hood abuse, grief and loss … I
worked through all of those areas at
Celebrate Recovery. It was God that
made the difference.”
Celebrate Recovery also hosts
groups specifically for pastors
called Celebrate Pastors in Recov-
ery (CPR), with leaders who are
pastors and have been through
Celebrate Recovery themselves.
After more than three decades of
ministry, Fournier says being a pastor can make you feel like you are
trying to please “500 bosses” on
some days, and the resulting strain
is difficult to face without the support of someone who has been there.
“Often pastors don’t have some-
one in their congregation to talk
to. They are trying to respond to
the expectations of maybe hun-
dreds of people. And because they
are conscientious, there are a lot
of issues related to trying to do the
He says CPR also helps clergy
work through a lot of issues rooted
in denial because “I’m a pastor, I
can’t have those problems.”
Celebrate Recovery also has age-
appropriate components for both
youth and children. Jones refers to
this approach as “precovery,” put-
ting the tools in place to help
young people develop healthy
approaches to life before recovery
“We are giving [the kids] a safe
place to help them understand
what they’re feeling rather than
have them just drifting along.”
Regardless of their stage in life, a
common theme among those in-
volved in Celebrate Recovery is
unexpected self-discovery, perhaps
one of the clues to its longevity. And
it’s what keeps them going back to
support and be supported by others
in the program, says Fournier.
“The level of bonding that occurs
here is a thing of beauty.” /FT
Jeff Dewsbury of Langley, B.C., is a senior
writer at Faith Today.
of denominations from Anglican to
Baptist. Fifteen more are in the
process of starting up.
There are also 19 groups, known
as Celebrate Recovery Inside, that
meet in federal and provincial
prisons. Maria is a 55-year-old who
attended Celebrate Recovery while
serving a three-month prison sentence for fraud, which was the
fallout from an alcohol addiction.
“Celebrate Recovery appealed to
me because it isn’t a traditional,
secular way of looking at recovery,”
she says. “It looked beyond just the
addictions to a lot of other areas of
life. There were a lot of underlying
reasons why alcohol became a
problem for me.”
Maria says she actually attended
Celebrate Recovery first before she
went to prison, but it was when she
was behind bars that the program
had a lasting effect on her.
“When I got arrested, I looked to
it for support, but there weren’t a
lot of people who could relate to
someone who had done what I did,”
she told Faith Today. “I felt comfort-
able being way, way more vulner-
able [at Celebrate Recovery Inside].
We would say, ‘We’re all wearing
green here, so we’re all the same.’
When you’re in jail, you’re all doing
In some cases, inmates will at-
tend prison programs just to get out
of their cell for an hour or two to
break up the monotony of the day.
That wasn’t the case with Celebrate
Recovery, says Maria. The women
were coming back because they
were experiencing healing.
“We were there surrendering.
There was a lot of vulnerability, a
lot of tears. It was very refreshing.”
Before her arrest Maria was a
social worker. She says she was
terrified of walking into prison and
was determined to make restitution
for what she had done, but she
needed help to sort that out.
“I needed to hear from God. Not
out loud, but through experiencing
forgiveness – true forgiveness.
Celebrate Recovery gave me a light
in a dark place. It was a rebirth, a
need to find somewhere where God
will use me and this terrible mis-
take. I got that purpose back.”
Because of her offence Maria
can’t return to social work. She
works as a hairdresser now and also
volunteers at a resource centre in a
local hospital. Her goal is to even-
tually be a peer support person
with Celebrate Recovery to share
her experience with others and
help them through the same kind
of healing she has found.
The organization’s approach to
healing acknowledges the com-plexities of overlapping and intersecting areas of life that contribute
to addictions and hangups.
“I thought my problem was just
my addiction. Then I realized
there were a lot of other areas that
I had to work on,” says 39-year-old
Tammy, a Celebrate Recovery
success story who struggled with
substance abuse for 25 years, and
was in and out of various rehab
programs 14 times.
“Codependency, anger, child-
“It’s the single most effective
ministry I’ve seen in 35 years,”
says retired pastor