Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Group brings faith to addiction recovery program

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Every Friday night, a donated van pulls up to the doors of Assiniboia Charleswood Community Church and a group of men from Union Gospel Mission piles out.

What draws this inner-city group to an unassuming church tucked in the quiet suburbs? The same thing that draws married couples and middle-class young adults -- a faith-based addictions recovery program called Finding Freedom.

Tim Fletcher, addiction counsellor and pastor, casually takes the stage and proceeds to deliver a trademark Finding Freedom message of recovery.

His aim is threefold: To combine the teaching of second-stage recovery (understanding that addiction as a symptom of deeper problems), the 12 steps of AA and the teachings from the Bible. Later, in small groups, those who wish to participate find that honest sharing leads to healing.

"The teaching we use is simple," says Tim. "Understanding our brokenness leads us to healing. Addicts who have found some sobriety are still unable to understand the dysfunctional behaviours that trip them up. Like all of us, they struggle to have healthy relationships with people and with God. Finding Freedom also offers information about the addicted brain, triggers for relapse and character defects."

During the week, Tim counsels at Tamarack -- a recovery house in Winnipeg. "I think the idea of Finding Freedom originated in my workplace. I had a client who was beginning to understand his need for God. Our program and AA didn't help him understand the person of God. Finding Freedom is non-denominational; we make no apologies that our higher power is Jesus but that is never forced on anyone."

Finding Freedom will enter its fourth year in February. "In 2006 I travelled to various churches and spoke about addictions. I quickly discovered that addiction touches most families. That fall, I proposed the Finding Freedom idea to our church. No one knew what to expect at that time, but my church has backed me up 100 per cent and many people from our congregation attend on Friday nights.

"One of the greatest surprises we have experienced are the changes in the lives of all people -- apart from addicts. We have seen healing in so many lives because people are free to be real. No one has to wear a mask here."

Tim Fletcher's 12-step talks were originally transcribed, recorded and distributed on a CD. As Finding Freedom made its way into two more Winnipeg churches, a videographer was hired to package the talks on DVD. These DVDs are being used by and considered for churches and secular recovery programs throughout Canada. There have also been requests from as far away as Oman and Ukraine.

In September, the last of the DVDs were recorded.

What comes next? "We don't really have an agenda," Tim says. "We want to follow God's leading, which means waiting to see what doors God opens. But our bottom-line desire is that Finding Freedom continue to provide the tools for churches and organizations to minister to addicts and broken people more effectively."

For more information please contact:

Finding Freedom

Finding Freedom is currently available at these churches (worship is at 7 p.m.):

Fridays: Assiniboia Charleswood Community Church, 760 Charleswood Rd.

Mondays: Trinity Lutheran, King Street and Flora Avenue.

Sundays: First Presbyterian, Portage Avenue and Canora Street.

Mondays: beginning Oct. 19, Soul Sanctuary, 1111 Chevrier Blvd.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 11, 2009 A9

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