A Different Slant on 12-Steps: Celebrate Recovery

Did you know that there is a Christian version of the 12 step programs?  I know them quite well because I used to facilitate groups for women with eating disorders at these groups.  However, I recently went to Celebrate Recovery that I am not familiar with because a friend, who is not a Christian, wanted to try out a group like this. I decided that this was a good opportunity for some research, so I purposely went to this meeting, where nobody knew me, with the intention of viewing it through the eyes of an outsider. I wanted to better relate to clients and friends, who struggle with addiction, and need to go to a group like this for the first time. 

From the minute we stepped foot in the door friendly people were greeting us and getting us signed up. Newcomers were escorted into the meeting hall and introduced to the leader of the newcomers’ group. They explained that the newcomers’ group was the only open group that welcomed new members all year round. The the other groups typically closed after the second meeting for the sake of unity and safety.

The meeting was quite long as it ran from 6-9 pm. It started with a buffet style dinner where people sat around tables and talked. Most people seemed to enjoy this time of fellowship. However, my friend and I felt awkward trying to eat and talk with people we just met. I never realized that this could be a scary part for many people coming for the first time.

The second part of the meeting could indeed be uncomfortable if you never attended church before. At this point, the tables were cleared, and the meeting turned into a full-blown worship service. There was a lively band, and people were now standing, singing, and lifting their hands, all of which could be very awkward for a visitor.

After the time of worship, a pastor came up to a small podium and read the 8 Recovery Principles of Celebrate Recovery, based on the Beatitudes, by Pastor Rick Warren. The 12 steps for addiction recovery ,and their Biblical comparisons, were printed on the brochure but not read. Next, the pastor gave a short sermon followed by testimony of a guy who had been delivered from porn addiction through his relationship with Jesus and attending Celebrate Recovery. Lots of clapping and hallelujahs ensued, and I wondered again, probably for the first time, how weird all this must feel to someone who is not familiar with the Charismatic way of doing things.

After the hour-long meeting, the pastor introduced the various leaders of groups as they lead their members to a classroom. We left with the newcomers’ group and was surprised at the number of people who came for the first time. Upon being asked about their experience of the evening so far, most of them expressed that it was “great and spirit-filled” which lead me to assume that they were mostly churchgoers. The group leader was warm and welcoming, and I could see that everybody enjoyed this part of just talking and being real, which caused me to relax as well.

On the way home my friend told me that she really enjoyed it, even though it was weird at first. Upon asking if she would like to attend again, she said that she was not sure.

I will always have a special place in my heart for Celebrate Recovery because I heard so many testimonies over the years of people who found help for various forms of addiction. I also personally experienced and observed the healing work that can occur inside these groups. However, I will be more careful in the future to recommend Celebrate Recovery to clients, at least not without first warning them that things may get a tad weird if they are not used to it.

That said, if you are a Christian, who struggle with an addiction, you may find these kind of meetings extremely helpful. Support and faith can be a powerful combination to aid people on their journey to sobriety and especially in preventing relapse. Don’t try to do it alone, it’s simply too difficult, and part of the healing lies in discovering that you are not the only one who struggles with this issue. You can find Celebrate Recovery groups online, they are most often hosted at churches, and many of them also offer classes on other topics such as parenting, marriage, healing from abuse, and many more. 

Contact me if you need individual counseling for addiction or other related issues such as depression or trauma. I have experience in this field and would be honored to help, but be sure to also add a support group like this to your individual counseling, it comes highly recommended for any form of addiction, and it is for the most part free.