Celebrate Recovery: Destin Life Center supports community with outreach

Savannah Chastain
From left, David Thompson, B.J. Carpenter, Susan Arnold, and Ken Gay meet with about 30 others every week through Destin United Methodist Church program, Celebrate Recovery.

Destin United Methodist Church has long supported the community with its Destin Life Center and its various outreach programs, and one program that is often overlooked is Celebrate Recovery (CR).

“People hear recovery and automatically think alcohol or drugs, but all of us have some kind of ditch we’re in,” said CR leader and pastor, David Thompson.

Thompson explained that CR is focused on three main aspects, hurts, hang-ups and habits, and the program is for those suffering any life issue.

“Christ dealt with folks with hurts, hang-ups and habits; this is a rubber-meets-the-road type ministry. Here we hope you feel safe enough to say, ‘I’m just like you, I don’t want to do it alone, I don’t have to do it alone.’”

B.J. Carpenter has been participating in the CR program for three years and said it really helped change his life around.

“When I first started I was desperate for change but couldn’t seem to get any substantial power to change,” he said. “Five or six years ago I was invited Celebrate Recovery, and saw that people had something I wanted. I saw the same faces every week and they were happy, at peace and had stability.”

Carpenter said that through CR, he has clung to faith instead of failure.

“In Celebrate Recovery the seeds of faith have sprung up and led me to seek the Lord more, that’s really what it’s all about,” he said.  

Susan Arnold, a participant and CR leader gave the run-down of the weekly meeting.

“We meet every Monday night regardless of holidays or the weather,” she said. “The evening is separated into two hour-long segments.”

First on the nightly agenda is an optional for-donation meal.

“We like them to be able to come straight here from work and have a meal with their children,” said Arnold, adding that free childcare is provided after the meal for the duration of the program.

Celebrate Recovery begins with a musical worship service followed by a chip ceremony. During the chip ceremony, participants are awarded with poker-like chips that represent anywhere from 30 days, to 30 years of successfully overcoming an issue.

“We like to celebrate with people who have reached their milestones,” said Arnold.

“It’s a physical piece of property that says, “I have done something really good for myself, my family and my community,” said Ken Gay, another CR leader and participant who himself is celebrating 37 years sober.

“When someone is in recovery they want to share with someone, and meet people who have gone through the same bumps,” said Gay.

After the chip ceremony, the program rotates weekly between a leader-led teaching and a participant testimony.

“My favorite nights are when one of us shares,” said Arnold. “Once you have someone stand up there and say how they have felt the healing power of Jesus, it’s very powerful.”

After the service, participants split into smaller focus groups to discuss the featured testimony or topic.

Arnoldtold The Log that the smaller groups are gender specific, and grouped by similar life struggles.

“During the open share groups, members discuss what impacted them, and how they can relate to the testimony; or on the teaching nights there is a focus question,” she said.

To end the night, the groups come back together for dessert and mingling.

“If you’ve got a hurt, hang-up or habit, come hang out with us and have dinner,” said Gay.

“It’s not really a church thing, it’s a life thing,” added Carpenter.