Denver metro area

‘God is our healer, he heals us’

Faith-based recovery programs tackle substance abuse in metro area

Posted 9/26/17

David Seller never felt like he fit in with his peers. When he moved to Lakewood from Australia at 7 years old, his classmates made fun of his accent. In high school, his longtime girlfriend suddenly severed their relationship. In college, he went …

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Denver metro area

‘God is our healer, he heals us’

Faith-based recovery programs tackle substance abuse in metro area

Posted

David Seller never felt like he fit in with his peers. When he moved to Lakewood from Australia at 7 years old, his classmates made fun of his accent. In high school, his longtime girlfriend suddenly severed their relationship. In college, he went from having a group of friends to having none.

His coping mechanism for life’s problems was alcohol. Then, it was methamphetamine.

After run-ins with the law and a suicide attempt, Sellar hit rock bottom. So his mom called Teen Challenge — now called 180 Ministries — a faith-based rehab facility for men on South Broadway in Denver.

“In everything we do, there is an undercurrent of Jesus,” said Sellar, now 36 and five years sober. “Ultimately, Jesus will change your heart and life.”

There is no shortage of faith-based recovery programs in the metro Denver area. Like secular recovery programs, they cater to a nationwide problem that is just as prevalent in Colorado — addiction to drugs or alcohol. Heroin-related deaths in Colorado doubled between 2011 and 2015, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports. In 2013-14, 7.5 percent of individuals 12 and older in Colorado experienced alcohol dependence or abuse, which is higher than the national rate of 6.5 percent, according to a 2015 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Research shows that spirituality can help the recovery process. In a study, called “Physicians’ beliefs about faith-based treatments for alcoholism,” published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, more than 70 percent of a sample of 896 psychiatrists and primary care physicians were likely to consider referring a patient with alcohol addiction to a faith-based program. More than 80 percent believed that an emphasis on spirituality is critical to the success of a 12-step program, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The right steps

At faith-based programs, religion leads recovery.

“God is our healer, he heals us,” said Mary Brewer, founder of Mary’s Hope Sober Homes, which has 15 houses across the Denver metro area, and New Beginnings Recovery Center, an inpatient facility in Littleton. “Once you have that faith planted in your heart, it is god that does the work.”

Brewer’s programs accept all walks of life, regardless of religious beliefs. Modern technology is combined with a Christ-based foundation. New Beginnings clients are evaluated using an EEG machine that examines neurotransmitters in the brain to determine if there is a chemical imbalance. Therapy is a combination of group and individual counseling, along with a focus on exercise, music, arts and nutrition.

There is a church service on Sunday mornings. K-Love, a Christian radio station, plays on the speaker in the waiting room.

The model seems to work: New Beginnings’ success rate is 70 percent and Mary’s Hope Sober Homes is 87 percent, Brewer said.

A real estate agent by trade, Brewer said opening her recovery programs 14 years ago was God’s plan. She turned one of her properties into a sober-living home after learning that her employee was struggling with addiction.

“God had different desires and plans for my life than what I was doing,” Brewer said.

Sellar had similar feelings about God’s presence in his life. He didn’t grow up a Christian. He describes his experience at 180 Ministries as a “beautiful mess.” He wanted to leave on the fifth day and cried everyday for the first four months. But through a rigorous year of work projects, chapel and biblically oriented classes, Sellar said he relearned how to live.

“It’s a beautiful mix of discipline and love that goes on there,” said Sellar, who is now studying to become a counselor. “People get refined through the fire.”

180 Ministries works with several churches in the area, including Journey Church in Castle Rock, 9009 Clydesdale Road, which is hosting a fundraiser event at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 to raise money for the program. Tickets can be purchased at 180ministries.net/spark. Right now, the facility can house up to 18 men. Director and pastor Scott Stutzman wants to see that number double and the addition of sober living homes for six to eight men.

The success rate of the program is 87 percent, he said.

“They come in with nothing,” Stutzman said. “They hit rock bottom and are serious about getting their life turned around.”

Finding an identity

For some, a faith-based recovery program is the only option left. Aaron Dennis joined Step Seven, a recovery community for men based in Parker, after failed attempts with a different program.

On the verge of losing everything prior to the program, Dennis hit his 30-day sober mark for the first time in 15 years on Sept. 14. He is in a 90-day program at one of Step Seven’s sober-living homes. He attends weekly group meetings and a Sabbath service on Saturdays.

The leadership of the program is what made him want to stay, he said.

“I felt safe,” said Dennis, a Parker resident, “and I saw sincerity.”

Step Steven leaders have dealt with their own addictions. Executive director Thom Straley used substances for 10 years. He needed a place to stay after a stint in jail, so he moved into a Step Seven home in 2011. The choice allowed him to repair his marriage and start working.

“It’s a recovery support group with a whole lot of Bible,” Straley said. “The 90-day process instills character in men who have a hard time finding their identity.”

Though each faith-based program is different, many people involved share a similar outlook: Faith is what brings clients and faith is what allows them to heal.

“No matter how stupid we were,” Sellar said, “God somehow worked to bring better things into our lives.”

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