Addiction recovery group starting at Abundant Life Church

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2008

Natchez —Her chemical abuse problems were in full swing by the age of 14.

She entered her first rehabilitation program at age 15.

From that time until just two years ago the 38-year-old went through several different addiction rehabilitation programs and even spent time in a mental hospital. But now she is enjoying her longest stint of sobriety since her early teens.

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Then, the rehabilitation program was different. It had all the lessons about chemical abuse and what it does to the body and what it does to other family members but it focused on something different, something bigger. It was a biblically-based program that had Jesus as the foundation.

But when she returned home to the Natchez area she didn’t have a place where she felt comfortable discussing the role God had in her recovery.

It is stories like this that led Amber Henderson and Wendy Reese of Abundant Life Church in Natchez to form a faith-based addiction recovery and support group in the Miss-Lou. The pair, both long-time Natchez residents, had seen many cases of addictions such as substance abuse for many years, but didn’t know how they could help until they discovered the Celebrate Recovery program.

“There are faith-based recovery groups in all the bigger towns but we had nothing like that in this area,” Reese said. “Chemical abuse is a real problem here so there is a great need for a program like this.”

Celebrate Recovery is an eight-step, Bible-based recovery program for all types of addiction. The program lessons cover a one-year period of time but the individual and his accountability sponsor pace the time it takes to complete the eight recovery steps. Each step is based on scripture found in the Beatitudes.

John Baker, a recovering alcoholic, developed the program and now works as the pastor of Celebrate Recovery at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Saddleback Church is also the home church of “The Purpose Driven Life” founder Rick Warren.

With the enthusiastic blessing of church pastor John Collard and a group of eight leaders, the idea of starting a recovery program here began becoming a reality. The goal will come full circle at 6:30 p.m. on June 16 when the first Celebrate Recovery meeting will be at Abundant Life Church.

The group leaders received training in New Orleans at Celebrate Recovery training seminars and visited churches in Baton Rogue and Monroe, La., and Brandon that had Celebrate Recovery programs.

“We had to go out of town to get training to have this program and to visit established programs but after people graduate from our program they can become leaders and accountability sponsors for someone in our area without having to travel away from Natchez,” Henderson said.

The first step in the program is to “realize I am not God” and admit to being powerless over the addiction. Henderson said this step is the most important to success in recovery.

“A lot of people are in denial about even having an addiction. We have to get to the root of the problem before recovery can begin and a lot of time that is unhealed wounds,” Henderson said. “The old adage ‘time heals all wounds’ isn’t necessarily true.”

Reese agreed, adding that prior to admission of an addiction, God can’t begin the healing process.

“Before God can heal, you have to admit that you have the problem and turn it over to Him,” Reese said.

While other recovery groups are geared specifically toward one addiction or another, the curriculum used in Celebrate Recovery can be used to treat all types of addiction from substance abuse to co-dependency.

“The principles taught here are for any type of hurt, habit or hang-up,” Reese said.

Meetings are divided into three parts. They will begin with a praise and worship time and large group teaching. That is followed by a small group time in which participants are grouped with others suffering from their same addiction. Each meeting will end with a large group time of fellowship and refreshments. The program is open to all members of the community.

Abundant Life Church will host meetings every Monday night beginning June 16. Each meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.

For more information, call the church office at 601-442-0097.

The church is located at 147 Lower Woodville Road in Natchez.