yeah. Well, you know, I think just like any other kind of crisis, the bigger it is, the longer it lasts, the more exposes of what really is, and I think it is shown some of the severe limitations in our languaging around faith in general, and also religion. I'm just reminded all the time on Facebook of all sides of the issue, the way we have doubled down on our certainty and not been willing to be more curious. And I think that if you believe in a higher power, and I happen to believe in one that I think is extremely creative, I find it startling if we can't stay more curious, and we haven't been curious at all, we've been certain. We've been certain that we need to start churches up or not start churches or we've we need we've been certain that, you know, here's an example. Somebody told me recently that they thought that I was a very, very naughty person for not opening up norstrom norstar community to meetings, because after all meetings, in person meetings is what gets people so and certainly we know connection gets people sober, and part of that is in person meetings. I happen to have more faith in people than believing that connection has to show up in only the form of a time 12 step meeting done the way we've always done it. I think those folks who have a little bit more sobriety time could be thinking and working on creatively saying, Why are the meetings effective? Right? And I'm applying this to whether you're talking about worship on Sunday morning, or whether you're talking about a 12 step meet. Those of us who are a little bit older, in, in our sobriety, have a little bit of experience should be asking the younger folks who who have less experience but maybe more creative ways of connecting, and we should all be getting together, young and old, and everybody in between to say, what was it that worked about worship? What was it that worked about 12 step meetings? And how do we replicate that or even improve it? Or this crisis? If we did that, I think we would be less anxious because I think what it's revealing to us is that sometimes In some ways, it's not everything, but it's part of it. We're addicted to our habitual patterns of behavior. And that's not healthy for people who have problems with developing habits that aren't healthy. So I think we stand at a at a great opportunity. And I think that's what recovery teaches us, you know that we are people who can do that we can trust our higher power to give us what we need to do what we need to serve others. And I think that this pandemic and all that has happened is showing us where we need to serve. Yeah,

Adina Silvestri 18:42
yes. Agreed. Agree now we just have to take action.

Teresa McBean 18:48
Yeah, yeah. And you know, I think taking action is what helps us not be antsy helps us not be compulsive. We take action we try-if it works great. If it doesn't Okay, we'll try something different but you don't give up. You keep figuring it out and their advantages to what we've learned there. There are upsides, right, like our zoom meetings in our worship space have made it possible for more people to join us. That way. We've got people that are coming from states away. Yeah. The people that are speaking up the most in our zoom meetings are are introverts. And we, everything we do is dialogical. So we don't give sermons we have conversations, even in our worship experience, are introverts. You're speaking at ones that are extroverts are were saying or groundless, even if we get back in the meetings, I think zoom serves some of our interests better. And we'll keep that up and Well, yeah. So you know, there are things that are much bigger than our personal preferences, and I believe that we're capable of doing better Our anxiety tries to tell us that we are, hmm. I don't believe that physical meetings get people sober. Interesting. Because if that were the case, people have lots of meetings, we would all be a lot better human beings than we are. Okay? meetings don't get people sober. It's the people that go to the meetings that support people. And their and that in their work and their higher power, all that stuff gets people sober, not not stuff in a room. So I don't know. I'll be glad when we can meet again, because I think that's also important. But I for one don't need it in order to be challenged to keep changing and serving better.

Adina Silvestri 20:42
Mm hmm.

Yeah, I loved the part that you said that, you know, meetings don't get people sober but people get people sober. And I wonder how that then ties into face if we're looking at faith as a verb and we talk A little bit about that before we hit record. What do you think we can do now, as individuals that are in recovery, or struggling with recovery, to

have faith

that things are going to get better? And I sort of, for me when I picture having faith I picture driving down this long road, and it's dark, you know, maybe maybe I'm in upstate New York, where I'm from, and there are a lot of hills. And I have the high beams on it's got to be snowing, right because it snows a lot. 12 months out of the year, and I just can only see what's right in front of me.

Teresa McBean 21:41
Well, isn't it great that we have recovery because as I tell my community all the time, we were created for pandemics? We absolutely work we we are the group that holds the superpowers right now because early on in recovery We had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other, like a six inch move, not a six foot move. And we had to do that over and over again, in spite of the fact that everything our body and brain was telling us was to do the opposite of what we were doing. And we did it. And even if we are struggling in our recovery right now, we still have a superpower. Because we have what we need. We have a systemic way to be looking at our problems that has been effective for a really long time for other people. And we can follow that to one step at a time My life is unmanageable. I believe that I can be restored so I can be a person of hope. I turn my life over so I'm not going to make my own decisions. I inventory. I make amends it, you know, on and on and on and on one step at a time. We've got the materials for it, we've got the capacity to practice it. And that is the very things. Think about if everybody utilize the skills that we learned in the 12 steps, how faithful we would be, we would right wrongs by making restitution, we would have hope that there's something bigger than ourselves, even if we can't see it. Even if it's Blizzard, and you're driving down the long run. We have personal work to do that involves daily prayer on daily inventories, we have our work to do the next morning after that exam. And at the end of the day, we got to go make right all the things we did that we wished we didn't the day before when we're stressed out. And we absolutely have a map for where we're going. We're going to track best of our ability to serve others. I mean, what else is there? We don't need anything other than that. So what about the poor world that doesn't have that, then they don't know how to be curious. They don't know how to admit their own personal responsibility. They don't know what to do with their anxiety. They maybe have never dealt with it before. Maybe things have kind of worked out for them a lot. I that's who I worry about. I worry about all the people who've been tremendously successful in their life. Because how in the world have they developed the kind of skills that they need to survive not only a pandemic, but the aftermath? Yeah, that's who I worried about. I don't worry. I don't worry about all those loose cannons out there who are working in recovery program and sometimes that's the only work we do right all day. I'm not worried about us, because we've got, we've got a map. We've got access to resources. We have phone pot, we have phones. Number man. If not, we can do a lot. I mean, we've got resources we're gonna be okay. It's the rest of the world that I worry about.

Adina Silvestri 25:08
love that. Well, Miss Teresa, it has been great having you on today. And I'm wondering if you could tell the listeners a little bit about how to find you on the social?

Teresa McBean 25:20
Yeah, well, we have, you could go on Facebook and find us at Northstar community in Richmond, Virginia. And you can contact me through email. It's just really simple. It's Teresa without an H at or you could go to our website, which is So there are all sorts of ways to talk to us. And we'd love, love to hear from you. Anything we can do to be an encouragement. We will.

Adina Silvestri 25:54
Yeah, yeah, I truly believe that. All right. Well, thank you again, so much for being on

Teresa McBean 26:00
Hey, and thanks for giving me a human to talk to you.

Adina Silvestri 26:04
You are very welcome.

Music 26:07
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Welcome to today’s show!



  • How Teresa’s irreligious background led to her spiritual awakening in her 20’s
  • How Teresa is building bridges to recovery for families suffering from addiction
  • Why she views faith as a problem
  • What is radical acceptance
  • Why Teresa feels her recovery changed her faith
  • What Teresa found in the 12 steps that caused a faith shift in her
  • What Teresa feels in a major problem in organized religion
  • What our current times are telling us about the limitations of religion
  • Why Teresa feels physical meetings don’t get people sober
  • What Teresa means when she says people in recovery were made for pandemics and uncertainty
  • Why Teresa is worried about the “tremendously successful people” out there during the pandemic





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