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Faith Based Recovery

by Peter Petroski  
8/03/2011 / Health

Today it's easy to write down a few names of people you know who struggle with alcohol or prescription drug abuse, illegal drug use, gambling problems, pornography, food addictions or other compulsive or addictive behaviors. The challenge and the first step is for one to acknowledge, "I have a problem". That is Step 1 in the 12 Steps used by Alcoholic Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery and numerous other recovery programs.

You might be surprised if you were to count the number of recovery meetings taking place in communities across the country, even in your own town. Many meetings are held in churches but most are probably not Faith based, even though programs like AA were at one time, some merely acknowledge a "higher power".

For years my wife and I lived in an urban row house in York, Pa. and our ministry became working with people who were homeless, victims of abuse or just out of work and living on the streets. We moved to Columbia, Pa to be closer to grandkids and with the oversight of our Church Fellowship (Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches), started a church plant. As we started Bible studies and making contacts in our neighborhood, God kept sending us men and women who were struggling with drug and alcohol addictions. One of our first contacts was an attractive mother of 3 kids, every bit a normal looking, 30'ish single mom. We found out she had a heroin addiction and was HIV positive. She was with us a short time and moved onto a Faith based residential facility.

I was asked to accompany a man to an AA meeting and based on my past experience, wanted to look for something Faith based. Searching online I found what I was looking for at This is a ministry developed by John Baker and Rick Warren from the Saddleback Church in California. I took him to a CR meeting in Millersville and knew this was something I wanted to know more about. I kept attending, however, he only lasted a few weeks. Many are not willing to accept the Faith aspect of a full and lasting recovery.

In December 2006 we transitioned from a traditional church plant to one that meets Friday nights, uses materials provided by Celebrate Recovery and will celebrate a 5 year anniversary this December. We have some who have asked Jesus to come into their lives and many who are growing spiritually by daily Bible reading, prayer and helping others. We have learned the 12 steps are a good tool, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of recovery. Jesus is our only Higher Power, anyone is welcome to attend, but only Christ is given credit for our recovery.

Along with the many who come with addiction issues are those who struggle with being diagnosed with a mental health illness, most common being bipolar. Our experience has been once diagnosed and in treatment, which is usually counseling and medication, you can live a normal life. You cannot mix depression or mental health medications with alcohol or drugs. Many will stop taking their bipolar meds only to face a crisis that one then self-medicates with other prescription drugs (borrowed-stolen), alcohol or illegal drugs. The result being many times includes an anger related assault, scaring or abusing family members, driving a vehicle under the influence and or eventually jail. I have spent many hours visiting men in jail resulting from this type of event. We encourage faith based recovery for those that struggle with mental illness, to continue with Counseling, seek out a Christian Counselor or Psychiatrist, continue daily time with God reading the Bible and in prayer, and continue attending CR meetings and stay involved in your Church.

How long does it take to recover? I have been in recovery 15 years. There is no time frame, recovery is forever. One should be prepared to live the 12-Steps, be sharing your testimony (1 Peter 3:15); always be prepared to give a reason for the Hope you have!

Our typical CR church service starts @ 6:30PM with a dinner prepared by my wife, we serve 20-30 each week, followed by a worship time of prayer and singing, then a step lesson or testimony that alternates each week. The last hour from 8-9 is a sharing time, men meet with men, women with women, we have no children in our service. In view of those that struggle with sexual addictions or listed on Megans List being welcome, we do not provide child care. This last hour is a confidential time to be transparent, sharing what impact the lesson or testimony had on them. Along with weekly meetings is the Step Studies, or a small group set of 4 booklets designed to meet a different night, not mixing men with women and it takes a good 9-12 months to complete. This is designed to uncover the reasons for one turning to addictive or compulsive behaviors, once uncovered, how to heal, how to seek forgiveness and ask forgiveness of those you have wronged during your period of denial.

I attend our community Ministerium meetings twice a year to update the other churches and pastors about what the Lord is doing through us in Columbia. I remind them of the nature of our work and encourage them to refer people to come on Friday nights. We always reinforce attendance at their churches on Sundays, we want them involved, not just sitting in the pews. We also encourage those active in their addictions to attend other Celebrate Recovery meetings throughout Lancaster County, we now have churches sponsoring CR meetings Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. Most of the leaders keep in touch and sharing our personal testimonies when possible. We all use the same format and begin the 26 weeks of lessons our first meeting of each new year.

We have heard some heart breaking stories of physical and sexual abuse, broken families, kids being abandoned by their parents, families without fathers, parents that they themselves were addicts or alcoholics..on and on. Many that came through this kind of life experience are now with us on Friday nights, they have tried to bury their hurts with drugs and alcohol, gambling, improper relationships, food, etc. God does not waste the hurt and experiences we have gone through, like myself, I am committed to Step 12, helping others in their recovery.

If your church is interested in staring a Celebrate Recovery ministry, visit the website: and go to your State, them community for a meeting now taking place. Check with the leadership, they will be willing to help you get started. If you are close to Lancaster County, I am available to share my story or to answer any questions about getting started. God is working amongst our poor and our brokenMatthew 11:28-30 reads like this..
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Pete Petroski
[email protected]

Retired from 45+ years in insurance, serve as Associate Pastor working with men, some of which are in recovery or prison.

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