Sunday, October 21 , 2018, 11:56 am | A Few Clouds 71º

 
 
 
 

Graduates Celebrate Recovery at Santa Barbara Rescue Mission Ceremony

Marking the end of a a year-long addiction treatment program, 15 men and women express gratitude for the chance at a fresh start

Fifteen beaming men and women filed into a packed church sanctuary Saturday night to wild applause and cheers, as several hundred people gathered around them to celebrate.

The group had just completed a 12-month recovery program focusing on drug and alcohol addiction. The program, sponsored by the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission and hosted at Santa Barbara Community Church, was a moving celebration of redemption and recovery.

Rescue Mission president Rolf Geyling gave the opening remarks, cheering along with the crowd.

“This is not a restrained celebration,” he said.

Some people just need a place to sleep and a meal, he said of the Rescue Mission, but others need long-term help with addiction. That’s why 85 percent of the Rescue Mission budget goes toward the recovery programs the mission offers.

The program itself has something to celebrate. According to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, only 21 percent of those who complete addiction recovery programs nationally do not return to dependency within five years. But the Rescue Mission maintains an impressive record, with 47 percent of its graduates maintaining recovery over the same time period.

Geyling said he had looked through the photos that were taken when each of the graduates were admitted to the programs a year ago.

“Let’s just say not everyone was on a winning streak,” he said to laughs. “What’s amazing is looking at all of you now and seeing what God has done.”

Each of the graduates shared briefly about his or her journey, and two speakers gave longer testimonies for the audience.

For graduate Sandra MacKinnon, a long struggle with alcohol eventually led to an attempt to take her own life. After trying rehab multiple times over the years, MacKinnon also began using drugs. Since going through the treatment program at the Rescue Mission’s Bethel House, MacKinnon said she’s discovered a relationship with God and dealt with her anger issues.

Rescue Mission graduate Greg County also shared his story Saturday. County’s parents were drug addicts, he said, and he was born with cocaine in his system and eventually ended up in foster care. When his parents regained custody of him, County said his chaotic home life kept him from relating to other kids growing up. In high school, he discovered drugs and alcohol. Last December, County began the program at the Rescue Mission.

“I was given the chance to live,” he said.

Every now and then, County said, the urge to think he’s cured from his addiction creeps back in.

“But recovery is a way of life,” he said.

County recently received his GED, and is now working. He thanked his family and staff, and the donors who support the Rescue Mission’s programs.

“We’ll probably never meet you, but I love you and thank you for saving my life,” he said.

John Gabbert, Bethel House’s senior program director, issued a challenge to the graduates, exhorting them to stay connected. Relapse can only occur in isolation, he said, and recovery depends on strong relationships.

“We don’t just need this accountability,” he told them. “Our very lives depend on it.”

Click here for more information about the treatment programs available at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, or call 805.966.1316. Connect with the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on Facebook. Follow the Rescue Mission on Twitter: @SBRescueMission.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Rescue Mission men's program graduates cheer each other on during Saturday's ceremony.
Rescue Mission men’s program graduates cheer each other on during Saturday’s ceremony. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

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