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Celebrating recovery, support and friendships

KINGSTON — Sometimes the path to recovery includes just sitting down and talking with people who have experienced the same types of problems.

For a group of local residents who have done just that during the past year through the Bayside Community Church, such chats have turned their lives around.

The simple act of communication is credited for the huge success of the church’s Celebrate Recovery program, a weekly support group that started in June 2003. To mark the occasion, there will be a one-year birthday party at 6 p.m. June 4 with a barbecue at the church. Group leaders are inviting all current and former members to attend.

For the past year, participants have met on Fridays for dinner, worship and a chance to talk about some of life’s challenges, from alcoholism and abuse to stress and rejection.

“It has been going very, very well,” said Barbara Brumagin, a Celebrate Recovery group leader. “It would be very hard to count the number of people who have walked through the door.”

A year ago, Brumagin was wondering if anyone would show up for the first meeting and was pleased when 20 to 25 people attended.

“Then after about six months, it just blossomed,” she said.

The number of break-out groups during the weekly meetings has doubled from two to four and there have been special guest lecturers. Friday night group attendance is now at a steady 30 to 40 people, including visitors from as far as Shelton.

The group is based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program and adds eight principles established by the national Celebrate Recovery program. Brumagin said she has found those who were involved in the traditional AA program have started attending the Celebrate Recovery meetings to incorporate faith into their healing process.

The results from the program have been impressive, as Brumagin said she has found people’s lives have completely changed after participating. One woman is coming up on her one year anniversary of sobriety and many have found support through the strong bonds of friendship.

“The most remarkable thing I love watching is the friendships that develop,” Brumagin said.

The gatherings have a light-hearted atmosphere, she said, adding that sometimes the weekly meetings are all a person needs to stay on track.

Because of the program’s success, another set of support groups has evolved.

Based on the structure of the AA 12-step program, these groups do a “Step Study,” using the readings of the Beatitudes from the Book of Matthew and workbooks and tend to be more intense, Brumagin said. Participants also have accountability partners and sponsors, so they have someone to talk to outside the group.

In the future, Brumagin said organizers would like to see more of the Celebrate Recovery participants become group leaders and for members of the “Step Study” group to continue practicing the principles they have learned.

“It gives people a better sense of believing if they can give back,” she said.

They would also like to create more niche-based support programs such as groups for adult children of alcoholics, eating disorders and drug and alcohol problems.

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