The decisions people struggling with addiction make can have far-reaching effects for those around them. Not only are addicts themselves fighting an uphill battle, but their children, family members and friends are often left to make the best of a difficult situation.
Four years ago, a group from Open Door Worship Center in Fulton attended a Celebrate Recovery Summit in Jackson, Mississippi and decided to localize the faith-based recovery program. Since adapting the program for their own church, they have ministered to over 1,500 people facing addiction issues either directly or indirectly in Itawamba County.
Pastor Shane Ray said he believes a church should serve its community. To him, that includes reaching out to both adults and children caught in the perils of difficult addictions.
“We want people to know we are here and available to help them,” Ray said. “Our meetings cover many addiction issues that people are faced with – drugs, gambling, divorce, eating disorders and others.”
The group meets Tuesday nights. Each meeting begins with a meal, designed as a time to fellowship. Their Celebrate Recovery meetings include a large group meeting and an open-share small group.
Ray says one of the most vital elements of the program’s success has been confidentiality and anonymity.
“We strongly stress to our members and people in the group the importance of both,” he said. “It’s important for those attending to know they have a safe place to come too.”
Each meeting begins with a large group worship. Mitch Campbell, a group leader and former addict, frequently shares his story with those attending. While speaking with a group of around 60 people during the May meeting, Campbell told listeners his earliest memory of childhood was of violence between his mother and stepfather. He watched his mother in the dire grip of addiction. At the age of six, he remembers giving her a nickel so she could purchase a “nickel bag” of marijuana.
“That’s not even something a 6-year-old should know,” Campbell told the crowd. “Over time, my situation just got worse and worse.”
After connecting with his father at 9-years-old, Campbell’s mother was killed in a car accident, leaving him in father’s care. His father purchased weed and vodka for his son during his formative teenage years. Campbell’s life then spiraled into heavy drug addiction, including LSD, ecstasy and meth. The trust fund left to him by his mother was quickly dissipated into nothing.
Celebrate Recovery helped Campbell turn his life around. Now, he’s trying to do the same for others like him.
“Through the program, we get to the root of the problem in people’s lives,” Campbell said. “Most of the people we minister to have been hurt or abandoned at an early age. Some haven’t felt anything or known anything but hurt and loss their whole lives. I speak from personal experience, of course.”
Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. There are now over 35,000 Celebrate Recovery churches around the world, including Open Door Worship Center’s.
The program is based on biblical principals. At its heart are the “Eight Recovery Principles,” based on the Beatitudes found in the fifth chapter of Matthew. The first step in its “Twelve Steps and Recovery Comparisons” is having the addict admit her or she has no control over addiction.
Organizers say the program is meant to be a place of refuge, belonging and progress.
“I love Celebrate Recovery because it is a wonderful way to be able to minister to people and to be able to show them what God’s church is really called to be,” Campbell said. “I thank God for this opportunity to be able to lead this program in Itawamba County.”
The program offers a children’s curriculum, “Celebration Place,” for children aged 5-13 years. The studies mirror the lessons taught in the large group for adults. The children have small group meetings that help them identify their feelings and the reason behind them. They also teach the children healthy coping skills for tough issues they may be facing.
“The Landing” is Celebrate Recovery’s student ministry program, directed toward junior high and high school students. It, too, is designed to mirror the adult program.
Whitney Williams leads the teen-focused group and tries to help its young participants live emotionally and spiritually healthy lives.
“Our children and student programs are a great feature of Celebrate Recovery. We don’t just reach out to adults,” Ray said.
After all, Ray knows addiction has a lot of collateral damage.
“Many times the children and teenagers are struggling and simply get left behind when the parents are battling addictions,” he said.