• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

“Celebrate Recovery” comes to Journey Church


On Sept. 4, Journey Church will begin weekly meetings designed to address the roots of drug, alcohol and other problems in a “Christ-centered” program called Celebrate Recovery. Graciela Robinson, who said she’s been sober for more than 23 years and gives much of the credit for that to Celebrate Recovery, is one of the people helping train a “core team” to lead the Monday night meetings. She worked in the behavioral health field in Connecticut for nearly two decades, beginning with adolescent girls in 1997, then later, with adults with substance and other “life-controlling” issues. Robinson said while she was in a relationship in the late 1980s, she began using cocaine “pretty heavily” – and didn’t stop when the relationship ended. “My addiction got crazy until about 1992. I was clean for 11 months and relapsed and then I got clean again in November of 1993, and by the grace of God, I’ve been clean since,” she said. Robinson said Jesus Christ has always been part of her recovery. “Secular programs, AA and NA (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) … helped me in the beginning. But I got to a place, and I think many people get to a place, that … you take care of the mental aspect, you put down the drugs, you start doing different things in terms of people, places and things, but addictions and any life-controlling issue, are threefold. There’s the physical, the mental and the spiritual factor to it, and though NA and other 12-step programs address a spiritual part to it, they’re not specific – it can be like, ‘Whoever,’” she said. Robinson said such approaches work for some, but she believed without a solid foundation in Jesus Christ, people with a wide variety of addiction issues (including eating, gambling, spending and others) are still left with a hole. “Without Jesus, the strength from within doesn’t have a foundation. There’s no source to the ‘within’ strength that we need,” she said. Robinson and her husband, John, a military veteran and member of the core Celebrate Recovery team, moved to Versailles last June in part to take advantage of the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Lexington. They began attending Journey, where members were already praying about how to address addiction problems. One of those was Jeri Hartley, who’d been working with NA and R.A.W. (Raising Awareness Woodford County). “I think that God just opened doors for us here,” she said. The program’s core group is meeting every Monday night at Journey for about 90 minutes to prepare for the launch. (Robinson noted that Celebrate Recovery already has programs in place at Southland Christian Church and Hope Springs Community Church in Lexington.) Celebrate Recovery began at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. According to www.celebraterecovery.com, more than 2.5 million people have completed the program – nearly three quarters of them at thousands of other U.S. churches. “What we need is a biblical and balanced program to help people overcome their hurts, habits and hang-ups. Celebrate Recovery is that program. Based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory, our recovery program is unique, and more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of,” said Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren. Saddleback’s website calls Celebrate Recovery a “large umbrella” program under which a limitless number of issues can be dealt with. Online tools include their 12 steps to recovery and eight recovery principles used in the program. Come Sept. 4, Robinson said all community members will be invited to attend the Monday meetings, which will begin with a meal, worship songs, and relaxation time in the Journey sanctuary. After teaching from a Celebrate Recovery manual or testimony from people in person or a DVD, break-out groups, based on age, gender and types of problems, will meet. Each group will have a facilitator and co-facilitator. “We emphasize that Celebrate Recovery is not just for people that use substances. The issues underneath the substances are what Celebrate Recovery is about – addressing those so we don’t get to the places that there’s things that control our life …” she said. Celebrate Recovery is not only for people with such problems, but also their family members, she said. “The whole family recovers, because the person that’s been affected (with) the life-controlling issues … they don’t live in a vacuum. The whole family is affected, and there are roles that everyone in the family plays to … keep the family functioning, status quo,” Robinson said. She agreed that many people with problems don’t get the help they need in part because it’s difficult to share them with others – and said Celebrate Recovery, like AA and NA, is dedicated to preserving the privacy of participants. “The shame and the guilt keep us doing what we do … and then we end up trying to handle stuff on our own and when we can’t, when it gets out of control, then other people know before we think that we do,” Robinson said. The core group at Journey includes members of Versailles United Methodist Church and others, as well as people already working in the field of behavioral health. “They’re just people that have a heart for helping people,” she said. Robinson said she wanted to emphasize that Celebrate Recovery is not just about substances. “We all have issues. It’s not just about people that have problems with a drug or alcohol. It’s the underlying things that we try to deal with on our own, and sometimes, they get too big for us,” she said.

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