POINT PLEASANT — This Sunday the state representative from the worldwide program, Celebrate Recovery (CR), will speak at the Point Pleasant First Church of Nazarene about his personal story of past addictions and current recovery.
Lou Ortenzio, CR’s state rep for western and southern West Virginia, is a ministry leader at Clarksburg Baptist Church’s CR chapter and aids other churches in the state with establishing chapters of their own. He will speak at Point Pleasant First Church of Nazarene on 2500 Mt. Vernon Ave. at 6:30p.m. on Sunday about CR and his personal struggles and journey with the program.
Celebrate Recovery, is a faith-based, international recovery program designed to help people with a variety of issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, depression, anger, anxiety and many others. The program started 24 years ago at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California by Pastor John Baker, and is also under the leadership of Saddleback’s senior pastor, Rick Warren, renowned author of the book The Purpose Driven Life.
Today, CR chapters exist in more than 25,000 churches and 32 countries.
Ortenzio said the program targets a variety of issues that individuals may have, and provides a faith-based scriptural prescription.
“We find that all kinds of folks come to CR, with all kinds of struggles. It’s not just for addiction, it’s for folks with anger issues, people with grief issues, people with abuse and trauma, people with depression and anxiety and certainly for addictions also,” he said. “Any kind of recovery is an answer to that. I mean, you can go to AA or you can go to NA, but when you want to talk about your higher power being God, Jesus Christ, you ought to come to CR.”
A typical CR meeting involves praise and worship, reading the eight principles CR is based on, a teaching based on the curriculum’s 12 steps to recovery, testimonials and small group sessions called “open shares,” that are gender specific and issue specific, he said.
“We define our problems as hurts, habits or hang-ups. That’s a common term in CR: ‘hurts, habits or hang-ups.’ We’ve all been hurt in our life, and it’s scriptural that you cannot heal a hurt by saying that it’s not there. You actually have to expose that hurt to help it heal,” Ortenzio said. “The most important thing is that these are safe places. We enforce certain guidelines that make it a safe place to share because people have to feel safe to share what’s on their heart, and they need to share what’s on their heart, but a lot of times people don’t feel safe to share. We enforce a ‘no gossip’ policy, much like the other programs do. So, what happens at CR stays at CR.”
He also said that trouble with relationships is a common area of focus for the program, and that CR is a program for families as well.
Ortenzio’s personal story involves addictions, deeper emotional struggles, the loss of his family physician license, an office raid by the FBI and IRS and felony convictions, before he began to turn his life around with CR and his faith.
“I loved seeing patients, I loved helping people and I loved them telling me that I was great at helping them, and I also got addicted to drugs in that process. And my life went totally out of control on prescription pain medications, but I met someone who told me the good news of Jesus Christ. I accepted Christ and I got off drugs. It was a miracle,” he said. “I came to understand that on the outside I was an addict, but deeper than that I was struggling with this thing called co-dependency, about trying to control and fix people and take pride and getting reinforcement from that because, basically, I’m insecure and I want all that reassurance, and at the heart of it all I’m just plain selfish.”
Since being involved with CR, Ortenzio has been clean for 10 years. He worked his way up through minimum-wage jobs, went to bible college and now works at a homeless shelter in Clarksburg.
Additionally, Ortenzio said CR has helped to change his perspective on church and its overall purpose, which impacts the way he implements the program.
“My take on this whole thing is that I used to think the church was like a museum, or a warehouse, or a showroom. I used to think that you had to get cleaned up to go to church, and then you went to church and was good, but I’ve come to understand that the church should be like a hospital, and CR is maybe like the emergency room. CR is like the ER,” he said. “So, I like to equip churches to have emergency rooms because there are a lot of hurt people out there who would never go to church to get help. That would be the last place a lot of addicts and a lot of people who struggle want to go, but if you make it like the ER, man, that’s a cool concept.”
Ortenzio said CR is a program that is ongoing for many individuals and recognizes the deeper struggles that individuals may still deal with even after a substance addiction is overcome.
“‘I’m Lou, and I’m a grateful believer in Jesus Christ, and I celebrate recovery from being a physician who was addicted to drugs and got addicted to seeing patients, but I continue to struggle with insecurity and selfishness.’ That’s how we introduce ourselves in Celebrate Recovery,” he said.