The Celebrate Recovery versus Alcoholics Anonymous discussion
When I originally wrote about Celebrate recovery, almost two years ago it was enjoyed by some, but not a “popular” article. What has blown my mind is the comment section. It has taken on a life of its own. So it only made sense, to pull it out, brush it off and update it.
12-Step Group Background
Two common support groups for alcoholics in recovery include Celebrate Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups both offer amazing support but differ in their basis and principles.
Celebrate recovery is a fellowship based on biblical curriculum. Like other support groups for Alcoholics, including Alcoholic Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery uses the 12 Steps for Recovery, which are revised to follow its religious-based curriculum. For example, one of the steps used in the 12-Step Process encourages those in recovery to rely on a “higher power”.
Alcoholics Anonymous is the fellowship that created the original 12-step model. While the stance of AA supports a general understanding of a “higher power”, Celebrate Recovery holds that Jesus Christ is the only true path to God. In addition to the 12 Steps, Celebrate Recovery also uses 8 Principles that are based on the beatitudes.
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
Over the last decade or so, I have occasionally heard people talk about “Celebrate Recovery” but I never gave it much thought or attention. I knew it had something to do with church. I knew that it was a way to get help for addiction type problems and I knew it was a little similar to AA. Recently, I have educated myself about Celebrate Recovery and I will share with you what I know. The information I present is “in my opinion”. I will start with some bullet points.
- John Baker, is the Founder and Pastor of Celebrate Recovery.
- It was started in 1990 (according to Wikipedia) or in 2001 according to John. (see side note)
- It is a Christ-centered program that started out of Saddleback Church.
- Over 10,500 individuals have gone through the program.
- Over 6,000 individuals have completed the program.
- It is used at over 10,000 churches nationwide.
- It is translated into 19 different languages.
Side note: I got confused on the dates because on Wikipedia, it says Celebrate Recovery was founded in 1990 by John Baker and Rick Warren. When I look up his book on Amazon, it shows a published date of 2007. However, there is another book published by the same name in 2013, with the authorship credited to Rick Warren AND John Baker.
I learned about Celebrate Recovery from a training video that John Baker presented. In his video, he shares that he started working at Saddleback Church in 1991. In 2001, Rick Warren (Saddleback’s Head Pastor) felt there was a need for John to focus his attention, solely on a recovery ministry. He dedicated himself to the Celebrate Recovery program and wrote the curriculum and accompanying book called “Life’s Healing Choices”. The tag line he uses is “we all need recovery from life’s hurts, hangups and habits”. He introduces himself as “Hi I’m John, a Believer who struggles with alcohol”.
We have to stop here and talk a little about AA. We can’t ignore it. It (seams to me) glaringly obvious that Celebrate Recovery borrows heavily from the original 12-step model. Let’s face it, AA is the gold standard for recovery treatment. Most all treatment centers use the AA 12-step principles. Almost all judges and courts refer alcoholics and addicts to AA and nearly every celebrity with a drug or alcohol problem ends up in AA. It’s not too anonymous anymore.
Even if you don’t have a religious upbringing, a faith-based program can increase your long-term goal of a drug-free life
Ok, back to John. He talks about the history of AA and sites an article from Christianity Today that was published in 1991. He talks about the millions of people who have gone to AA and found success. However, he feels that it is a secular program and many Christ followers have a hard time connecting to some of the non-religious aspects of the AA fellowship. The problem he has with the AA steps is the reference to “God as you understand him”. Christ followers find this too non-specific and feel the term is too “new age”. (yes, I know the AA book was written in 1939, I am just sharing what I learned in the video). AA talks about alcoholism as a disease. Celebrate Recovery feels that it is a moral problem. Bill W. (one of the founders of AA) describes having a profound spiritual experience, that launched his sobriety. Celebrate Recovery feels that Bill W. wasn’t much a religious man. They feel that the principles in the AA book were taken from a doctor named William Silkworth and an Episcopalian Pastor named Sam Shoemaker. AA describes alcoholism as a mental, physical and spiritual disease. Celebrate Recovery feels that the disease concept removes any moral responsibility for the problem. They refer to alcoholism as a sin addiction. It develops from a person making poor choices.
I support all recovery programs that help people achieve sobriety.
Celebrate Recovery takes AA’s original 12 steps and reuses them as “their own”. They copy them exactly out of AA’s big book, except when it says “God, as you understand him”. They stop at the word God and leave out the “as you understand him” part. They justify this by saying that AA has made a fortune from selling their “Big Book” and that most of the material contained within, is taken from other sources. After each step, Celebrate Recovery takes a passage from the bible to connect the step to “The Bible”. They do this because they have a problem with AA members quoting passages out of the AA Big Book like it was a bible. They also don’t appreciate the chapter in the AA book called “We Agnostics”.
I am going to discuss two other major differences, and end with that. First, Celebrate Recovery typically meets only once a week. It is normally a social event. There is mingling before and after the meeting. Members seem to have a lot of fun attending the event and look forward to going. On the other hand, AA meetings are held almost every day, in every city, around the world. They do not require a social component. The meeting types are varied. Second, Celebrate Recovery tends to mix addicts, overeaters alcoholics and “fill in the blank”. AA tends to keep to a “singleness of purpose”, focusing on alcohol. If you have another problem, chances are there is a meeting for you.
The bottom line – if you suffer from alcoholism and have found a way to live a happy and sober life, then whatever you are doing works for you. That is a good thing.