Liberty couple learns life hurts, God heals
Pleasant Valley launches Celebrate Recovery
August 3, 2004
LIBERTY – The need was powerful. It was always on his mind – when, where, how to get his next high. When he did sleep, he went to sleep craving it, and when he woke up, the craving was still there. It was his master. His god. Cocaine.
Sam Thompson – who has been “clean” 12 years – and his wife, Teresa, who also has been clean 12 years, now coordinate Celebrate Recovery for Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty. Celebrate Recovery is a Saddleback Church-based 12-step program that addresses all kinds of life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups. The program began in 1991 in the California church where Rick Warren, author of best-seller “The Purpose Driven Life,” is pastor.
“When we discovered we were both clean, with no cravings at all, we didn’t know why at the time; we only knew that we were grateful,” Sam said. “It was later that we realized we were trophies of God’s of grace, and He saved us from our insanity instantly.”
Their “insanity” began long before they even met each other and married 21 years ago. Each had struggled with alcohol and drug addictions because of varying life circumstances, including a divorce for him, a rape and two abortions for her. Individually, they had turned to alcohol and drugs to try to take away their pain. Once married, that part didn’t change.
“We didn’t understand why things weren’t going the way we had dreamed,” Teresa said. “I had it all – a husband, a son, a home, my own company, a dog and a family that loves me, but I still wasn’t happy. I was lonelier than I had ever been, and the pain of my past just kept coming up and hurting me, so I started hiding my pain and disappointment by working all the time. When that didn’t work, I started using drugs again to hide behind.”
They wasted the next eight years living high on cocaine, the said. They sold all of their belongings – including their printing company — to get drugs. Family stepped in and took them to a treatment center, but once released, they went back to their habits. One night Sam overdosed and began hallucinating. It scared Teresa, he said, so badly that she called the police and an ambulance. After that incident, he said, he didn’t want drugs, and Teresa didn’t, either – since she had asked Christ to come into her life. But they decided they couldn’t stay clean together, so they separated.
After a three-week separation, they talked and realized they didn’t have any cravings, although at the time, they didn’t know why. They saw it as a new beginning. They began going to church together, began their printing business again and celebrated the addition of a daughter to their family. Business grew, Sam said, but in place of the drug and alcohol addiction, he had become a workaholic.
“Looking back, I realize I was just going through the motions in going to church, which was really our recovery program at the time; I did not really know my Savior,” Sam said. “I was clean and sober, but my heart had not changed. And once again, my sinful nature and selfish desires led me to make another stupid choice.”
It nearly was the final blow to a marriage that had already dealt with so much pain. “Once I started to see the pain I was inflicting on Teresa, I started thinking less of myself and more of what an idiot I was,” Sam said. “She asked me, ‘Is this really what you want to do with your life?’ I had to make a decision right then, and I thank God I made the right choice that time.”
Not long thereafter, he attended a Promise Keepers conference in Kansas City. “My heart melted, my pride disappeared, and for the first time in my life, I humbled myself before God,” Sam said. “I was never going to be the same.”
He went home to Teresa, who had been listening to the conference on the radio. “For the first time in my life, I prayed out loud with my wife and truly begged for her forgiveness for all my selfishness and behaviors. She immediately began to forgive me, and we cried and prayed. The burden had been lifted, and finally, we could truly recover.”
Now the Thompsons want to help others to recover from the pain and issues in their lives and point them toward the only way to true healing – Jesus Christ. Last year, they attended a Celebrate Recovery conference at Saddleback Church to learn more information because Pleasant Valley was considering the ministry and associate pastor for family and care Jim Landers had asked the Thompsons to consider leading it.
“I saw Sam and Teresa as being ready to invest themselves in a high-impact Christ-centered ministry,” Landers said. “We’re already seeing a lot of people responding to Celebrate Recovery, and that is exciting for us as a church.”
The couple knew coordinating Celebrate Recovery was what God wanted them to do.
“It was at that conference that I saw what God was doing in my life and what my purpose was,” Sam said. “I also saw why He saved me from my destruction, allowed me to go through all the consequences of my bad decisions and bring me to a final understanding of what I am here for. I am here for Him – not for me.”
They have been coordinating the Celebrate Recovery program for Pleasant Valley since it began on in February. This month, the program is launching with a six-week message series called “Road to Recovery.” People who attend the Friday night sessions learn eight biblically-based life principles and begin a 12-step recovery program – no matter what the personal challenge is. The sessions, which include praise and worship, testimony or teaching time and small groups, provide accountability and support for participants.
“Celebrate Recovery has brought to light wounds in my life that weren’t completely healed,” said Dana Adams, a group leader. “The same tools Celebrate Recovery offers for those I’m ministering to provided what I needed as well. Additionally, since life will continue to have its challenges and trials, Celebrate Recovery provides healthy, godly ways of addressing and coping with those issues in a proactive sense.”
The weekly gatherings are key, Sam said. “I continue with my life in recovery mode because God is not done with me yet.”
Celebrate Recovery received national recognition earlier this year when President Bush praised the program during the White House Faith-Based and Community Initiative Conference by saying this ministry can do what government cannot — change hearts. A June 10 article in the New York Times also highlighted Celebrate Recovery’s success in California.
About five churches in the Kansas City area host the program, including two Missouri Baptist churches: Pleasant Valley and First Baptist Church, Raytown, which also launches their sessions this month. Two other Missouri Baptist churches, Rock Brook Church in Belton, Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Springfield, also host the program/.
Two Kansas City, Kansas, churches host: Westside Family Church, Shawnee, and Open Door Bible Church.
For more information about Celebrate Recovery, go to www.celebraterecovery.com or www.pleasantvalley.org.