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Mt. Washington man's life changed through faith-based recovery


MT. WASHINGTON—Mike Chisolm knew he needed help. He was deep into drugs and had been since he was a teenager. His marriage was in shambles. But, as what he describes as a backslidden believer, he knew the answers to his problems were found in his faith. So that's where he turned.

Over a decade's time, he'd slowly gotten clean. He'd given up his use of crystal meth and cocaine, mainly for his daughter. But in his closet at home, he was growing marijuana.

After a particularly rough argument with the woman who is now his wife, he went to seek counsel from his Sunday School teacher. "Do you remember the first time you got high?" his teacher asked.

"Yeah," Chisolm responded.

"Do you remember the day before that?" he posed.

When Chisolm answered no, he explained, "The day before that, you were the Mike that God created you to be. The day you started using drugs, you became the Mike that the world wanted you to be."

Later that day, he cut it down. Soon after, someone from Chisolm's church, First Baptist Church of Mt. Washington, suggested he try Celebrate Recovery.

During the first small group session, Chisolm heard one man say, "Hi, I'm so and so, and I'm a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with drug addiction."

"And at that moment, I realized that I am exactly one of those people. Because I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. But I've struggled with drug addiction since I was a 14-year-old kid," he shared.

Through the course of the next year, he walked through the program. Now, three years later, he's stayed clean and has been instrumental in starting a Celebrate Recovery program in his own church.

"I had seen that the program had worked so well in my life that I wanted to try to share that with other people. It's been an amazing journey," he said.

Through the process of the journey, he's noticed how God was growing him in other areas of his life as well. One was his marriage, that's now healthy. As he leads a large and small group, his wife leads sessions for enablers, those who are walking alongside a loved one struggling with addiction. "God has blessed me and my family tremendously."

However, Chisolm sees this program as instrumental to the life of the church, not just for those struggling with addiction, but for anyone with "any hurt, habit, or hang up."

"If you are struggling with anxiety, then that's the place for you because you have a place to be able to talk about it," Chisolm explained. "Through the program, we realized we have to be reminded our identity is not our anxiety. Our identity is in Christ. But we're Christians that struggle with something."

Photo from Facebook

Mike Chisolm and Joey Bickley hand out information on First Baptist's Celebrate Recovery program.

He added, "We basically said there's not one person in the congregation that couldn't use a faith-based recovery program. Because everybody's got something. It's getting people to come in and take their masks off. That's what it's all about."

That same thought drives the Celebrate Recovery ministry at Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabethtown as well.

Ray Hicks, associate pastor of member care at Severns Valley, has seen members start coming to support someone else, and realize that the program is something they need just as badly.

Severns Valley was one church that was instrumental in helping First Baptist Mt. Washington start their program, that has been going strong for nearly a year. In the last seven and a half years Severns Valley has been a part of the ministry, Hicks has seen it positively impact the community, the church, and individuals, he said.

"God's blessing this ministry. It's not anything that I do or that anyone else does. It's that people are hurting and struggling and realize they need help, healing, and hope and Jesus is the only way to get those things," he added. "They come to the end of their ropes and say, I'm going to try Jesus one more time, and God starts changing their lives."

The program is based on the beatitudes, includes a 12-step program, much like Alcoholics Anonymous, but rooted in scripture, and has a theme verse from 2 Corinthians 12:9, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

"Don't wait," Chisolm encourages pastors who are considering starting this program. "There's somebody's life in your congregation that needs it."

Throughout the state of Kentucky, many other Baptist churches host this program, including Immanuel Church in Lexington and Grace Church in Winchester. Numerous others have caught the vision with various programs, as well as other faith-based organizations such as Hope Central (www.hcashland.com) in Ashland and Louisville Rescue Mission (www.louisvillerescuemission.org) in Louisville.

Additionally, in response to the opioid crisis in Kentucky, the Kentucky Baptist Convention is offering an event to help equip church leaders to minister in the midst of the drug crisis, "Breaking the Silence."

For more information on Celebrate Recovery programs, visit www.celebraterecovery.com.

For more information on "Breaking the Silence," visit www.kybapist.org. (WR)

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