Celebrate Recovery 25th Anniversary


Recovery from addiction through religious experience has a long history. In 2005, Dr. David Whiters and I published a paper on the historical roots of faith-based recovery in the United States, in which we reviewed abstinence-based religious and cultural revitalization movements within Native American tribes, the rise of nineteenth-century urban missions (e.g., the Salvation Army) and inebriate colonies (e.g., Keswick Colony of Mercy), the Emmanuel Movement, and the later development of such recovery mutual aid groups as Alcoholics Victorious, the Calix Society, Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent People and Significant Others, Millati Islami, Overcomers Outreach, Liontamers Anonymous, Mountain Movers, Free N' One, and Victorious Lady. Also reviewed were early faith-based treatment communities and sober-living environments such as Samaritan Halfway Society, Exodus House, Teen Challenge, and Village Haven.

One of the most significant developments within the history of faith-based addiction recovery was the founding of Celebrate Recovery (CR) in 2001 by John Baker at the California-based Saddleback Church. Since then, CR has been integrated into tens of thousands of church communities, and more than 2.5 million people have completed the CR program?a program of recovery based on Twelve Steps (Christianized adaptations of AA's Twelve Steps) and Eight Principles (drawn from Jesus? Sermon on the Mount).

In our 2005 review, David and I noted that religious pathways of addiction recovery share much in common, including:

*a religious interpretation of the roots of addiction as sin,

*the personification of drugs and intoxication as "Satan's handiwork",

*a rationale for restraint and radical abstinence,

*transcendence of self as the path to recovery,

*reconstruction of personal identity, values, and interpersonal relationships,

*disengagement from toxic relationships and rituals,

*rituals of self-inventory, confession, self-forgiveness, acts of restitution, and acts of service, and

*enmeshment in a community of shared belief.

Dialogue among those representing religious, spiritual, and secular frameworks of addiction recovery is needed. In our earlier review, David and I suggested that such dialogue could be built on eight propositions.

1) There are many viable pathways and styles of addiction recovery.

2) Religious experience can serve as a powerful catalyst of recovery initiation for some people.

3) Religious beliefs, religious rituals, and supportive relationships within a faith community can serve as a framework of recovery maintenance.

4) Recovery pathways (religious, spiritual, secular) vary across developmental age and gender and between and within various ethnic communities.

5) The recovery and regeneration of people formally addicted to alcohol and other drugs is cause for celebration, regardless of the medium of such recovery.

6) Recovery from addiction is a complex process, often involving physical, psychological, social, cultural, and spiritual/ontological (the meaning of existence) dimensions.

7) Addiction recovery often requires the involvement of multiple disciplines and service practitioners, each of which is ethically mandated to practice within, and only within, the boundaries of their education, training, and experience.

8) Addiction treatment is best conducted out of respect for, and within, the cultural and religious heritage and the personal belief system that each client brings to the service environment.

On July 13-15, 2016 and August 10-12, 2016, Celebrate Recovery will host its Summit East and Summit West meetings to commemorate CR's 25th anniversary. Congratulations to CR on this important milestone within its history and within the larger history of addiction recovery. For those unfamiliar with CR, I encourage you to explore the CR website by clicking HERE.