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Celebrating Recovery

12-step programs help you overcome more than just chemical addictions—they illuminate the importance of confession and healing in Christian community

Celebrate Recovery, a popular Christian 12-step program in many churches, factors prominently in the movie Home Run. As executive producer of this film, I wanted to understand what the recovery process is like, so my staff and I joined a Celebrate Recovery group during the filming of Home Run.

I've never had a chemical addiction, I've never used drugs, I've never smoked, and I've never struggled with alcohol, so I wasn't sure how much recovery I'd have to celebrate. As we worked our way through the steps, though, I quickly discovered the escapist behaviors I was engaging in that were keeping me from living fully. I might not use cocaine or bourbon, but I might shop, eat, lose myself on Facebook, or watch endless hours of television as a way to anesthetize my hurt, anxiety, and pain.

Lessons learned

Learning to tell the truth about my struggles was the biggest hurdle for me. I realized how often I unintentionally put on a veneer for others. I may look put together on the outside, while inside I'm struggling.

When I go to church and sit next to a woman wearing a cute outfit, I think, I could never tell her how I'm struggling, because she obviously doesn't struggle.

We isolate ourselves, even in church pews, and feel alone. I think that's a great lie of Satan: you're alone, nobody else has done that thing or had that thought or made that horrible decision. Just you—nobody in this church would understand or like you or approve of you if they knew your secret.

I want to bust open that lie. We all have secret places and dark spots in our lives, especially the older we get. But God wants to shine a bright light on those spaces to free us from the shame. Then he wants to take our secret shame and make it a redeeming beacon of hope for people who are having the same struggle. Satan would love to keep us in our solitary confinement where we say to ourselves, This is just the way it's going to be for the rest of my life. I will go to my grave with this secret, because no one would ever understand. Shame is such a huge weight to bear.

Finding help

The irony is that all of us who have answered an altar call and accepted Jesus as our Savior still have histories and habits that need to be transformed. Our stumbling blocks don't miraculously disappear the day we come to Christ. We need to seek out help for our healing.

Before you open yourself up to others though, it's wise to do so in a safe environment. It's one thing to let somebody in and see your hurt, but it's quite another to receive constructive help to get to the next level. It's not helpful to have a bunch of people being open and honest with each other, and then just bleeding to death on the carpet, emotionally speaking. You want them to be safe and in a place where they can be quickly bandaged and cleaned up.

Three things I'd encourage women to seek for healing:

  1. Know you're not alone. Everyone struggles, and no one you're looking at is perfect. Everybody struggles.
  2. Find an authentic relationship, and challenge yourself with deeper, honest relationships. Try opening up about your true feelings, and not acting like you always have it all together.
  3. Find Celebrate Recovery. If you don't have one at your church, attend Celebrate Recovery at another church. No matter what church tradition or denomination you're part of, Celebrate Recovery unites people around their brokenness and helps them find life based on God's truth in the Bible.

The process of healing

Sometimes God chooses to heal a broken arm with the laying on of hands. More often though, healing comes when a doctor sets the bone, and we endure the inconvenience and discomfort of being in a cast for several weeks as the bone re-grows. Physical healing is a process. So is emotional healing. Celebrate Recovery takes you through the process of uncovering the wound, looking at the wound, putting a cast on it while it's weak to keep it from re-breaking, and then finally, moving forward with new growth.

Bringing stories to life

I asked the Celebrate Recovery founders if I could use their curriculum in Home Run because I wanted to show how the telling of people's stories can reveal God to us in a way that influences our own story. When you tell me how God worked with you in your weak places or your broken places, it speaks to me. Your story helps me in my relationship with the Lord. Likewise, when I get honest and share my own struggles with you, hopefully you receive a little healing for your own wounds. Sharing stories and helping each other recover from our brokenness—now that's something to celebrate.

Carol Mathews is executive producer of the feature film Home Run the Movie, which released in April 2013. Read more from Carol on the TCW blog, and find out more ideas for women's ministry in the TCW store.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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