Jan Holt had gone through a succession of stressful situations with her health and in her personal life – and in the daily grind of her job. Drinking wine after work became her way to unwind and wine seemed like the least of her problems. She had gone through a divorce and battled cancer. But it gradually became apparent to Holt that she was also struggling with alcohol.
But for the past 18 months, Holt, who works as a nurse at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, hasn’t had a drink. She credits Celebrate Recovery with giving her the strength to overcome her struggles.
Celebrate Recovery is a faith-centered 12-step recovery program provided by First United Methodist Church. This Mansfield-based ministry, which follows a program founded 22 years ago by Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California, meets every Thursday at the main chapel at First Methodist – even when that day falls on a holiday.
“It’s the longest I’ve ever not had alcohol since I began drinking,” said Holt, who is both a member of Celebrate and a volunteer leader of what the program calls Step Studies. “It’s something that was a part of our lives. At 5 o’clock you have a drink. At times I’ve abstained, but I’d never had the tools to help me stay away from it and help me recover from it.”
Steps of faith
Celebrate Recovery, led by the Rev. Caesar Rentie, provides the tools Holt needed. Rentie, who is chaplain at Methodist Mansfield, said this ministry is like typical addiction recovery programs in that there are the same 12 steps to recovery that Alcoholics Anonymous employs. But each of those steps in this faith-based program are associated with particular passages from scripture.
“It’s specific in nature in that it’s a Christian-based program,” Rentie said. “It allows them to access their faith. I think it’s a tool to allow people to go deeper with their faith.”
Celebrate goes beyond the 12 steps to recovery and also provides eight Bible-based recovery principles. Debbie Black, care ministries director at First Methodist, said the program helps people who are struggling with something find a way to fill their inner void.
“Instead of replacing whatever it is with another issue or addiction, they’re replacing that struggle with a relationship with God,” Black said.
Substances or people will you down, but faith and fellowship with other believes offers a more stable solution to troubles, Rentie said.
“Here we use community and a relationship with God to deal with things that happen with our lives,” he said.
When the Celebrate Recovery ministry was being launched at First Methodist, Senior Pastor the Rev. Mike Ramsdell offered his support for the mission of the program: “Everybody is recovering from something,” he said.
Black, who confesses she’s had to deal with the struggle of having an alcoholic parent, said about four-fifths of participants in Celebrate Recovery have addiction issues. But a good number of participants face other types of struggles. “About a fifth of participants are struggling with life issues,” Black said.
Not just for adults
The program isn’t just for adults either. A children’s ministry happens at the same time as the adult sessions on Thursday nights. Some young people will find ways to overcome life or substance issues or they will better understand what struggles their parents might be dealing with. And a new Celebrate Recovery program for teens ages 13 to 18 called The Landing launches in January, Holt said.
“There’s not an area of life this program doesn’t address – truly,” Holt said.
No weeks off
Because people’s struggles never take a week off, neither does Celebrate Recovery. Participants met for dinner, worship and weekly lessons and group discussions on Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas, Rentie said.
“The mindset behind people’s habits and hang-ups don’t take a break, so we don’t take a break,” Rentie said.
Holt was still drinking sometimes when she began attending Celebrate Recovery. She didn’t go every week and didn’t fully realize she had a problem. But once she realized the seriousness of her struggle, she committed to the program.
She completed a Step Study – an in-depth series that explores particular aspects of recovery and faith – and is now leading another study. Holt never misses a Thursday gathering now and even gets involved with Celebrate Recovery on other nights of the week.
“I had a rough day at work the other day and I didn’t think, ‘I need to go home and have a glass of wine,’” Holt said. “I’m now able to give my patients the best version of myself.”