A couple of years ago, a well-respected, spiritually mature friend told me I needed to go to Celebrate Recovery. And she was serious! I thought she was crazy. Surely she grossly misunderstood my situation. After all, I wasn’t an addict. I couldn’t possibly need recovery. I ignored her suggestion and continued the insanity cycle—doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
I had been doing it for a long time: masking pain, coping with the shame of my past in unhealthy ways and trying to survive a sexually dysfunctional marriage.
It wasn’t working.
On the outside, people saw the polished Christina—supermom to four little kids, entrepreneur, godly wife and leader. But they didn’t see what was silently killing me. My marriage felt helpless and hopeless, and the shame of my past decisions was crippling me spiritually and emotionally.
I couldn’t forgive myself or get over some of the baggage I was carrying. Desperate and not knowing where to turn, I soon realized I could no longer carry it on my own. But where could I turn? Who do I share these embarrassing issues with? Church?
If we’re honest, most churches seem more like a place to parade our spiritual resumes than to declare our weaknesses
Most churches maybe. But not all churches.
A Surprising Place to Heal
Within five minutes of my first visit to Celebrate Recovery at The Rock, ministry leader Ray Hutchison’s voice boomed through the microphone, “This is a safe place. You can take your masks off here. We’re all messed up, every single one of us.”
I sat there, a bit stunned; church had never felt like a safe place.
I mean, deep down, we all know we’re messed up. We have struggles and hurts we don’t really like to acknowledge, much less talk about. But why is it the norm for Christians to not talk about struggles and sin?
I was raised in the church, and most of my childhood memories involved church services, vacation bible school and youth camps; but that first night at CR, I saw authenticity for the first time within church walls. I was intrigued by it—and a little concerned about it.
The leaders introduced themselves by telling us what God had helped them recover from and what they were still struggling with. They were transparent and unguarded, yet they seemed to have no shame in admitting their struggles. It was strange to hear someone admit they struggle with anger, pride or lust—especially a pastor.
Church leaders have always felt a little less human than the rest of us.
I went back the next week and every week thereafter. I mostly observed at small group, sharing only on surface level about my week. I was too afraid to tell anyone why I was really there. I saw others be vulnerable and transparent and never even thought to judge them; I was impressed with, and also envious of, their honesty.
Yet, I felt if people knew who I really was, if people understood what I was struggling with, they would hate me. If people knew my husband had a pornography habit, they would think differently of our family. Satan had lied to me—he’s really good at that—and kept me in a prison of shame; consequently, I didn’t allow anyone to really know me.
A Secret Freedom
Over time, I witnessed others getting free, and I saw confession and honesty were key ingredients of the process. I fell in love with the genuine authenticity of the people at CR, and they began to feel like family.
I joined Celebrate Recovery’s 12-step program and completed the weekly studies. My burden lightened as other women walked through the tough issues with me. Those women became sisters.
But one thing remained—my pride.
Throughout the entire process, I didn’t want anyone from my home church to know I was involved in CR. I didn’t want them to assume I was an addict or something, so I secretly went to these meetings every Friday night.
When I graduated the 12-step program, I received a CR shirt. I threw it away and told my husband, “I’ll never wear that thing.”
The recovery process had forever changed my life, but I didn’t want to be labeled. I was comfortable being authentic at Celebrate Recovery, but I put that church mask back on as soon as I exited those doors.
Then I found myself in a scary place. My husband and I were on the brink of divorce. We tried to handle it on our own, and we failed. Repeatedly. I could no longer handle his pornography addiction as a part of our marriage, and I asked for a separation.
The next week, my husband showed up to CR. I never saw it coming.
Curtis had been blindsided by our separation, and he was desperate to save our marriage. He had no one to talk to at our home church, and to make matters worse, the whole pornography addiction thing was somewhat embarrassing. At Celebrate Recovery, he found a safe place where, for the first time in his life, he could confess and find the freedom that happens when darkness meets light.
We were only separated for 40 days, but with young kids involved it was painful, dramatic, and it felt much longer.
The restoration of our marriage has been a process, and it hasn’t always moved perfectly forward. There have been tears and moments where we wondered if we would make it or if it was even worth the fight. But the principles of truth, confession and forgiveness we learned at CR freed us.
It’s for Me (And for You)
Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for addicts.
It’s for people who’ve been hurt. It’s for people who’ve hurt others.
It’s for people who are crippled by depression, anxiety, sexual addictions, shame, eating disorders or other habits that are hard to kick.
It’s for those who feel judged by the church, and it’s for those who don’t think they have problems.
It’s for people who wear masks.
It’s for those who crave authentic fellowship and for those who feel isolated.
It is for people who realize they can’t save themselves. Every Friday night you’ll hear our leader say, “I’m messed up. We’re all messed up.”
Celebrate Recovery is where people are set free, and where God begins to craft messages of hope and restoration out of people’s messes.
It’s for people like me, and people like you.