I am not an experienced or trained journalist, but I had a sacred privilege of interviewing two graduates of Central United Methodist Church’s Celebrate Recovery recently. I was asked to tell their story on the Lay Leader blog to help capture the attention of church members and, if possible, connect Megan and Dana as they really are, loving human beings, not media stereotypes too easily forgotten. So here goes. I can’t cover it all. But take your time, enjoy them, listen as they speak from their hearts.
He reminded me of a cowboy in a baseball hat, working as a plumber, a little grubby at the moment. No time to clean up before our interview. A little rough around the edges. Slim and younger looking than his stated age of nearly 49. But he was all manners, soft voice and gentle soul. Yes ma’am. No Ma’am. Thank you. How on earth had this gentle man gotten to rock bottom in his life?
Alcoholism, abuse, and drug addiction: these are all issues that seriously affect many people in our church and community that a sermon or a Bible study alone won’t solve. However, there is hope and a way that the church can help the hurting move beyond their wounds to experience the healing liberty of Christ.
25 years ago, Rick Warren and John Baker developed a program called Celebrate Recovery. This program implements a Christ-centered recovery ministry in your church based on eight principles from the Beatitudes.
Celebrate Recovery helps people resolve their pain in the context of the church as a whole. This program is fellowship based, and is the celebration of Christ in the life of your church and its members (and non-members).
Our interview began. How does Dana introduce himself at Celebrate Recovery?
I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with grief, forgiveness, perfectionism, lust, anger, pride, drugs, alcohol, and codependency and my name is Dana.
Born in Washington County in 1967, by the time he was seven Dana had lost his mother and his grandparents. His father was the only one left. With help from caring friends and neighbors Dana’s father raised him and his three brothers. Dana says that in his childhood his best friends were “the hogs and the dogs,” the only bad thing was the dogs didn’t live long enough.
He worked hard summer and winter for money, excelled at sports, and chased girls. He went to plumbing school and became a welder. Later he ran a printing press. In 1995 Dana met “meth.” Although Dana got married he never wanted to leave his dad and helped him on the farm, often working at night. All the work exhausted him but Dana found that “dope” gave him energy to work and not let anyone down. Helping out his ailing father-in-law he worked for two years on his turkey farm and supported his meth habit by selling marijuana. Although Dana and his wife had a beautiful little girl he couldn’t stop doing meth, pressured by work and wanting to “get it all done for everyone.” Finally Dana lost him wife to divorce and lost custody of his child. He held grudges, couldn’t forgive, especially himself. Drugs “took me where I did not want to go “ and “kept him there longer than he wanted to stay.”
Dana’s father died and the drug use got worse. Now instead of using meth to keep on going he used it to ease the pain, not knowing how to grieve.
And then it happened, December 30, 2013—Dana was pulled over by a police officer for failing to complete a stop. Not being a very good criminal he admitted to carrying drugs and went to jail. “As I was lying there in jail with my head on a toilet paper role that I was using for a pillow I thought this might be a good time to turn this around…I got bailed out by my brother, I would have just as soon took a beating with a big stick as call him to get me out of jail…I was scared…I did not want to go to jail but by all right I should have gone to prison…But by grace Judge Cristi Beaumont let me into drug court. I thank God for that. If I wasn’t forced to be there I probably would still be in pain today.”
Drug court allows a defendant to work for freedom and rehabilitation. Dana was required to:
- Go to three classes per week.
- Call in every morning to see if he had to go take a drug test.
- Meet with counselors and probation officers.
Failing any of these requirements would send him back to jail. He also had to go to four support groups a week, AA meetings, and Celebrate Recovery. People were so friendly and nice Dana did not see how this could “fix him.” Changes required of him included serving at Celebrate Recovery and giving up his wrong kind of friends. Dana discovered what was happening to him was found in 2 Corinthians 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
An amazing couple named Chad and Angela “treated me like I was somebody.” He found a sponsor, he made new friends, “a whole bucket full of brothers and sisters that I love dearly and I would do anything for.” Family and good friends helped and supported him. He went to “cowboy church.” The Holy Spirit was there. So many never gave up on him. “I didn’t have any choice but to get better. You know I think it’s all about love. I have never seen so much love as there is in CR.”
Dana graduated from drug court, was baptized by his mentor Gary. Dana now says: “I am not the man God wants me to be, but I am definitely not the man I used to be either. Confess my sins make amends pray for each other so that you may be healed. It really works.”
Dana graduated step studies and became a sponsor for someone else. To the newcomer Dana says…”don’t be afraid to drop your head and run with the ball, good things will come your way if you will…don’t wait till your 50 to figure this out. I have been Clean and sober for 2 years and a few months now. I would like to say a special thanks to God First, but also Angela, Chad, Carl, and Gary. Thanks for helping me on my recovery Journey! Thanks for letting me share.” Reclaimed.
I knocked on the door of a lovely home where just about anyone we know might live. Traditional. SUV in the driveway. No reflection outside of the up and down tragedies, and the reclamation of Megan on the inside. It took awhile for Megan to answer. I began to think I was at the wrong home when the door swung open and a smiling woman with a cast on her ankle and a walker by her side appeared. “Are you Megan?” Yes she was and we walked (pushing the walker slowly) back to the den and sat down. Megan made me comfortable on a soft couch and footstool. I relaxed. A few minutes ago I had been more nervous than she had I’m sure.
Now before me was the Megan I had not expected, all soft straight brown hair, medium length, and those kindhearted eyes. Why did I expect suffering on her face and tense defensiveness in her manner? None of that was there. She was open, friendly, no hiding of who she is or was or had been. Again, like Dana, younger than I expected, mother of a preteen daughter, alone at home now her full time job caring for her invalid mother. Megan had a testimony, too. When called at CR Megan answers like this:
“Hello, I am a believer in Jesus Christ and I have been working on codependency, enabling, resentment, guilt and grief. My name is Megan. When I walked through those doors (church) a year and a half ago, I had no relationship with God. I could never have imagined I would be were I am today, as well as the deep relationship with God that I have grown to depend on. “
Megan began Celebrate Recovery not for herself, but for her husband—or so she thought. Her husband Richard was a firefighter. He had struggled with addiction and finally went to a rehab center. Celebrate Recovery at Central became his place to continue his recovery. For Megan it was a whole knew world. Growing up she had never gone to church. She did not even know what to do there. It seemed scary. Although Richard was the focus she had a role to play as well. But what? And how? “When we first came to CR, I thought it was for Richard; I thought it was for the addict, and the family was just there to try to grow together. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to walk in and find what I was always looking for. It wasn’t just for Richard; it was for ME! It was for MY healing too! And my healing began in finding God. Not only was it a type of environment I didn’t think it would be; everyone was open and loving, but I instantly felt this connection that I had been missing all this time.”
Megan and her daughter were eventually baptized at a Celebrate Recovery service. They both joined Central. It was one of the greatest moments of her life. Family members and friends came. She knew God was guiding her and leading.
But the thing is, Megan soon had more to learn about the ups and downs she would have to face and the necessity of holding on to God very tight. Richard relapsed. They separated. Her marriage hit rock bottom and Richard once again was so deep in his addiction that he became a person she never knew. He left her.
Richard really challenged her and her faith. But God was there the entire time she said, reminding her of His greatness. Megan held on firmly, working through the CR steps, “weeding through a good chunk of my hurts, habits and hang-ups.”
Five months later a State Trooper knocked at her door and from the font porch told her Richard had been killed in a single car accident. She says it hit her like a “ton of brick.” Only God and her forever family saw her through that day. Only the unconditional love and support she had found gave her what she needed to keep on.
Living one day at time, traveling the road God intended, giving up her career, being a fulltime caregiver for her very ill mom, being a continuing member of CR, being grateful for all of the blessings and growth for herself and her daughter, all these things and more makes Megan whole.
“I have become a completely different person. I am grateful for all of the blessings and growth for myself and my daughter that have come out of my journey of recovery.” One day at a time. Reclaimed.