Clean and sober since Sept. 5, 1989, the 45-year-old former all-area linebacker was introduced to methamphetamine, cocaine and alcohol at 16. As Parker’s undersized 5’10” frame later proved to be a disadvantage on Georgia Southwestern State University’s gridiron, he transitioned from being a casual user to a habitual violator with three driving under the influence arrests by age 19.
Having turned his life around through treatment and attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, Parker is sharing his journey with others facing similar battles at NorthPointe Church’s Celebrate Recovery ministry. Along with serving as the men’s ministry leader, he also oversees one of the program’s small group sessions.
“In these small groups, there’s times when I just weep because we create an environment that is confidential and we ensure all the men and women [are] in a safe place,” said Parker, who initiated a previous small scale Celebrate Recovery program at NorthPointe Church in 2003. “What that means is we protect their anonymity and confidentiality, which means what’s said there, stays there and who you see, stays there. ... [They will] let down that guard and for the first time start talking about the real issues, the root of why he’s been doing what he’s doing and start to get some hope because it’s not necessarily stuff he’d talk about with his wife or his family.
“... There’s a lot of pride and ego, but when that gets broke down in small groups is when I hear guys share from the heart or share what the Lord’s [done] for them or even share something that they’re struggling for and how grateful they are just to be [surrounded by] a group of other men that are not going to judge them, not going to go run tell somebody, but will pray for them. ... Those are the best moments for me by far because God gets the glory. I feel like when somebody else is helped and they feel like we’re helping them, things are getting better or they’re figuring out how to survive this hard time in their life and they’ve developed that one-on-one relationship with Christ — that’s the best part for me.”
A biblical 12-step program, Celebrate Recovery was created by Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., more than 20 years ago with 43 people. Today, the Christ-centered offering is presented in more than 20,000 churches across the globe, with its curriculum being followed in 23 languages.
Reintroduced on a larger scale at NorthPointe Church — 30 Orchard Road in Adairsville — 14 months ago, Celebrate Recovery is under the direction of Kitty Hesdorff and is assisting nearly 100 people in northwest Georgia with its various complimentary components.
In addition to a 12-step program later in the week, every Monday NorthPointe Church’s Celebrate Recovery features Cross Talk Cafe at 6 p.m., Large Group Worship at 7 p.m. and Small Group at 8 p.m. During its small group offerings, participants are separated by gender and then enter one session that is tailored specifically to their needs, such as chemical addiction, grief and loss, codependency and emotional issues. On Monday, Celebrate Recovery also contains two programs for youth: Celebration Station for ages 4 to 12 and The Landing, which serves 13- to 17-year-olds.
“Celebrate Recovery is not about falling down,” Hesdorff said. “It’s about feeling worthy again. Everybody that comes through the doors — no matter what their issue, no matter what their addiction — they have low self-esteem. So we want them to feel worthy of what God did for them and see themselves as he sees them.”
“... The first time they walk through the door, we want them to feel welcome. ... Not judged, but loved. For too many years, our churches have judged and they haven’t felt comfortable and now they find a place they can come and take off their mask and be who they are. Half of them in recovery are middle class, professional people. They have found a place that they can be honest with themselves and not be afraid.”
For Hesdorff, there are four factors that set Celebrate Recovery apart from other recovery programs. In addition to emphasizing each person’s recovery deals with multiple issues, the program also looks to God for guidance, examines the root of one’s behavior and produces lay ministers, which in turn help others in Celebrate Recovery.
“A person in another recovery program would say, ‘I’m John Smith and I’m an alcoholic,’” Hesdorff said. “In Celebrate Recovery, he would say, ‘I’m John Smith and I’m a grateful believer in the one who can help me. I’m a grateful believer in God and I struggle with alcohol.’ ... We have discovered that the meth isn’t the problem, that alcohol is not the problem.
“In our 12-step program, we get to the root of what made them want to do destructive behavior to themselves. By the time they’re finished with our 12-step program, the root is gone and they’re healed and immediately they don’t want to go anywhere. They want to turn around and help others that are in the same place they were. So you see, it’s a domino effect. ... [For example, one woman] was in for emotional healing and now that she’s received it and gone through the steps, she’s leading younger women with emotional problems. It is incredible. ... I really with all my heart feel like that this place is a beacon of hope for our community, not just Bartow County but the other surrounding counties [as well].”
A certified court-ordered recovery program, Celebrate Recovery has caught the attention of those associated with the Cherokee Circuit Drug Court, an intensive out-patient drug intervention program.
“Celebrate Recovery focuses on working on your addiction problems with the help of your higher power,” said Superior Court Judge Scott Smith, who presides over the Cherokee Circuit Drug Court. “Now NA/AA sort of focus on a 12-step process that’s very similar to that but those organizations don’t necessarily designate a higher power.
“… I think these types of programs build strength with an individual who’s working on addiction and trying to overcome that by showing them that there is hope and by establishing strength in numbers with the number of folks who are also present in the program and working on a curriculum that tries to build on the strength of a group. You find identity and you find strength in the struggles of others, so that you know that you’re not alone in this process. Celebrate Recovery focuses on showing you that there is a redemption from this lifestyle and that you can become positive in all aspects of your life, including your faith.”
Along with Celebrate Recovery’s overall program, Scott also is intrigued with the way it embraces the children of those who are battling addiction.
“I know that my Drug Court Coordinator Melissa Knight has referred several of our participants to their program,” Smith said. “Most of these folks have young children and children don’t understand what’s going on sometimes with parents who are in this struggle. I think this program that they’re starting that helps kids of people with addiction will really help the young folks who are having to live through this process with their parents.”
Having witnessed the program’s success firsthand, Parker feels blessed to be a part of Celebrate Recovery’s ability to help improve the course of a person’s life.
“It’s my purpose. It’s absolutely what God meant for me to do,” Parker said. “At one time in my life I would tell you that I was meant to be a good dad. I was meant to be a home builder — I would have [done] it for free, I loved it that much. ... [Now] I would tell you that it is to help someone else that’s struggling with chemical dependency and/or depression, anger, [and other issues] because we’re so much bigger [than just] chemical dependency. Our slogan at Celebrate Recovery is freedom from our hurts, [hang-ups and habits] and it’s also freedom from our pasts.
“... I think a lot of folks [who] are not familiar with recovery think, ‘Oh God, just come take this away.’ Or even those that don’t have a relationship with God to some degree if they’re suffering either from depression or chemical dependency feel like, ‘I’m just going to keep praying, you just come take this thing away.’ And what God’s waiting on is for us to reach up, is for us to say, ‘Hey, I can’t do this on my own anymore. I need help.’ As soon as we take action, that’s when I think he puts people, places and things in our path. The hope is you can recover, you can change.”
For more information on Celebrate Recovery, visit www.northpointechurch.com or contact Hesdorff at 404-642-3605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.