Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), long considered the standard bearer of addiction recovery, developed its prototypical 12-step program as a plan of action for those recovering from addiction.
Since AA’s founding in 1935, a variety of programs tackling various addictions and disorders have utilized the 12-step model to help people navigate everything from gambling and sex addictions to issues with procrastination and lying.
And then there is Celebrate Recovery®, a Christian-based 12-step program that puts Jesus Christ and his message front and center.
“A lot of programs have a higher power, but in our program, Jesus is our higher power,” said a Celebrate Recovery® member from North Dakota. “A really important part of Celebrate Recovery® is walking the faith and knowing that we’re not alone in this — whatever we’re struggling with.”
While many recovery groups tackle one specific addiction, Celebrate Recovery® addresses many, including addictions to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, relationships, and food. The group is also intended for people who have issues with anger, codependency, and physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse.
Celebrate Recovery® helps participants address the “hurts, hang-ups and habits” they may have.
Learn more about what Celebrate Recovery® is and the pillars and principles that form the foundation of this Christ-centered 12-Step program.
The History of Celebrate Recovery®
Celebrate Recovery® began because one man grew frustrated over not being able to express his Christian beliefs at AA meetings openly. That man was John Baker.
For a story published in 1999, Baker told the Los Angeles Times that, “At an A.A. meeting, you can talk about anything else, but not Jesus Christ,” Baker says. “I’d be mocked when I talked about my higher power.”
AA’s founders, Bill W. and Dr. Bob were Christians or were raised as such. When they developed the original 12-step model, they included the term “higher power.” However, AA accommodates people of all beliefs and does not consider itself a religious organization.
“Alcoholics Anonymous has only one requirement for membership, and that is the desire to stop drinking. There is room in A.A. for people of all shades of belief and non-belief,” states the AA pamphlet “God” Word: Agnostic and Atheist Members in AA.”
As the story goes, Baker wrote a 13-page single-spaced letter to Rick Warren, the pastor of his home church in Lake Forest, California.
After receiving Baker’s letter, Warren told him, “Great, John — go do it!”
John did it.
The first meeting drew 43 people. Now, more than 25 years after its inception, Celebrate Recovery® has 35,000 churches around the world and programs in recovery houses and rehab centers, rescue missions, universities, and prisons the world over.
Prison officials have incorporated CR in correctional facilities despite the constitutional mandate that there should be a separation of church and state.
The sheriff of a Florida County who included Celebrate Recovery® in the local prison system told the Tampa Bay Times why the program was needed behind prison walls.
For the 2012 story, the Pasco County Sheriff said CR was needed because inmates in the program faced addiction and life and death issues, and that helping them become sober helps the community.
“It’s more important that we have people live,” he said.
What You Should Know About Celebrate Recovery®
Celebrate Recovery® is a no-cost program where participants are asked to donate money toward pre-meeting dinners. The recovery community also makes books and other CR materials available for sale.
Celebrate Recovery® is strictly a support group community organized by men and women at different sites who facilitate gatherings. Often, they are individuals who are in recovery themselves. Celebrate Recovery® does not offer clinical therapy or in-depth counseling. Clients in need of such services can be referred to qualified Christian professionals.
According to the Celebrate Recovery® site, the typical CR gathering is comprised of the following:
- A large group meeting
- An open share small group
- Newcomers 101 (held during a participant’s first week)
Participants can invite family and friends to the pre-meeting dinners, which are a time of fellowship for Celebrate Recovery® members.
First-time attendees are encouraged to attend Newcomers 101 to get better acclimated to the CR program.
Members who have been participating in CR for a while are encouraged to enroll in a step study small group. Step study is a group for members who want to “delve deeper into their past and the choices they have made,” according to CR’s site.
The Pillars of Celebrate Recovery®
Celebrate Recovery® encourages participants to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ.
CR imbues the 12-step model with biblical principles and is based on eight principles that utilize The Beatitudes, which are instructions from Jesus “on how to live a good, productive life.”
The 12 Steps of Celebrate Recovery® and Their Biblical Comparisons
According to the Celebrate Recovery® site, the 12-steps and their biblical comparisons are as follows:
- We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. Romans 7:18 NIV (New International Version)
- We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13 NIV
- We made a decision to turn our lives and our wills over to the care of God.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Romans 12:1 NIV
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40 NIV
- We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16a NIV
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10 NIV
- We humbly asked Him to remove all our shortcomings.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31 NIV
- We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 NIV
- We continue to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us, and power to carry that out.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. Colossians 3:16a NIV
- Having had a spiritual experience as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6:1 NIV
The 8 Principles of Celebrate Recovery®
Celebrate Recovery® states the following as its eight principles:
- Realize I’m not God; I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable. (Step 1) “Happy are those who know that they are spiritually poor.” Matthew 5:3a TEV (Today’s English Version or the Good News Bible).
- Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him and that He has the power to help me recover. (Step 2) “Happy are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 TEV, NIV
- Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. (Step 3) “Happy are the meek.” Matthew 5:5a TEV
- Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. (Steps 4 and 5) “Happy are the pure in heart.” Matthew 5:8a TEV
- Voluntarily submit to any and all changes God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. (Steps 6 and 7) “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires” Matthew 5:6a TEV
- Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm I’ve done to others when possible, except when to do so would harm them or others. (Steps 8 and 9)“Happy are the merciful.” Matthew 5:7a TEV; “Happy are the peacemakers” Matthew 5:9 TEV
- Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading, and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will. (Steps 10 and 11)
- Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and my words. (Step 12) “Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires.” Matthew 5:10 TEV
More on Celebrate Recovery®
Celebrate Recovery® does not view recovery as an indefinite option that lasts the rest of one’s life. CR believes that when members are ready, they can graduate to serve the church in other areas.