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Celebrate Recovery celebrates three-year anniversary in May


MASSENA - A support group that began in 2011 hasn’t lost any steam over its three-year existence.

The Celebrate Recovery program, which meets from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesdays at the Cross Current Youth Ministries in downtown Massena, averages from 15 to 20 people, and sometimes up to 30 people each week.

“We’ve never had a decline in numbers,” said Christine J. Atcheson, staff pastor at New Testament Church, who started the program in October 2011.

“We’ve lost people, but we get new people,” said “Sarah,” one of the program participants, who started attending to address her alcohol and drug issues that landed her in a rehabilitation program.

“Celebrate Recovery” is what they call “a Christ-centered recovery program” that gives people of any age the resources and relationships to help recover from life’s hurts, habits and hang-ups. It’s for anyone who has struggled or is struggling with past or current dysfunctions or compulsions.

“It’s not just drugs and alcohol. It’s for anyone who might be struggling,” Ms. Atcheson said, noting it could also be anything from smoking and eating to gambling and sex.

They plan to hold an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. May 5 for anyone who might be interested in joining the program. They’ll have refreshments and there will be an opportunity to meet the program leaders like Sarah and some of the participants.

“It’s for anyone who wants to come,” Sarah said. “They can ask questions and look at the brochures. Sometimes people can be intimidated going to a new group.”

“They can come and see if it’s a right fit for them,” Ms. Atcheson said.

She said those who attend the program are a very close knit group. They meet as a group from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and can stay until 8 p.m. Wednesdays, giving them time to mingle.

“We work very hard to make it a family, a community. We exchange phone numbers. We hang out together. We have barbecues. We have a bonfire on the 14th (of May). That’s a normal night when we meet, but we’ll meet somewhere else,” Ms. Atcheson said. “Our highest power is God. He creates a warm, welcoming environment.”

“Anonymity is the biggest thing. It’s a very safe group. By the second visit you feel this is a safe group,” Sarah said.

She said she welcomed the support of others because of her battle with alcohol and drugs. It was then, she said, that she realized there were others with the same issues.

She said she had a professional career, a husband and children, but the addictions threatened to ruin all of them.

“There was so much shame and guilt involved,” she said.

Sarah said her husband didn’t realize the extent of her drinking.

“It was mostly alcohol. It was easier to get, but it was harder to hide from my husband. He knew there was a problem. I didn’t drink every day and I didn’t sit in the bars,” she said.

Sarah said she might get together with friends for one or two glasses of alcohol, but then would go home and drink, but not on a daily basis.

“She was a binge drinker. One day you lose control. When you go on a binge drunk, you lose all control,” Ms. Atcheson said.

Sarah said Ms. Atcheson entered her life and suggested she needed help. She ended up in rehab for a month.

“Christine came into my life one terrible night and got to witness me at my worst. She suggested I get help. I didn’t want to lose my children,” she said.

Sarah said she was so intoxicated that she locked herself in the bathroom. Her husband tried to get her out and eventually called her parents. In the meantime, Sarah said, she had pushed out the screen in the window, got out of the house and began wandering the area.

“I was wandering around, across the road down by the river. That’s why they called her,” she said.

“Her parents called me at 9 o’clock one night. I had no idea. She was very good at hiding it. She realized she was an alcoholic and needed serious help,” Ms. Atcheson said.

Sarah said that Ms. Atcheson sat down with her the next day and told her she needed help.

“That was exactly what I needed to hear. I went to rehab and learned I was an alcoholic,” she said.

Following her month in rehab, Sarah said she was “immediately plugged into Celebrate Recovery,” and today she’s been in recovery for two-and-a-half years.

“Now she’s one of our leaders, helping others,” Ms. Atcheson said. “People want to know the leaders are people who understand the issues.”

“We’re all working on issues, even the leaders. We all know perfect people don’t exist. I went into Celebrate Recovery to work on addiction. I’m currently working on co-dependence and over-eating. People might not realize they have other issues,” Sarah said.

Since being in Celebrate Recovery, Sarah said she’s learned what it was like from her husband’s perspective as she sits with others battling the same issues.

“I was sitting at the table and I could see what it was like for my husband,” she said. “I’ve learned what I’ve done doesn’t define who I am. I’m a different person today because of what God has done for me.”

It’s been a long trip since the first visit to Celebrate Recovery, but worth the time, according to Sarah.

It’s been a transformation process. I still had a lot of issues I was working on. I felt like I was at the bottom of the totem pole. But my whole attitude has changed. I was afraid I didn’t want people to know, but I needed help,” she said.

Now she’s helping others deal with their issues while still working on her own.

“By being vulnerable and honest, I can tell someone else, ‘I used to be right where you’re at,’” Sarah said. “It takes a lot of courage to walk through the doors, but when you do it’s worth it. All you have do to is be open-minded.”

More information about the program is available on their blog at or by contacting Ms. Atcheson at 769-9951.

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