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Celebrate Recovery: A 12-step program with a Christian focus

December 11th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

By Chelsey Gensel

LOGAN–Teresa is a local woman with a history of crippling depression, shyness and doubt in her self-worth. Her husband is in jail, and she struggles to lose weight. Her friend, Susan Psalmonds, said Teresa would sometimes spend days in bed, withdrawn from the outside world.

“The one thing she had going in her favor was a real desire to grow as a person,” Psalmonds said.

When the two heard John and Edna Kimball speak at their church about a program called Celebrate Recovery, Teresa felt like it might be a place to start that growth. Celebrate Recovery is a Christ-centered, fellowship-based, step-by-step recovery program.

The Kimballs started a Celebrate Recovery chapter out of Logan’s Maranatha Baptist Church in September 2008 after Edna attended a conference about the program in southern California, where the original chapter at Saddleback Church began more than 15 years ago. There are chapters in every state as well as multiple chapters on four continents internationally.

“This is our ministry,” Edna said, “to minister here in this area that doesn’t have a program.” She said Utah has the fewest branches of Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate Recovery adds biblical references to the 12 steps, much like those found in Alcoholics Anonymous, to outline a spiritual support system and focus participants lives on Christ rather than include only self and others in the recovery process. Each meeting of the group, which meets at the Maranatha Baptist Church, 395 S. Main, at 7 p.m. every Friday night, begins with music and prayer and a devotional, much like a Sunday church service, but is geared for any denomination, not just Baptist, Edna said.

They read the eight recovery principles specific to Celebrate Recovery and have a lesson or testimony, and share the Serenity Prayer, “but the whole thing, not just the short version like AA,” Edna said.

Small groups, for the hour following the all-inclusive service, are divided along gender lines. “It’s easier to talk and discuss things without the the opposite sex around,” Edna said.

Small groups are meant for sharing with others why you are at Celebrate Recovery and what you struggle with, but is limited to your own thoughts and feelings, not to trying to “fix” others, Edna said. This time is structured so participants do not respond back to each other, and are confidential. They can discuss the testimony from earlier meetings or the Celebrate Recovery Bible, which Edna said is just like the regular Bible, but with “recovery helps” inserted into it.

“Everyone has something to recover from,” she said, emphasizing that Celebrate Recovery is not just for alcoholics, but for any “hurt, habit or hang-up” someone struggles with. These may include addiction of any kind, guilt, self-destruction, anger, relationship struggles or even finanical issues.

John said with the men in the group, the main struggles are substance abuse, pornography, and anger. This is supported by the Internet Filter Review, which in 2006 said that eight of the top 10 search requests that year included the terms “sex” or “porn.”

The Bear River Health Department saw more than 70 people in 2009 for substance abuse treatment, showing that these problems happen here in Cache Valley. Celebrate Recovery can also be for family members of those struggling with these issues. “It’s open to every single person in Cache Valley,” Edna said.

After small group meetings, the group meets for “After Hours Cafe” in the basement of the church for coffee, snacks, music, and socializing. “We have some lamps from Deseret Industries, candles, circular tables and some chairs,” Edna said.

The After Hours Cafe is a place for participants to unwind after intensely personal discussion, Pslamonds said, to interact and get to know one another.
“It’s an alternative atmosohere to something like AA,” she said. “There is no cigarette smoke or foul language, and people can bring a spiritual side to it and we can feel free to share how we really feel.”

Edna Kimball and Psalmonds both said they participated in Alcoholics Anonymous many years ago, and said that even if they recovered from their alcoholism, Celebrate Recovery helps with other areas in their lives.

“It can make you realize problems you didn’t know were there,” Psalmonds said. She said when she joined Celebrate Recovery, she was struggling with a special needs son living at home with her, and she was able to find the strength to guide him into living on his own, which she said is a better situation for both of them. “It’s been helpful to me with other areas, too,” she said.

Psalmonds met along with Edna and Teresa working through the step-by-step programs for a year so that they would be better prepared to facilitate Celebrate Recovery participants, and three built a strong common bond. Psalmonds said one night Teresa called her and suggested they pray together.

“I’ve been overjoyed to see her progress,” she said. “She wouldn’t have reached out like that before Celebrate Recovery, she’s really coming out of her shell,”

Edna said that because there is still a stigma associated with programs like Celebrate Recovery, she thinks some people are scared to attend, but John emphasized that the doors are open to everyone. He said they regularly have between five and 15 attend, but would love to see more.

“We’d love every single person to come and at least see what it’s like so they can tell other people,” Edna said. “But, if we help just one person, that’s what we’re here for.”

The group tries to strike a balance between accepting that the past is out of your control, and establishing what you can do by making amends, without either overly faulting or victimizing yourself, and to turn their lives over to Christ by accepting that there is no way to fix everything on their own.

So what makes Celebrate Recovery different from or supplemental to professional treatment, self-study, or other programs? John said that Celebrate Recovery brings a spiritual element that doesn’t exist elsewhere, and Psalmonds said that the group component offers support that isn’t there without some sort of structure like that of the small groups.

“What we believe, and the Bible backs this up, is that the difficult times you’ve had, you can use to help others,” John said, “and you don’t have to do all the steps to start helping people.” He said it is a low pressure program, and you’ll get out of it what you put in.

“Everyone heals at their own specific rate,” Psalmonds said, citing her own health issues that sometimes keep her from normal function, but she said when she goes to Celebrate Recovery on Friday nights, her spirits are lifted and she can have a productive evening. “It can really turn things around for me,” she said.


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