Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. But Celebrate Recovery offers hope.
Drug overdose causes an estimated 190,900 premature deaths in a year. The problem is most acute in North America, which continues to experience the highest drug-related mortality rate in the world, accounting for 1 in 4 drug-related deaths in the world.
August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, a global event held each year that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.
In more than 40 years of prison ministry, we have seen how prisoners and their families are impacted by narcotics and overdose. Most incarcerated people in the U.S. suffer from substance abuse or addiction—something Danny Duchene knows all too well.
PRISON FELLOWSHIP AND CELEBRATE RECOVERY PARTNER BEHIND BARS
Danny is the national director for Celebrate Recovery Inside, the team that trains and helps local Celebrate Recovery programs take the Christ-centered 12-step program to prisons and jails around the world. Since Danny participated in the program when he was incarcerated in 2003, Celebrate Recovery has exploded throughout the prison system.
There are now Celebrate Recovery Inside groups in more than 700 prisons and jails throughout the country. Celebrate Recovery also has teamed up with Prison Fellowship® to bring its successful program to 90 of our Prison Fellowship Academy® sites. And Celebrate Recovery now promotes Angel Tree® through its 30,000 meetings nationwide. Because of their generosity, 5,807 kids in 39 states received a Christmas gift last year on behalf of their incarcerated parent.
What makes Celebrate Recovery so effective at helping prisoners overcome addictions?
WHY CELEBRATE RECOVERY WORKS
"For one thing, Celebrate Recovery is very faith-oriented towards Jesus Christ as our higher power," says Danny. But then there's what Danny calls "the secret sauce": the healthy relationships formed in the groups.
"In Celebrate Recovery, we have what's called a 'no fixing guideline,'" Danny explains. "That means that I get to come into the group and be my normal broken self, and it gets to be OK for me and the other group members to not be OK. In that environment, it allows me to open up and share a little more freely. It allows an atmosphere of trust."
That environment helps set people free from negative lifestyles and reorient them to more positive, Gospel-centered ones. But unfortunately, not everyone breaks free from addiction before it's too late—a harsh reality Danny recently experienced.
CLOSE TO HOME
"Somebody that I recently counseled died of an overdose just a few weeks ago," Danny says. "This was a young man whose grandparents brought him into my office. … He was out on bail, and he knew he was going to have to go inside. So, they brought him, and he spent some time with me."
Danny counseled the young man, who was incarcerated soon thereafter. The young man's tolerance for narcotics decreased drastically while he was incarcerated. He died from an overdose shortly after his release.
The man's family called to tell Danny. What do you say to someone in that circumstance?
HELP FOR THOSE WHO HAVE LOST A LOVED ONE TO OVERDOSE
Sometimes that worst thing you can do for someone who loses a loved one is talk too much. "Someone can come alongside a family of an overdose victim and just be with them and express their heart for them without advice or without being preachy or having all these Christian platitudes—that 'God will work it out for the good,' and things like that," Danny explains.
"They may not be ready to hear that. But they may be ready for just a warm-hearted soul to come alongside them."
Those who are left behind after a loved one dies from an overdose might feel like their lives are over, too. But they don't have to be without hope. Danny says,
Sometimes, our deepest hurts and our worst failures are the very things that God uses to qualify us for ministry. The families of those that have gone through this eventually can find that God will use their hurt on behalf of other families or on behalf of others that are at risk. … If the families can be part of that voice and be part of that compassionate outreach to other families and addicts, then perhaps their voice will make a difference."
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