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Group offers faith-based solutions to substance abuse

Group offers faith-based solutions to substance abuse

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CHARLESTON — The new Original Recipe Club is offering a good life without any risks attached.

Located in the basement of the former Charleston Elks Lodge along Sixth Street, the new non-profit organization offers space and activities for helping people affected by addictions with a simple motto: “Trust God, Clean House and Help Others.”

David C. Merritt has worked in the treatment of addiction and behavorial health for more than 35 years. He has found through his work in developing treatment centers that one important ingredient is needed for maintaining recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. The reference to original recipe is saying religion or faith has been the more successful base gaining long-term recovery for addicts.

“You need a faith-based approach. From my observation there seems to be a missing piece of the puzzle to maintain recovery when faith is left out,” said Merritt while sitting in the club room, which has colorful donated paintings on the wall, created by a person recovering from addiction, and hot coffee brewing.

Merritt is not speaking as a cold-hearted academic on alcoholism, drug addiction and relapse statistics. He has faced the pain from addiction.

His father was killed by a drunken driver while walking along a sidewalk in New Orleans. His uncle was also the victim of a drunken driver in Tennessee, and his younger brother died from alcoholism.

He has studied the problem and gained certification as an addictions counselor and worked with noted pioneers in the field. He knows the medical facts, but true recovery requires more than medicine.

“A person with an addiction is also facing a spiritual malady. They need spiritual growth to recover,” Merritt said in reference to the 12-step method.

Dick, an alcoholic working to recover, believes a faith-based treatment program does more than just offer self help like some secular treatment programs.

“The other programs teach you how to make your bed and avoid old friends you used to drink with. You’re taught to manage your own life. But with a faith-based program you learn all that and also put your life in God’s hands. Sometimes we lack the power to fix ourselves without some faith. That seems to me to be the best one that works. Right now, I’m happy joyous and free of alcohol.”

Gary Stephen, along with James Javens and Scott Wolff, is on the board of directors of Rising Phoenix Inc., the organization founding the Original Recipe Club. He said the idea behind this new treatment center is instilling hope to fight temptation.

“It’s all about hope. You have to have hope to recover,” said Stephen, who conducts ministry work in a coffee shop — his connections to one in Mattoon helped hook him up with Merritt — or a jail cell.

Kenny, a young man with a soft voice and piercing eyes, believes the hope of joining faith with treatment has helped him and others. He has witnessed quick failure through secular programs.

“I’ve seen people go through some treatment programs and couldn’t pass a drug test when they got out,” said Kenny, the son of two addicts, one now recovering and the other deceased. “The introduction to religion and that higher power is helping me stay clean.”

The OR Club is not interfering with the traditions of Alcoholic Anonymous or other support programs. It is encouraging recovery through workshops, sober activities, potluck events, talent shows, open mike comedy nights and music as well as education, literature fundraisers and even assistance.

Many activities are intended to help families or friends hurt by the addiction of those they love, Wolff said.

“We really want to emphasize the effects on the family members,” he said. “Some of them want to help. But the saying goes, ‘I trust you but I don’t trust the disease.”

The meeting dates for AA in the Original Recipe Club are 7 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. Monday; noon and 7 p.m. Wednesday; noon only on Friday; and 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday. Any group is welcome to start a new support group through the club location. Call 217-264-2244 or 217-276-5722 for more details.

Merritt said the support of the Elks Lodge 623 has been fantastic, showing the faith they have in the new organization. It is another way hope comes through in different ways.

Contact Meeker at or 238-6869.


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