A dozen or so people, ranging from their teens to 80s, gathered on a Friday evening on Hilton Head Island for prayer, support and healing.
Among those in attendance were Wanda and Jeff Crutchfield. The Bluffton couple has been attending Celebrate Recovery for the past four years. Jeff helped get the program started.
"I had been looking for something like this for a long time," he said.
Jeff said he was addicted to alcohol and drugs most of his life. In July 2002 he sobered up. He started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. That's when he became a Christian.
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He said something happened after he got to the third step in AA's 12-step program. That step is to give your will and your life to God.
"I didn't want to use anymore," he said. "God had removed that desire to use."
But he said the people at AA weren't comfortable with him talking about being a Christian. And people at church were uncomfortable with him talking about being an alcoholic.
Then he and Pastor Roy Graves went to a Celebrate Recovery training seminar and launched the local group.
"Suddenly there was a place I could be a born-again addict and fit in just fine," he said.
But the group is not only for drug addicts and alcoholics. It's open to anyone who wants to overcome any kind of "hurts, habits and hang-ups," as Celebrate Recovery leaders like to say. People attend the program for all sorts of problems -- from eating disorders and sexual addictions to resentment, bitterness, codependency and more.
Wanda joined the group to conquer codependency. As a child, she was abandoned by her alcoholic father and abused by her caretakers. As an adult, she married and divorced several times. She said she didn't have one healthy relationship. She said she manipulated people her whole life to gain approval.
Then she found Jesus Christ. She started going to Al-Anon and joined Celebrate Recovery.
"It has totally set me free," she said. "Between the love of Christ and this program, I do not have one relationship that I haven't been able to love, accept and forgive."
Ministry leader Graves said the program helps people retrain the way they think and behave.
Every Friday Graves gives a lesson. Then participants break into discussion groups. They return another night of the week to work in individual workbooks.
While their parents are in Celebrate Recovery, the little ones go to Celebration Station, where they get their own lessons.
Graves said it takes about a year to complete the program, and by that time people have identified and dealt with their issues, and set some sort of pattern of overcoming those issues.
But the program encourages people to stay beyond the first year. The final step is to help others get the help they need.
The Bible-based 12-step ministry was created by Saddleback Church in California and is used all over the world. It was the brainchild of Pastor John Baker, who, like Jeff, was an alcoholic and felt he couldn't talk about his struggles at church.
Graves started the local program four years ago out of concern for people struggling with a variety of issues. After retiring as pastor of Grace Community Church in 2011, he launched the nonprofit organization Life Choice, which provides Christian counseling, pastor-to-pastor advising, a Bible study and Celebrate Recovery.
"During pastoring, I saw people who had issues dating back 15 to 20 years," Graves said. "Even though they were in church every Sunday, they were still hung up with anger or bitterness or resentment or alcohol. ... Whatever your hang-up is, we talk about it and hopefully do something about it."
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