Four local churches are offering Bible-based 12-step recovery programs. Christ The King Lutheran, Fallbrook Presbyterian, Riverview Church and The Waters Church all have groups which are tailored to help people recover from addictions, habits and life’s traumas.
Two alcoholic men, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, started the Alcoholics Anonymous program in the mid-1930s as a support, first for each other, and then for others. The program was initially a Christian-based program but has since become more secularized.
These four Fallbrook churches have taken the recovery program idea back to its Biblical beginnings and are offering help groups for hurting people.
The churches offer somewhat different programs, which will be briefly described in this article. The threads that connect the groups are the Biblical emphasis as well as the focus on the need for fellowship of kindred spirits.
Christ The King Lutheran
1620 S. Stage Coach Ln.
Friday, 7 p.m.
Sessions – 1 ½ hours
About two years ago Pastor Phil Tukua initiated a 12-step recovery group. He felt that, in the church, there were hurting people who would benefit from a support group where they could discuss their problems in a safe, non-challenging environment. This group would also provide the members with direction on how to deal with their issues.
At CTK, the target audience is not just those with alcohol issues; the 12-step program works no matter what the concern is, one of the facilitators mentioned. Members of the group who have benefited also have drug, anger and overeating issues.
The church uses a study book entitled “12 Steps for Christians.” “The original 12-step program was born of Biblical principals and this book is a return to the roots of AA,” said one of the facilitators. “It’s good material and is oriented around scripture.”
Generally, they cover one step a week that entails reading from the book, then discussing the material covered. Members of the group are free to share their own personal experiences during this time. The sessions begin and close with prayer.
“It’s a good environment once they feel comfortable and that doesn’t take very long,” said one of the facilitators.
Once the group completes the 12 steps, they begin again. It is like reading scripture; you can get more out of it with a repeat read.
The CTK recovery group is continuous and members can attend as long as they want. “We encourage people to continue with the group because life is ongoing – it is good support, good fellowship and good accountability,” one facilitator commented. “The people in the group are such wonderful people.”
A facilitator gives an invitation to the community: “I would encourage one who struggles with issues to come to this environment, where you will feel the Holy Spirit and God’s presence. When you use scriptures to deal with problems, God is in the midst.”
463 S. Stage Coach Ln.
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Sessions – 1 ½ hours
Bill Holthaus is the facilitator of this group and commented that he has been directed by God to lead it. Holthaus was an alcoholic but has been sober for 19 years.
For the first 12 years he was miserable because he didn’t have the Lord. Holthaus said he didn’t know who his “higher power” was and has been “so blessed since I have found out.”
The recovery group is “AA with the Bible and with recovery in mind,” said Holthaus. The group uses the same book as CTK, “12 Steps for Christians.”
Holthaus has also taken the recovery program to the African country of Malawi and will make his fourth trip soon. He is interested in taking along a group of people who have a heart for Africa and also a heart to see the 12-step program developed there.
“My goal is to train leaders to continue the program after I leave,” he said.
“It’s thrilling to hear recovery stories from these men and women,” said Pastor Kirk Bottomly. “How a community of faith and accountability brings people back from the brink, salvages lost lives and gives people new hope and purpose. These are real broken people who God gets ahold of and puts back together. Their stories remind you of the miraculous healings Jesus did in the Gospels. Guess what – Jesus is still doing them!”
The Waters Church
Meets at Community Center
341 Heald Ln.
Friday, 7 p.m.
Sessions – 2 hours
The Waters Church (not affiliated with Living Waters) meets at the Fallbrook Community Center and uses a program called “Celebrate Recovery,” written by John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest.
They invite people with “hurts, habits, hang-ups, insecurities and low self-esteem,” said Rick Smith, facilitator of the group.
There are two sessions during each meeting night, first the entire group sings praise songs, and then smaller groups focus on guideline discussions.
“We welcome people in all stages of the lessons,” said Smith. There are 25 lessons and the group “runs through the lessons twice a year.”
“It is Christ-centered and Bible-based and lives are being changed,” Smith commented. “Our goal is to get people past their symptoms to God’s healing grace. We are not about staying sick.”
“We were not made to recover alone – it takes other people,” said Smith. “We know where you have been because we have been there.” Smith also mentioned that the recovery group is a safe place to share about issues in your life.
“We are not here to try to get people to come to our church,” said the church’s leader, Jack McGoldrick. “No denominational lines – just come and get free.”
“Sometimes people feel that they are outcasts and some think that everyone else has it all together,” McGoldrick commented.
“But no one really ever has it ‘all together,’” said Smith.
People who attend The Waters recovery group feel “loved and forgiven,” the two men agreed.
4980 Sweetgrass Ln.
Tuesday & Friday, 7 p.m.
Mike Fleishmann, pastor of Riverview Church, said that the church uses their own drug and alcohol recovery material, which is also a 12-step program.
“People who lead the group are in recovery themselves,” Pastor Mike commented. Some are in drug and alcohol recovery and some are recovering from abuse.
“The 12 steps are just an articulation of Christian principles,” he noted.
Step One of AA’s 12 steps is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”
“From a Christian perspective, that is how a spiritual journey starts,” said Pastor Mike. “We come to God empty and have nothing to give him.”
The remaining 11 steps are also a Christian application of the AA steps and are concerned with admitting your sins to yourself and to God, then confessing your sins to one another, then turning a new direction and making amends to others. “Once you have cleaned the slate it needs to be maintained,” he commented. This is why ongoing participation in the group is encouraged.
“We don’t tell people how to fix their lives, we tell them how God has changed our lives. If He did it for me, He can do the same for you.”
Each individual works through the steps on their own with a sponsor who is also in recovery, but has recovered to a different degree. “You can’t live the spiritual life alone,” said Pastor Mike.
“The only thing you have to do is have the desire to quit your addiction or compulsion,” he commented. “There is a freedom to share in this group. Church ought to be the place where you have the freedom to be completely honest about where you are and get the encouragement to move toward where you need to be.”
On Sunday mornings Pastor Mike has been preaching on the “12 Steps Towards Healing Grace” in a continuing series. Worship services are held on Sundays at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.