GREENFIELD —National Recovery Month is observed each September in an effort to raise awareness and understanding of mental illness and substance abuse issues.
This year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is asking those taking a stand against addiction to be “visible, vocal and valuable” in their communities.
Groups in Hancock County take on this effort year-round and dedicate time to bringing healing, understanding and change to addicts and those around them.
Craig Taylor doesn’t mind telling his story, although each time he does it’s prefaced with a plea that those listening not think differently of him by the end.
Sitting on a tall stool center stage in the sanctuary at Brandywine Community Church in Greenfield on Friday night, he spoke openly about how the Celebrate Recovery program at the church brought him to health and sanity and about the life he led before it.
Celebrate Recovery, an international faith-based recovery program, is conducted in more than 20,000 churches worldwide and was started at Brandywine seven years ago, director Gina Colclazier said. In that time, the free program has become a leader among recovery efforts in Hancock County. The church has seen hundreds pass through its doors looking for guidance toward self-help, she said.
Every stage of his life before the recovery program seemed to rattle on like a roller coaster, Taylor told the crowd of about 50 people gathered at the church.
At 3, Taylor was placed in foster care. At 9, he started smoking marijuana; and what would become a lengthy criminal history began a few years later. By 14, he found himself addicted to methamphetamine, which his siblings manufactured and sold. He was put behind bars for the first time at 15.
The ride took a twist with each crime committed; hit peaks during jailhouse stays when he made promises to get better; and plummeted months or years later when he gave in to addiction once again.
Most recently, a string of robberies landed him in prison, where he had a seven-year sentence to sit and think about where his decisions were taking him. He was released in November 2013 and enrolled in the recovery program offered at Brandywine.
There, he found the courage and confidence to change, he said. In 10 months, he worked through the 12 steps of recovery, moved into a more rigorous program and started leading small-group discussions with men who struggled with the same things he did.
It all happened quickly, but Taylor was thankful for that.
“That hope is so exhilarating that you grab on to it,” he said.
Celebrate Recovery combines large-group lessons with smaller support groups that target specific fixations and includes study sessions, which give the 12 steps of recovery an in-depth look. The 52-week program consists of 25 lessons about recovery and an equal number of testimonies from people like Taylor who have passed through the program successfully. The stories told every other week give addicts people to relate to and serve as proof the program can work if people are dedicated to bettering themselves, Colclazier said.
The steps of the program work together to help people who struggle with “hurt, habits and hang-ups” find their footing, she said.
“It helps people move forward,” she said. “They don’t have to stay stuck in their past. It gives them a practical step-by-step process to follow.”
Taylor said he believes it’s the structure of Celebrate Recovery that has helped him succeed. The program forced him to think about himself, admit the things that trigger his addiction and search for a way to control those triggers.
No one at Brandywine has ever tried to fix him, Taylor said. The people he meets there instead serve as a support system that encourages him and holds him accountable.
That’s part of the beauty of Celebrate Recovery, Colclazier said. Once addicts feel responsible for their own sobriety, the program shifts and takes a closer look at an addict’s triggers, such as anger, depression, anxiety and other emotions.
“We know that addiction — the act of using — is only a behavior,” Colclazier said. “There are things that drive that. A lot of people do desperate things out of a sick heart.”
Gallahue Mental Health Services
Addiction is a disease, and those who know it well say it comes with no stereotype; it includes all races, religions, incomes, ages and abilities.
At Gallahue Mental Health Center, a Community Health Network of Indiana-based program in Greenfield, certified therapists dedicate their time to the treatment of addictive diseases.
Gallahue offers a variety of individual and group therapy programs set to serve any age, and therapists there have helped clients ranging from 5 to 90, said Dottie Gullion, a counselor and the center’s program manager.
The center treats substance abuse issues and the depression, anxiety and other emotional traumas that accompany it, she said. Accountability is part of the process; those who enroll in the programs are subject to random drug tests, depression screenings and other wellness checks, Gullion said.
But one of the center’s primary functions is to educate.
“People don’t always understand addiction,” said Amy Oxley, a Gallahue counselor. “… It is a chronic, fatal disease. It’s a brain disease; it’s not a character flaw.”
The Way Out Club
There are coffee mugs hanging from wooden pegs near the front door of The Way Out Club in Greenfield. Each is marked with a first name and occasionally a last initial.
This is a place where no one really knows your name — at least not first and last — a meeting spot where those working their way through the Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs can safely face their problems.
Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935, operates programs worldwide that aid those struggling with alcoholism. Narcotics Anonymous serves as an offshoot program, using the same 12-step foundation as AA. Organizers say anonymity is crucial to the programs’ success. It’s a way to protect the programs and those in them. Addicts don’t disclose their full names, where they work or any personal details about themselves during meetings.
The same goes for the program coordinators, said a man who goes by only Steve and serves on the board for The Way Out Club, 226 Cherry St. That’s because many share the same problems as those they counsel, he said.
“If I take one drink, my body and mind are going to crave more,” he said. “One drink is too many, but a thousand isn’t enough.”
Facilities like The Way Out Club tend to pop up wherever there is a group of AA members in need of a meeting place. The Greenfield club started in 2001 after several meetings in different area churches dissolved and the remaining members decided to join together, Steve said.
At meetings, people introduce themselves by first name, discuss the 12 steps of recovery and share stories about themselves and their dependency on alcohol.
In almost every meeting, there is a new face and a new story, Mary Ann of Greenfield said. Some are ordered by a judge to attend the meetings, while others come of their own accord. Almost all the meetings are open to the public, so anyone interested in joining the group or learning about its programs can come in to observe, she said.
For those who stick to the program and attend the meetings for support, the program works, participants say: Steve has been sober for 32 years, and Mary Ann has been for 11 years.
The first few steps of the program are always the hardest, but staying committed is worth it, Mary Ann said.
“It’s saved my life,” she said.
Love notes written in chalk cover the walls of a common room at The Landing. The messages, sprawling and staggered in teenage handwriting, proclaim gratitude and affection for the place, a teen recovery program in Greenfield, testaments to its helpfulness and similes comparing it to “home.”
In the short time since she started volunteering there, Beth Kreeger has seen many of those notes take on a human form: One student might come to find acceptance, and another can come to heal.
Leaders of The Landing say their goal is to help kids find a safe and healthy path before an addiction takes too strong a hold. The program provides guidance and counseling to youth 13 to 18 who are struggling with poor decision-making.
The group started two years ago and has grown quickly, director Linda Ostewig said. Ten students showed up to the first meeting in October 2013; and nearly 60 passed through the door this past Wednesday.
The Landing found success by making a 12-step recovery program relatable to teens, organizers said.
Much like its parent-program, Celebrate Recovery, the Landing combines large-group lessons and testimonies with small-group discussions during weekly programs. During art night on Mondays, teens can draw and paint to express themselves. Wednesday nights at The Landing feature an open-mic night, dinner, counseling sessions and guest speakers.
Having taken part in a 12-step recovery program herself as an adult, Kreeger said, she knows how important it is to find peace early on. The place has given her hope that others will experience what she has, she said.
“I’ve seen so many lives change,” she said.
About: Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-based 12-step recovery program.
Meetings: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays at Brandywine Community Church, 1551 E. New Road, Greenfield. Dinner is served at 6. The program also offers free child care for children infants to age 12 beginning at 6:45.
Contact: Director Gina Colclazier, 317-462-4777.
About: The Landing is a recovery program for teens ages 13 to 18 who are struggling with poor decision-making, addiction.
Meetings: 6 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. Wednesdays at The Landing, 18 W. South St., in Greenfield. Gatherings include dinner, an open-mic night and counseling sessions.
Contact: Director Linda Ostewig, 317-525-7791.
Gallahue Mental Health Services
About: Gallahue Mental Health Center, a program of Community Health Network of Indiana, specializes in addiction treatment. The center’s therapists offer individual and group counseling.
Meetings: Sessions take place by appointment at 145 Green Meadows Drive, Suite 1, Greenfield.
Contact: To schedule an appointment, call 317-318-7100.
The Way Out Club
About: The Way Out Club offers Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Meetings: AA and NA meetings take place throughout the day, every day of the week at the clubhouse, 226 Cherry St., Greenfield. For a full list of meeting times, visit wayoutclub.org.
Contact: For more information, call 317-468-0082 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.