Twelve Steps to Freedom

ENNIS, TX —  An Ennis church is reaching beyond its own congregation by instituting a 12-step program for men and women facing drug and alcohol addiction, physical and emotional abuse, codependency and a range of relationship crises. The Way, Truth and Life Church, pastored by Jasper and Linda Hughes, has introduced the famous Celebrate Recovery ministry to aid its members and others in the community who want to learn how to cope with life’s setbacks through the Christian-based initiative founded in 1993. Celebrate Recovery, an internationally disseminated outreach started by John Baker and Rick Warren, best known for his book The Purpose Driven Life, has since been adopted by over 17,000 churches and helped some 700,000 people achieve harmony and fulfillment.

The Way, Truth and Life Church, established 16 years ago, came to embrace Celebrate Recovery after the success of a similar program. “We already had an empowerment class,” noted assistant pastor Shevera Johnson, “but Celebrate Recovery was more in-depth, so we decided to implement it, and we’ve had excellent feedback.”

In the six months since the new course began, attendees have experienced vital changes in their lives. As the class grows, more inroads to healing and faith are anticipated. Jasper is encouraged by the response and looks forward to welcoming newcomers to the program. “With Celebrate Recovery groups, we study, pray, share and take the steps necessary to experience a better life,” he said.

“This is a tried and proven system to build recovery for those struggling with addictive habits and other life experiences that affect our peace.”

Shevera and Jasper agree that a recent address made by Rick Warren puts the group in perspective. “This recovery program emphasizes personal responsibility,” he announced. “We cannot control all that happens to us. But we can control how we respond. When we stop wasting time fixing the blame, we have more energy to fix the problem.”

Jasper admits the group has helped him deal with his own past. Addicted to drugs, he lost friends, his job and ended up homeless. “God delivered him,” Shevera said of her pastor, “and because of that, he knows he has a calling to help others in the same predicament.” She points out that drug addiction or alcohol dependency are not the only issues that Celebrate Recovery can help with. “Low self-worth, anger, gambling — these are all troubles that can be mended,” she said. “God meets us where we are, and we can be set free.” All problems
— hurts, habits and hang-ups, as she called them — can be dealt with. “The group gets to the meat of the matter, but without judgment or playing the blame game, and in the end forgiveness takes over, forgiveness of yourself and others.” Shevera confessed her own struggle has been with food, but with the guidance of Celebrate Recovery she has learned ways of dealing with overeating and has lost 70 pounds.

According to the group’s teachings, the 12 steps are critical to the recovery process. Participants admit they are powerless over their addictions and compulsive behaviors, while believing that a power greater than themselves can restore them to sanity. They make a decision to turn their will and lives over to the care of God, as they make a searching and fearless inventory of themselves, their choices and their past behavior.

“It’s important that they admit to God, to themselves and to another human being the exact nature of their wrong doings,” Shevera explained. “They become entirely ready for God to remove all these defects of character by humbly asking God to remove all their shortcomings, making a list of all persons they have harmed and are willing to make amends to them all, whenever possible.”

They move forward in the program by continuing to take a personal inventory, and when they’re wrong, they promptly admit it. With prayer and meditation, they seek to improve their conscious contact with God, and having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, they seek to carry this message to others.

In addition to the 12-step portion of the process, Celebrate Recovery relies on a set of eight principles devised by Rick Warren and based on the Bible’s Beatitudes. They realize and fully understand they are not God, but they believe God exists. They consciously choose to commit their lives and will to Christ as they openly examine and confess their faults to God. “Voluntarily submitting to every change God wants to make in their life is crucial,” Shevera added. “They must also evaluate all their relationships, reserve a daily time with God for self-examination and yield themselves to God to be used to bring the good news to others.”

As Pamela Richardson, church administrator, has applied the steps and principles to her life, she has become a healthier, more whole person. “You learn to know yourself by God’s truth, not yours,” she explained. “You may think you are all right, that you don’t need anything to better yourself, but the program brings to the forefront that you do have faults and that there is deliverance from them.” Pamela added that she has “found such freedom in the Spirit of the Lord” through Celebrate Recovery and that she has “no façade now.”

Shevera concurred, “You will find the love of Christ here,” she said. “You will find hope. The group shines a beacon of light over all. God changed my life by 360 degrees. He showed me me.”

Pamela and Shevera stressed that the Celebrate Recovery group at the Way, Truth and Life Church is open to the community in general, not just members of the congregation. “Everyone can come,” Shevera said. “We consider this a community outreach. All races, all walks of life are welcome.”

At a typical meeting, attendees share their thoughts in an intimate group setting with each person speaking for three to five minutes. There is no cross talk where individuals engage in one- on-one dialogue and no psychoanalytic suggestions are permitted. Anonymity and confidentiality are critical. “What is shared in the group,” Shevera said, “stays in the group.”

Pamela hopes to see new members join. “They will be blessed, as I have been,” she said. “God transformed my life and my family through this organization. Anyone can benefit from it. You can go to church all your life, going through the rituals, and still miss the Lord. Celebrate Recovery will lift your spirits and give you support and direction. You’ll learn what being free really means.”

“He who is free is free indeed!” Shevera added.

Written by Randy Bigham.

The Way, Truth and Life Church hosts its Celebrate Recovery classes every Monday at 6:00 p.m. at 1700 N. Kaufman St. (972) 875-1118.