SPRING HILL — If you need a safe place to "get real" about your hurts, habits and hangups, three local churches say they can help. Each offers the Celebrate Recovery program, designed to help people who are having difficulty coping with life.
Christian Church in the Wildwood in Weeki Wachee and First Baptist Church in Spring Hill offer the program to adult men and women.
Northcliffe Baptist Church also uses the Celebrate Recovery curriculum to help men and women. Their program is called Road to Recovery. All three churches offer anonymity to those who enter the program.
Steve Celinski, 56, minister of outreach and director for the recovery ministry at Northcliffe Baptist, says providing a safe place for hurting people is of utmost importance.
"There is a trust factor," he said. "It's very confidential. We never embarrass anybody. We're just trying to help people."
The curriculum for Celebrate Recovery originated at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., 16 years ago when one of its members, John Baker, wanted to find a men's group where he could share his experiences in overcoming an addiction to alcohol. Unable to find one that was Christ-centered and that would welcome in-depth personal testimonies, Baker's pastor encouraged him to start his own group.
Using as his foundation a series of messages given by his pastor, Baker developed a program that would not only minister to those with alcohol addiction but would provide help and support for people with eating disorders, those struggling with sexual addictions and sex abuse issues, those dealing with anger, depression or financial difficulty, people who were co-dependents; in short, it was for anyone with any kind of hurt, hangup or habit.
The program proved to be a success and has since been adopted by more than 10,000 churches throughout the United States and Canada. More than 500,000 individuals have completed the program, which is based on eight principles and 12 steps.
Celinski says it has helped him with his own recovery.
"I got sober in New York in 1985 in a 12-step program," he said. "I would make 90 meetings in 90 days. I really wanted to get sober and turn my life around."
Celebrate Recovery, Celinski said, offers something more than the other program.
"We're a Christ-centered program," he explained. "We point people to the Lord. All addictions are a symptom of a bigger problem. To have any meaningful recovery, I believe that we need to turn our life and our will over to the care of Jesus Christ. I think that is oh-so-important in recovery to realize that you are powerless over your addiction and come to believe that a power greater than yourself, which for us is Jesus Christ, can restore us to sanity."
At a typical meeting a newcomer is greeted and welcomed at the door and given a name tag with just a first name.
"We have an opening time where we'll share what the program's about," Celinski said about the two-hour Thursday night group meeting. "We'll read the steps of recovery and then we'll either have a teaching or a testimony time. After that, we break up into small groups. At the Monday men's meeting and Tuesday ladies' meeting, we have a one-hour group and we get into talking about the steps to recovery and working them in your own life so you can experience that change."
A good time to learn more about the program would be at the celebration of the group's second anniversary at 7 p.m. June 5 in the church fellowship hall.
"We have a recovery barbecue once every other month, so we're going to couple that with the anniversary," he said. "Dave Boyer [Christian recording artist] will be there. It's open to everyone."
There is a $3 suggested donation for the event.
"If you don't have the money, we don't worry about it," Celinski said. "The idea is to get people into recovery and to get to know about the program and that it's for everyone."
Celinski said it's not easy for people to step out and get help. About 40 people from his church attend the meetings. He wishes more would come.
"Denial is a big issue. In this day and age, people want instant results. They want the quick fix. The thing is, it takes time. It took us a long time to get into the predicaments that we're in. It's going to take a little time.
"The 12-steps are something that I practice every day of my life. But in actuality, it's part of being a Christian and a minister. It's part of the sanctification process. It's part of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It's part of being a disciple. It's an ongoing process."