“We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
That now-familiar phrase was first popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), as the second in a series of 12 “steps” toward recovery from addiction through what came to be known as the 12-Step Movement.
In 1991, Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, created Celebrate Recovery (CR) – a faith-based addiction-recovery program built on the 12 steps of AA.
According to the official CR website, the program is now in 35,000-plus churches as well as in many jails and state prisons across the country. Since 2004, CR has been California’s state-approved substance abuse program for prisons.
Several Northeast Mississippi churches host CR chapters, including New Prospect Baptist Church near Oxford, where Cheryl Barclay is a member.
Originally from upstate New York, Barclay moved to Mississippi four years ago and got involved with the newly formed CR chapter at New Prospect. She said CR is about more than just substance abuse.
“People think CR is just for alcohol and chemical addictions,” she said. “They are so wrong. It’s for all your hurts, hang-ups, and habits – anger, codependency, divorce, depression, eating disorders, dysfunctional families – you name it.”
A retired school secretary, the 72-year-old Barclay said she first became involved with CR 10 years ago at the invitation of her sister.
“My sister called me one day and wanted to read me something from her ‘Recovery Bible,’” she said. “She told me she’d been going to CR for a year and it had made such a change in her life. All I could think was, ‘If my perfect sister could change, I needed to check this program out.’”
Barclay said while she did not struggle with chemical or alcohol dependency, her involvement with CR helped her discover other issues that needed work.
“The first thing I realized is that I was codependent,” she said. “I was a people-pleaser. I had to fix everybody. But now I can say ‘no,’ and I know the only person I can fix is Cheryl. I learned that in CR.”
Barclay said the atmosphere in a CR meeting room is always open and inviting.
“It’s not churchy,” she said. “Most alcohol- and chemically dependent people won’t go in a church because they know they’ll be judged. But in CR there is no judgment. The worse you are the more we’ll love you, and you’ll see that your real healing comes from Jesus Christ.”
Barclay said while the process of healing and restoration through CR is often painful, the rewards are priceless.
“It’s an amazing program,” she said. “CR helps you take off your mask so you can blossom. It’s intense but it’s worth every bit of it.”
Lynn Christian of Tupelo has been active in NorthStar Church’s chapter of CR since it launched in 2012. Sober since 2005, she said addiction had robbed her of years of her life.
“In 2001 addiction swallowed my life,” she said. “It started out innocently enough. I was a trauma nurse living a fast-paced life. Meth wound up being my drug of choice, and I walked away from everything. There are times I don’t remember where my kids were, let alone whether they had eaten or had clothes on.”
Christian said she found sobriety through a secular 12-step program, but the 54-year-old nurse said CR helped her put a finer point on the source of her healing.
“CR is a 12-step program,” she said. “But the ‘higher power’ is non-negotiable; it’s Jesus Christ. We believe there is a God, and we believe we matter to that God. It’s a pivotal step – to turn your life over to God, not just to a higher power.”
Christian said CR had helped her ‘raise the bar’ for what to expect after recovery from addiction.
“I resurfaced in ‘05 after rehab,” she said. “But I wasn’t really in recovery. I went through the steps, but CR helped me define what living sober really is. The focus is relationship to Jesus Christ. That’s where we find what we need in recovery.”