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Celebrate Recovery

Written by Ann Wilkos

If you have talked to me before, there is a good chance I’ve mentioned one of the ministries I’m very passionate about: Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate Recovery takes the same 12 steps that work so well in organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, but it’s different from those programs in the following 6 ways.

  1. Celebrate Recovery is based on God’s Word, The Bible.

  2. Celebrate Recovery is forward-looking.

  3. Celebrate Recovery emphasizes personal responsibility.

  4. Celebrate Recovery emphasizes spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ.

  5. Celebrate Recovery utilizes the biblical truth that we need each other in order to grow spiritually and emotionally.

  6. Celebrate Recovery addresses ALL types of hurts, hang ups, and habits. It is a “large umbrella” program under which a limitless number of issues can be dealt with. Only 1/3 of participants are dealing with alcohol or drugs.

The saying goes “time heals all wounds”. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The truth is time usually makes things worse. Wounds left unattended tend to fester and spread infection. That infection can present itself in many ways. It can explode in anger at unsuspecting loved ones, anxiety about the future, feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, and depression. We can try to numb the pain with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, and a host of other things. Some of these numbing techniques are not bad things-I used to scrub my house clean-but when used as a drug to numb pain, it distracts from God’s desire to heal our pain.

When I first stepped foot in a Celebrate Recovery meeting it was because I had seen an email asking for volunteers to serve others. I thought, I am going to help “those people”. We were halfway through that first meeting when I realized I am “those people”!

In addition to the 12 steps, Pastor Rick Warren added 8 principles based on Jesus’ teaching on the beatitudes in Matthew 5. These principles made a deep impact on me. When I heard “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor,” I realized I had been in denial and numbing my pain for so long I couldn’t see that there were festering wounds in my soul. All I could do at this time was to step out of denial and into Christ’s marvelous light.

When I heard “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted,” I had to decide that, even though I have always believed in God, was I willing to give Him complete control of my life? Could I trust that He is able to clean up the mess I had made trying to be in control myself?

The principle based on the verse “happy are the meek,” encouraged me to “openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.”

Honestly, I would have preferred to skip the step inspired by the verse “happy are the pure in heart.” This is where I looked at my pain instead of pretending it wasn’t there. This is where I recognized my character flaws and where I had hurt others. Who wants to admit that they are not all that? Once I recognized where I was failing God, myself, and the people around me, I had no problem with the principle that asked me to “Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects” I want to be who God has called me to be so, yes, take away all the mess! “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.”

I was also asked to evaluate my relationships, offer forgiveness, and make amends where possible. “Happy are the merciful. Happy are the peacemakers.” Next, I promised to make daily time with God for Bible reading and self-examination a priority. Then I yielded myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others. “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires”

The last of the principles and steps are lived out for the rest of life. I have gotten the floor of my heart clean, and I want to keep it that way. It was during that daily self-examination that I recognized quite a large amount of gunk in a closet of my heart that we must have missed the first time I went through the step study. It must get dealt with, so I am going through the steps again. It’s a lengthy process and a huge commitment of time but it is so worth it when God cleans out all the infection and makes me well, whole. I don’t hide from my pain. I don’t numb it with exhaustive cleaning or overeating. I don’t explode on my husband or my children.

Some folks are in recovery a short time and then move on with clean lives to serve Christ in all the ways that He has called them to. He has a purpose for us all. “I am sure that God who began the good work within you will keep right on helping you grow in His grace until His task within you is finally finished on the that day when Jesus Christ returns.” (Philippians 1:6). Others of us are “lifers” in recovery—until that day when MY Jesus returns.

Thank you for letting me share how God has used Celebrate Recovery in my life. If you would like to learn more about how you can be involved, please contact me ( I would love to talk with you.

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