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Alternative program for more than just addiction

By Staff | Mar 10, 2017

Covenant Church in Shepherdstown has begun a program called Celebrate Recovery, where fellow strugglers form a non-judgmental support group which is for much more than drug and alcohol addiction.

“Most people think Celebrate Recovery is just for addictions-which it is, but it’s also for life problems,” said Ken Whitford, program director of Celebrate Recovery. “Whether it’s grief, divorce issues, dysfunctional family issues-it doesn’t matter. Celebrate Recovery shows you access to the one who can change it.”

The CR program at Covenant is currently the only one in Jefferson County, although there are three in Berkeley County.

The program is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous in that it is a 12-step program with a group support where regular attendance is key. The differences lie in the fact that it’s a Christ-centered program and the 12 steps are based on biblical truths and the eight principles found in the Beatitudes of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew, chapter 5 in the Bible)

Additionally, the tag-line says “It’s a safe place to recover from life’s hurts, habits, and hangups.” Some of those are described as codependency, gambling, eating disorders, sexual addiction, abuse, anxiety, perfectionism and anything else that someone might consider a stumbling block or hinders a person’s walk with God. In fact, CR leaders have found that only about one-third of attendees struggle with chemical dependency.

Whitford himself was a former drug user and alcoholic. He will be celebrating 30 years of sobriety in July.

“I went to many programs year after year trying to make sure I stayed sober. I didn’t want to go back to be the old Ken. I tried psychologists, doctors of psychology, AA, NA (Narcotics Anonymous), Christian counselors and then one counselor I went to finally said, ‘you need something like Celebrate Recovery’. I got into this program and it’s a whole different thing. This program has an 82 percent success rate, if people really work the program.”

A meeting that began 25 years ago at Saddleback church in California by a recovering drug addict named John Baker has now seen more than 2.5 million people complete the program in thousands of churches nationwide, and it keeps growing.

The program itself begins on any given evening with praise music, followed by a teaching, testimony or guest speaker. The group then reads the 12 steps and the eight Beatitudes and closes with the serenity prayer. Then participants are dismissed to open share groups for recovery-specific issues.

Since the numbers are still fairly small at Covenant, there is currently one men’s group and one women’s group.

Covenant staffer Kathy Miller said, “We’re a moderately sized group right now, but as the need arises for specific-issue open share small groups, we can have those in place almost overnight.”

For those wishing to make a larger commitment to the recovery process, there are “step studies” that go very in depth with a personal journey of introspection and take a year to complete. The step studies meet on Wednesday nights at Covenant and are currently only available for men, although the staff expects to have availability for women soon. Celebrate Recovery meetings take place each week-52 weeks per year.

Whitford hopes the group will grow to reach as many hurting people as possible and he plans to begin a prison ministry in the future.

“We meet people where they are,” said Whitford. “What we’re trying to do is give them (participants) the word of God in a way so that they can accomplish what they need without stuffing it down their throats. We want to find the particular nugget they need and start feeding them. God’s word is not meant to be stuffed down someone’s throat. That’s where rebellion comes in. God’s word is meant to be love, kindness, sharing, caring, everything it says in Corinthians chapter 13. If there’s no love with it then it’s just a sounding symbol. Just brass clanging in the wind. Negativity is powerful. Words are powerful. We have to use them wisely.”

Celebrate Recovery meets Tuesdays at 7 p.m. and is free to attend. For more information about Covenant’s program, email celebraterecovery@covenant-mail.com or call Ken Whitford at 304-886-2090. To learn more about Celebrate Recovery, visit the website www.celebraterecovery.com.