“Wow,” Celebrate Recovery’s minister of music, Megan W., said, as she took the front of the room with her guitar. “I’m not used to this! The group I usually sing to is about one-tenth this size!”
The group leaders of Celebrate Recovery were all surprised by how many people showed up to their weekly support meeting. It definitely helps to spread awareness when you have the daughter of a legendary performer singing and giving her testimony of addiction.
“The best part of our program is that people come into a church setting during our weekly meetings. There are other 12-step programs that are wonderful, but this one is different,” Rhonda D., team leader for women with chemical dependency, said. “We announce Jesus Christ as our higher power and weave religion into our 12 steps. What I really like about our program is that it gets people in the doors of the church; some people have had bad experiences with religion. They can come here and realize that church is a place where you can come sick and get better.”
Garnet A. has been a member of Portsmouth’s Celebrate Recovery for more than a year and has been sober for almost four years thanks to local programs like Celebrate Recovery and Stepping Stones. Garnet not only enjoyed the entertainment provided by Sheila Raye Charles, but also felt that she could relate to parts of her story.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago and was introduced to Xanex while taking treatments. When I had a vasectomy done during my cancer treatment, Xanex became my love, my joy, my god, “Garnet said. “ I went into residential treatment through Stepping Stones and from there was introduced to Celebrate recovery. It’s been wonderful to come into these meetings and to get to talk to people that are hurt like you are and to talk to people who understand. “
Donna S. is a newer member of Portsmouth’s Celebrate Recovery, having been a member for around a month. Donna had been going to Stepping Stones and discovered that recovery programs work and other forms of recovery didn’t quite cut it for her.
“I had been addicted to Oxys for about 10 years and nothing and no one could really help me. I was put in Stepping Stones and the meetings really helped me get clean and the Celebrate Recovery meetings are great to have on top of those. I have been clean for about six months now, which is just great,” Donna said. “I was less than a hundred pounds during my addiction and I’m now at about one-forty. I’m also not so down and depressed all of the time. These programs have really given me back my life. For the first time in a long, long time, I can say I honestly love life.”
Donna S. went through similar struggles that Sheila Raye had gone through, so she not only got to be entertained by Sheila, but she felt that she could relate to her as well.
“I loved Sheila,” Donna Said. “I went through a lot of the same things that she went through with children, prison sentences, addiction. I just met her tonight and I love her.
Alex M. is one of the younger members of The Counseling Center and the Celebrate Recovery program. The 23 year old was addicted to a variety of substances, from Oxys, heroin, alcohol, marijuana, opiates.
“This is the first week of my adult life that I can actually say that I’ve stayed sober. The counseling, the meetings, the sober support, all of this has really helped get me sober,” Alex said. “Sheila was amazing. I thought she was very inspiring and uplifting. Her music was really good and it’s great to be able to have her come and get her statements to the group.”
Sheila Raye Charles sang a few of her songs from her album “Behind the Shades”, as well as gave her testimony. People were completely taken by her story of twenty-plus years of addiction. Many people in the audience would shake their head in agreement and many would just make sounds of astonishment as she dove deep into her dark past. The testimony was one of hope for those struggling and one of awareness for those that might not have experienced the darkness that addiction can take someone to.
Sheila did feature some of the music sang by her late father, and even slipped on a pair of shades to accompany the music. She also prayed for people at the book signing, held discussions and posed for pictures. However, the most shocking thing that she held an impromptu baptism ceremony.
“Can I please have the pastor up on stage with me?” Charles asked, as she wrapped up her testimony. “Now, if all of the people here with us tonight would please take a moment to take the consideration of god for a moment. If you are here and you haven’t fully accepted god into your heart, you may know him, but if you haven’t truly accepted him as your lord and savior please come up here and do it now.”
Slowly, one after one, twenty-three people got up from their seats and took a huddle around Pastor Clark Hess as he prayed.
“God used me and I’m grateful for that,” Charles said. “I don’t always look at it as numbers, if only one person shows up then that is one more person I can touch with God’s wisdom. I am very grateful to have come to Portsmouth, give my praise and testimony, and to have hopefully saved even more than 23 people here tonight.”