Mary’s husband Sean had a problem with drinking too much. After years of pleading, he finally went to church with her, only to be turned away by the pastor. Sean’s habit preceded him. Many people like Sean find themselves in a catch-22. They want a faith-based solution to their problems, but because of their problems they are not welcome at faith-based meetings. Celebrate Recovery is a faith-based 12 Step program for anyone with a hurt, habit or hang up.

How The Stigma Hurts

Stigma actually means a mark of disgrace or reproach; a stain or blemish. Christianity believes that all people are born with a stain or blemish. They believe Jesus Christ came to save all people from their sins, these marks of disgrace. They believe that accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior is the only way to be delivered from sin. Sometimes, some denominations get hyper-focused on the sins component, making it almost impossible for less than perfect people to find help out of addictions or other less than perfect situations. This was the case for John Baker.

John had a dark secret. Most knew him as the coach of his son’s little league team, or the leader in his church’s youth ministry. Many knew he loved to stop off and have a beer after the game, but no one, not even his wife, knew he was a functional alcoholic. As he began his recovery journey, John found himself at odds with both his faith-based community and his AA peers.

At my AA meetings I was mocked when I talked about my Higher Power – the only true Higher Power – Jesus Christ. And at church I couldn’t find a place where individuals could openly relate to my struggle with alcoholism. I knew they were there because in a church of then 6000, I couldn’t be the only one struggling with a hurt, hang up, or addictive habit.

In the fall of 1991, John outlined a faith-based program that combined AA’s 12 Steps and their Biblical comparisons. The program was open to anyone suffering from a hurt, habit or hang up. Since then, Celebrate Recovery has grown outside of it’s original home at Saddleback Church in California. More than 35,000 churches have a Celebrate Recovery ministry.

What To Expect At Celebrate Recovery (CR)

First, expect to be loved and welcomed. No one is turned away. No one has to be perfect, and the meetings are anonymous. Second, be prepared to work the steps. Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program. Third, expect a clearly defined Higher Power. Celebrate Recovery recognizes Jesus Christ as the true Higher Power. Finally, expect to celebrate! Celebrate Recovery meetings begin with an upbeat worship service and include a chip ceremony to track recovery success with a chip system.

For Mary, it was impossible to see the affects of addiction and family dysfunction in her life. She knew she was hurting and knew about Al-Anon, but she was also very controlled by a strict religious upbringing. Even though Mary wanted help dealing with her husband’s addiction, she didn’t feel comfortable at Al-Anon. She was willing to attend a Celebrate Recovery meeting only because of its strong statement of faith.

Once in the program, Mary learned about healthy boundaries and how addiction is a family disease that affects generations. Most importantly, she learned critical thinking skills and how to stand on her own. Finally, Mary became strong enough to do what’s best for her, which eventually included attending Al-Anon.

Mary says she’s forever grateful to Celebrate Recovery for introducing her to the healing journey of recovery. Today, faith is still an integral part of her life and she regularly attends both CR and Al-Anon. Even better, sometimes her husband Sean attends Celebrate Recovery meetings with her.


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Pam Carver

Pam is the author of two books: Co-dependent In The Kitchen, and Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps. She's also a contributing editor for Reach Out Recovery. She's a recovery advocate who likes long walks on the beach and chocolate.

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