Faith-based program helps recovering addicts in East Tennessee


A faith-based program that addresses addictions and dysfunctional behavior is reaching many people in East Tennessee. It’s called Celebrate Recovery and the emphasis is on healing.

Sometimes people turn to faith when everything else seems to have failed. Christianity provides a total life commitment. That’s also a term counseling experts use to help their clients overcome addiction. The faith-based program Celebrate Recovery strives to change a troubled person’s social network while at the same time providing a non-judgmental support network.

The two-hour program held every Tuesday night at Fountain City United Methodist Church begins with prayer.

For the first hour, the program is filled with music. For many, the journey from darkness to light begins with worship in the church gymnasium. A founding principle of the faith-based program is that there is no problem too great or small for God and the Bible holds the key to change.

“There is a power greater than yourself that can help you recover and heal your hurts,” said ministry leader Seth Charles.

Charles was lost himself at one time.

“What I have found in my walk of my life is the piece that was missing,” he said. “The faith part. The power of Christ to do what I could not do for myself. Being able to share your hurts, what’s going on in your life, with other people who are in similar situations as you, there’s healing in that.”

Open share groups address dependency issues for men and women. There are half a dozen group meetings with the emphasis on healing habits, hang-ups and hurts. Sessions are also held on Saturdays. 

Senior Pastor Tom Ballard leads the large group gathering through the 12-step program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous. Celebrate Recovery adds the element of a caring God to help heal people suffering from their addictions or abuse.

“I ran my life into the ground looking for an escape for life in general. Filled with drugs and anything I could find to take the pain away,” said Donna, a Celebrate Recovery staff member.

“I had gotten terribly lost in alcoholism. I lost everything my family, my home, my job, everything,” said Denise, a counselor.

These women participated in the program at one time and now counsel newcomers.

“It has helped me see people with addiction in a different light. It’s also helped me parent my children to the best of my ability and help me lead them to God,” said Joy, another counselor.

“Through this program, I have learned to love myself again. I have reconciled my relationship with my family with the Lord,” said Denise.

“It’s not what you do, it’s why you do what you do,” said Associate Pastor John Gargis.

Gargis encourages everyone to put their trust in a higher power through a brief weekly message. 

During the second hour, everyone moves to their individual gender-specific group sessions where they will share their struggles and joys behind closed doors. The fear of being judged is not a part of Celebrate Recovery. For many, there’s a peace they didn’t have before.  

“I am ecstatic I am here. My life is totally different today. There is hope when I get out of bed. There is a purpose today,” said Denise.

The message is clear: There is a way out. Thousands have found it through Celebrate Recovery at various churches around East Tennessee. 

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