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Celebrate Recovery

Testimony: The Change Starts With Me

By Charlie

I’m a follower of Christ in recovery from alcoholism, codependency, lust, and the lingering effects of racial trauma. My name is Charlie.

Situations or people did not make me an alcoholic or codependent. However, they made me nervous, uneasy, and desirous of comfort. My thinking led me to believe I had some power over people, places, and things. I believed a drink or a relationship would provide the needed ease and comfort.

I grew up in a wonderful East Coast University city surrounded by supportive family and friends. I was never in need. I maintained relationships with a host of diverse friends from high school and college. Though my city was relatively ok, surrounding cities were not always as welcoming. In school, I was taught the Bill of Rights. My experience had me questioning that document. Coupled with the usual concerns of youth, acne, dances, crushes, and homework, I was getting uncomfortable and confused. From the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, the 16th St Baptist Church bombing, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Bloody Sunday, and the murder of Fred Hampton in 1969—I’ve been confused for a long time. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “This had become, ‘the land of the tree and the home of the grave.’” From the age of 8 to my now 75 years, I have bounced between hope, joy, pride, confidence, distrust, disappointment, fear, and anger—and suppressed much of it. And I drank over it.

I drank for 26 years, starting at 15, first for fun and to be part of the crowd. By 1987, my drinking had worsened dramatically. It wasn’t daily, but I knew it was a problem. Yet, I couldn’t tell anyone. I thought, “I’ll die from this or worse—I’ll continue living like this.”

That year I accepted Christ as my Savior—still drinking while thinking and hoping God would be my celestial Santa Claus and strike me sober.

In 1988, I was asked about an opportunity at work that I truly desired. I told myself I wouldn’t drink and yet did. I had no defense. I had reached what I hoped was my bottom. Nothing dramatic. No car chases. No gun fights or standoffs with police. Rather, I realized I had a problem I couldn’t handle on my own and believed that Christ could help if I let him. So, I asked for help. I asked him to be the Lord of my life.

July 10, 1988, was my start on the road to recovery. Relying on his power and my willingness to work the practical plan of action laid out in the steps, I haven’t found it necessary to drink or do drugs since that day. My daughter was born in May of 1989. However, in the late winter of 1990, my wife left our marriage with my daughter and stepson. I ran to a meeting, and a white policeman in recovery said, “you’re in the fire.” I immediately envisioned the three Hebrew boys in the Book of Daniel and realized I was not alone. My sponsor told me, “You’ve hurt them, now love them—no matter what.” And I didn’t even want to drink.

I love the steps, the principles, and the guidelines of CR. They work in concert. I work them in community. The steps say “we,” so we recognize others have gone before us and that we are not alone. The guidelines affirm the requirement of anonymity and confidentiality and the notion we are here to work on ourselves. The change starts with me. I admitted I was powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors, and my life had become unmanageable. I came to believe that God could restore me to sanity—not IN God but THAT God… a new understanding. I made a decision. The evidence of that decision is me repeatedly taking steps 4-12 as a way of life in all my affairs. I have found freedom. I know who I am, and I know whose I am.

I took an inventory of myself and was as searching and fearless as possible. Resentments were easy. I know who and what ticked me off. Harms? I have a pretty good idea of who I consciously hurt. Fear is a different animal. I was taught in many ways never to acknowledge fear, yet a hundred forms of it drive us. Am I going to lose something I have or not get something I want? How do I react to that thinking? Do I step on someone’s toes yet hold them accountable when they retaliate?

“Search me, God, and know my heart;  test me (Psalm 139:23 NIV).

I admitted to God, myself, and another the exact nature of my wrongs. Not just the wrong, but the thinking behind the wrong—the instinct or inherent tendency. I learned to take every thought captive, to be transformed by renewing my mind. My thinking can’t be transformed when I am unwilling or unable to look at it honestly. I was ready to have God remove ALL these defects of character. I made a list of all people I had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. I made direct amends whenever possible, keeping in mind to do no further harm. Whenever I finished an amend, I asked, “Did I miss anything? Did I harm you in any way that I have not listed?” Then I listened; no rationalizations or justifications allowed.

I would love to be judged by my intentions, but my actions judge me. So I will continue doing the steps daily for the rest of my life. I have learned and continue to learn to live in sobriety and society. Because of the spiritual awakening experienced as THE result of these steps, I try to carry this message to others and practice these principles all the time and everywhere with everyone. I have learned how to address feelings rather than avoid them, though it sometimes takes a while to sort them out. I have the tools to do this work; my relationship with Christ, 12 Steps, 8 Principles, the Guidelines—and just as importantly—a fellowship of men and women who can identify with the feelings if not the experiences. And a safe place to do so.


If you would like to learn how to start your own Celebrate Recovery ministry, to contact your Celebrate Recovery Rep, please visit: To get involved in an already existing Celebrate Recovery ministry near you, please visit:

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