CR Inside ~ Testimonies from Inside

Below are testimonies from brothers and sisters who have been impacted by the work of CR Inside. Some are from those incarcerated and some are from the CR Inside volunteers that have stepped out of their comfort zone and committed to going in to the prisons and jails to bring Celebrate Recovery to those incarcerated. These are truly stories of healing and hope that give us encouragement, and let us know God is alive an well and working through CR Inside.

My Name Is Ken

Ken Hitt, Panama City, FL
Saturday, January 14, 2017

My name is Ken. I’m determined to be a faithful believer in Jesus Christ and to follow His ways. I’m celebrating over 18 months of freedom. That freedom is not just from incarceration, but more importantly, a freedom from a life of alcohol, drug abuse, sexual immorality and infidelity. My out of control lifestyle not only resulted in me spending 12 years in prison, but caused so much pain and shame to those who loved me.

For years it appeared as if I were living a perfect life. I was married and had two beautiful daughters. I was a military veteran, owned my own business, and coached T-ball. My wife and I were room parents for both our girl’s classes and were even PTA presidents for three years. Additionally, we were heavily involved in our local church. I taught Sunday School, served on the church board and eventually went on staff as Associate Pastor.

However, I had a secret. I was addicted to sex. I had been introduced to the demon of pornography before I was ten years’ old and struggled with it my entire life. I was abused and sexualized early in life. As a teen and into my early twenties, I was very promiscuous. At the age of 22, I became a stripper and that lifestyle fueled my addiction. I brought those past experiences into my marriage; my wife never had a chance because I had set the bar too high in my expectations. Regardless of how badly I wanted to be a great husband and father my secret sexual addiction led to my having extramarital affairs. I began to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with my guilt. By the time I reached my late 30’s I was completely out of control, and soon found myself incarcerated.

Prison can be a dark place. I struggled to find myself. I wanted so badly to be mad at God for allowing me to be there, I wanted to blame my wife for not being able to meet my needs but, in reality, it was my own actions that got me there. I heard others compare themselves to Job, in that they had lost everything, but Job was a righteous man… I couldn’t see myself in his story. Instead, I found myself in the life of Jonah, a Godly man who chose to turn and run from God, ending up in a bad situation. I also found myself in the story of the prodigal son… one who had left those who loved him and ended up at rock bottom. And like the prodigal son, I had to come to my senses, get up and begin to walk back; hoping to at least be a servant in my Father’s house.

Ten years into my sentence, my youngest daughter turned 18 and could finally visit me unaccompanied. I decided it would be a great time to clear the air and allow her to ask me anything she wanted about what I had done to tear our family apart. However, I was totally unprepared for the question she would ask. She looked me in the eyes and said, "Dad, the only thing I want to know is, were you thinking about us at all when you were doing all that stuff?" It pierced my heart like a knife as I tearfully had to admit to her that I was not. That very day God began a work on my heart. The moment I got back in my dorm I hit my knees and cried out to God for help in making me a man my daughters could be proud of again.

Just like in the story of the prodigal son, God came running to me. Within a month I was placed in confinement for 28 days before being transferred to another institution. I was dazed and confused, to say the least. I couldn’t understand why God was allowing all of this to happen to me. After all, I had become quite comfortable where I was and had a great job working in education, helping others. I spent all of my time in confinement questioning His motives. Finally, I reached my next destination. It was an institution known more for its violence than its programs.

It was about this time when I read a flyer about a new program called Celebrate Recovery Inside coming to the chapel. I had no idea what it was, but felt I needed to check it out. I was a year and a half from being released and maybe it was time to begin addressing the demons of my past.

I attended my first CR Inside meeting and step study in January 2014. I had no idea what to expect. In fact, at first I was a bit leery when I was told it was a long term commitment and would take about seven months to complete a step study. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal for me… I had nothing but time. However, in all my years of incarceration, I had seen many volunteers come and go. I remember asking my table leader if he was really committed to it, or if he was going to drop off before we finished. Those awesome men from Celebrate Recovery, Enterprise, Alabama said they were in for the long haul.

The first thing I had do was step out of my denial and come to grips with my own powerlessness. (Principle 1, Step 1) You see, up to this point, even in prison I was calling the shots. My attempt to assist others was even a bit selfish in that it was a good and positive way for me to do my time. I had tried many times to get better on my own and had always failed miserably. I had to admit I was powerless to change on my own, and surrender control over to Christ. This wasn’t easy, but as we began the working the steps I felt myself being broken and the tears flowed. These weren’t the same tears I had shed after being arrested, these tears came from a much deeper place. The healing process had begun.

When we reached to the part in the step study (Principle 4, Step 4), where we had to work on our spiritual inventory, I was told to make a list of all those who had hurt me in my past. This step seemed unnecessary to me, because I had already accepted all the blame and responsibility for my actions. But with the persistence of my table leader, I decided to play along. I had no idea what a healing step this would be for me. I soon realized that it wasn’t about blaming others, instead it was about understanding how I got to where I was. You see, I soon caught on to a pattern. Every time someone had hurt me in my past, I quickly built a wall to protect myself from further harm. Those walls in turn isolated me from letting anyone really love me, from allowing them to see my pain and, as a result, caused me to feel loneliness. It was in my loneliness that I would find myself acting out.

Through Celebrate Recovery Inside, God began to heal my brokenness. He has taught me that I truly am powerless without Him. I’ve learned that I no longer have to struggle alone with my secrets and that there are people who love and care about me. After completing my first step study, I stayed in the program to be a co-leader of a new step study, and by my third study I was leading a group on my own. God is so good!

As my release date quickly approached I found myself facing much anxiety. Though I had found acceptance with Celebrate Recovery Inside, I was very nervous about stepping outside the gates and possibly being rejected. I feared that I would be judged for my past sins and that I’d have a big label stamped across my forehead. My original table leader encouraged me to sit down and write a letter to the ministry leader of the CR in my home town, asking for a sponsor to help with my transition. Honestly, I was very reluctant to even write them at first; fearing they would not reply, or even worse, respond with a rejection letter. However, to my surprise, I received a letter back inviting me to attend not only CR, but church as well. I was so proud of that letter! In fact, I still have it. I was accepted!

Ken leading a Step Study

I attended the very next meeting, just a week after my release. That was more than 19 months ago, and I am still faithfully attending. And, not only have I been warmly accepted, I have become part of the leadership team, serving as the Assimilation Coach and teaching several of the lessons in open worship. I completed another step study and am now co-leading one. In addition, I serve as a small group leader and help with the Newcomers 101 group. I took advantage of sponsor training and am currently sponsoring two men. I’ve not only shared my testimony in my local CR group, but was privileged to share it at a CR One-day Seminar in Niceville, FL (Destin) speaking to the CR Inisde break out group. I was also honored by being able to meet and speak with Pastor John Baker personally at that seminar.

Ken sharing his testimony.

By sharing my story, other men in my group have been inspired and have become part of CR Inside. They first began volunteering at the institution where I was first introduced to CR, and have now started a new CR Inside group at the very institution I had that heart to heart talk with my daughter. I can’t help but smile and thank God for all he has done in my life since attending that first Celebrate Recovery Inside meeting in January 2014. All that fear and anxiety I felt was for nothing. I’ve felt nothing but love and acceptance from the CR community on the inside and outside.

Part of the recovery process is giving back (Principle 8, Step 12). Besides my involvement in CR, God has also opened doors for me to serve in other areas of my local church. I volunteer every Saturday at a Community Breakfast, my church sponsors, feeding and ministering to over 100 homeless and down and out individuals.

Serving the disabled and disadvantaged.

I thank God for Celebrate Recovery Inside, and for men who were willing to take on a long-term commitment to reach out a hand to help. My heavenly Father knew exactly what he was doing when he had me transferred near the end of my time. He knew he had to get me to a place of healing. Every day I am becoming more of the man God intended for me to be. A man of purity, sexual integrity and of faithfulness. God is turning my mess into a message. And if I can help just one person by telling my story, it was worth the entire twelve years.

Thanks for letting me share.

I Found Jesus In Jail

By Carolynn Johnson
Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hello - One week ago today, I was released from the Hennepin County Work House after an 8 month stay for felony DWI. In a "previous life", I was a corporate attorney, married with 3 wonderful daughters, the oldest of which is special needs (developmentally disabled, but I prefer "specially-abled"). In July 2012 I lost my job as part of a reduction-in-force (although I believe my alcoholism played a part). My last day of work after 12 years for the company was July 30, 2012. Four days later, on August 3rd, 2012 I was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer; I had a mastectomy followed by 18 months of chemo and radiation. But on March 20th this year, I was arrested for my 4th DWI.

I have read John Baker's bio and one could easily insert my name for his. I grew up in a loving Christian home but was shy, insecure, and full of self-doubt. Like John, I also must have missed the sermons growing up concerning Christ's unconditional love. For some reason I just never felt good enough. But alcohol made me feel good enough; so good that it brought me four stints in rehab, four DWIs and eight months' incarceration. But what's more important was that I would rather drink until I passed out or blacked out rather than care about the complete loss of faith and trust from everyone I knew and loved.

When I was sentenced to a year (8 months with good time), my family (husband, parents, siblings) disowned me. I was told I didn't have a home to go home to. My husband took all of the money out of our joint accounts and was filing for divorce. No one in my family would pick up my phone calls, let alone come to see me or write to me. I was completely alone. I was convinced then, the day I was sentenced that even God had turned His back on me because of my drinking. I remember thinking as I walked from the courtroom to the dirty, cold, disgusting jail mod (room) upstairs that I truly have nothing left to live for. When I got back up to the room which I shared with prostitutes, drug users, drug-sellers, thieves and the like I broke down. I cannot recall crying so hard in my life. But these women, that I always thought I was so much better than, comforted me. They brought me tissues, put their arms around me and they listened to me. But most of all, they encouraged me and told me life was not over for me. In a lot of ways, it was just beginning.

One of the women had a Bible, which she gave me to read. I later found out the story behind the woman who gave me the Bible to read. Many years ago, she left her beautiful two-year old twin girls in the care of a babysitter. While she was away, there was a fire, the babysitter got out but her babies didn't. That woman was never the same since. My path to alcoholism did not have such a tragic beginning. But all I know is that from the moment that woman handed me her Bible, MY life has never been the same. It took almost a year of incarceration to realize that, despite being raised in a Christian home, my life was not a reflection of Christ. He was in my head but not in my heart. I learned that I had to lose everything in order to find the one thing I truly need in my life: Jesus Christ.

But going back to my "rebellious years", when I was going against God in my thoughts, words and actions, even then I knew that if I were ever to take recovery seriously I would need a support group that truly believed that there is only one Higher Power; who truly believed that the only ONE true way to inner peace and joy was Jesus Christ. As much as I told myself I don't need God or anyone in my life, the Holy Spirit's seed that was planted in my heart when I was baptized and again when I accepted Christ into my life at my confirmation never completely withered away. It's hard to explain… I knew what I needed but it wasn't what I wanted at the time.

As much misery as drinking was causing in my life, I didn't want to let go. As an excuse to keep drinking, I kept telling myself that if there was a Christian-based support group out there for me, God would find a way to get me to it. Turns out, the joke was on me; God used my arrest to "get me to it"! Right before my arrest, a cousin in Wisconsin whom I lost contact with years ago emailed my mom out of the blue about a Christian-based support group (Celebrate Recovery). I was so far gone by that time that I didn't pay much attention when my mom begged me to look into it.

Shortly thereafter, I was arrested. I attended the secular 12-step meetings in the Work House. But in my prayers, journals and quiet talks with Christ as I looked out my window at the sunrise and sunsets during my months of incarceration (while I was "finding Jesus in jail"), I asked God for help to change my life; and for the first time in my life I knew I couldn't do it alone. I asked for help to lead me to a Christian-based support group. Towards the end of my incarceration, I thought of my cousin and remembered her mentioning Celebrate Recovery to my mom. Then, just days after my release I had to meet with my probation officer. I was positive she would mandate my attendance at these other 12-step meetings. But as-is the case with most things in my life, now that God is the head of it, I was in for a great surprise.

Without knowing much about me at all, she mentioned that I might be interested in a support group called "Celebrate Recovery". I just about jumped out of my seat and told her that's something I'm definitely interested in… So, through my arrest and probation, God truly did find a way to "get me to it" (Celebrate Recovery). I've been using this past week that I've been home, to refocus on my life with God as the head of it, and I have been reading everything I can about Celebrate Recovery. I found an amazing Celebrate Recovery group near my home and the high I experience after leaving those meetings is better than any alcoholic high I’ve ever experienced!

Even now, looking back at how God blessed me each and every day of my incarceration, leading up to my out date last week, I am so amazed. I came home to my loving husband and children. What an incredible miracle that was! My whole family has welcomed me back with open arms. God continues to be so good. And as a result of my incarceration, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. As the apostle Paul said, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him Him who gives me strength."   Philippians 4:12-13

With the various things I have been through, challenged with and blessed by (e.g., alcoholism, a felony, incarcerated, breast cancer survivor, mother of a "specially-abled" child, on the brink of divorce, disowned by family), I know that God has placed a calling on my life. I rejoice in the possibilities He has in store for me and I want to use the rest of my life serving Him, praising Him and sharing all of the miracles He has done for me. What I and my family thought was hopelessness at the time, God had a plan even then. I pray that if you are struggling right now, may you find the peace that surpasses all understanding. I encourage you to find a Celebrate Recovery group near you, read His Word daily and pray diligently. You are a child of God and He never lets go of His own!

God bless you.

Carolynn Johnson

From a Volunteer:

By: Christine Sumner
Tuesday, 11 June 2013

My message today is “Do not be discouraged” when things go wrong in your life. It won’t go on forever. We have to learn to roll with the punches of life. We have to rely on our Lord to take care of us in the tough times. I am the first to admit that sometimes it is hard to remember this as I go about trying to handle my problems all alone but in the end I always rely on Him.

From the first mention of my taking Celebrate Recovery to the women at the jail, Satan has haunted my footsteps at every turn. I have had to keep reminding myself that this is an assignment from my Lord and Saviour “and I will not be denied.”

All sorts of things came barrelling into my life. On and on I trudged, keeping the faith all the time and telling myself, “this too, shall pass.” But by the time I overcame one thing, here came another. If I had had less faith I would have given up and never gone into the jail again. But I am convinced this is my purpose in life and I will not let anything deter my efforts, no matter how fast and furious they are thrown at me. My Lord’s work is more important than anything else.

I have learned that the more you try to follow the Lord, the more obstacles are thrown in your path, some by accident, some intentional. It’s all the same. One more challenge to overcome.

I know my Lord watches over me and will not let me be overcome. If not, I would have given up a long time ago but my faith keeps me going and it will keep you going if you just remember that He has promised never to leave us. He is our best friend in times of grieving and troubles. I had them both at the same time and it would have been easy to have raised the white flag but the love of my Lord and the remembered love of my family kept me putting one foot before the other down the path I had set out for myself, the one I was divinely appointed to.

Cheyenne Mountain Re-Entry Center: A Story of Transformation

By: Alan S.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013

I would like to start by stating a little bit about my past. I started drinking when I was seven. I grew up in an abusive family. I smoked marijuana and have been addicted to coke and meth. I felt a void in my heart and was always willing to try anything to fill it. I know now that God is the only thing that fits.

I tried AA with no luck. I came across Celebrate Recovery and saw the light. I knew what I needed, a personal relationship with Christ. ”Lead me, tech me; for you are the God who gives me salvation. I have no hope except in you. “ Psalms 25:5. I knew the path I must follow.

When I arrived at Cheyenne Mountain Reentry Center, I was shining in His glory. I actually prayed to come here and without a word from anywhere or anyone I ended up here. I was overwhelmed with joy when I saw Celebrate Recovery Inside here. I knew I had to participate with this group. Our facilitator, Mr. Squires, has helped meet and even exceed my expectations. His knowledge of scripture gives him the ability to not only guide us through these steps and principles, but show us how they apply to following the Lord’s path.

I am blessed to have this opportunity to be in Celebrate Recovery Inside led by Mr. Squires. I am better for it.

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