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    As President Bush acknowledged in his State of the Union Address last January, substance abuse is an urgent problem of national relevance.

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the economic costs associated with drug abuse are estimated at around $110 billion, measured in lost jobs, lost families, and lost lives. The National Institute for Drug Abuse raises those levels to $373 billion, with California’s share amounting to more than $32 billion.

    In the same speech, the President praised the work of the present rehabilitation programs and encouraged the establishment of others. “Our nation is blessed with recovery programs that do amazing work,” the President continued. “The miracle of recovery is possible, and [the object of that miracle] could be you.”

    San Diego has a large share of recovery programs that God is using to work miracles. Particularly successful are those that place an emphasis on a Christian commitment. Because of this emphasis, however, these programs don’t receive government funds. Some rely on donations, others charge fees, or find other means of income.

    Most Christian programs in San Diego are based on the same 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, modified to include a Christian view of our biblical struggle against sin.

    Following is a review of some of the major residential ministries in the area. Also in conclusion is a more comprehensive listing.

    San Diego Rescue Mission

    The oldest of such programs in San Diego is the San Diego Rescue Mission (SDRM), founded in 1872 nationwide, and started in San Diego in 1955, as a soup kitchen in an abandoned building on G Street.

    Keith Hammond, communications coordinator for SDRM, describes the program as a “holistic rehabilitation center for the homeless.”

    “For the first six months,” he said, “our residents mainly focus on the question, ‘Why am I here?’ Over the next six months, they explore possibilities, “What will I do when I leave?’”

    The program, which includes work therapy, is designed to help its residents to get education, plan for the future, and set goals.

    Chapel attendance is required mornings and evenings. “Having a healthy relationship with God helps people to become courageous and confident in themselves,” Hammond explained. “Our residents know that God loves them and has a plan for their lives.”

    Hammond credits the higher rate of success for women (70%, compared to 45% for men) to the fact that they are allowed to keep their children at the Mission. “Keeping them in front of their eyes reminds them of the responsibilities that God has given them,” he explained. SDRM has specific programs for those children.

    Hammond believes that “part of the battle is finding the underlying causes of addiction. Some people have mental imbalance or disabilities that they try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. For others, it could be a social situation or some pain or hurt in their lives.”

    “We work closely with other programs because our program is not for everyone,” he continued. “Some don’t want to spend 12 months in a rehabilitation center. Others are not open to Christianity.”

    The staff at SDRM is composed of professionals, mostly with a counseling background. There is also a therapist, nurse, social workers, and volunteer coordinator to oversee the many volunteers who teach classes or run Bible studies.

    Hammond, who has been with the Mission for five years, has a professional background in public relations. “Most of us come from the private industry,” he said. “My story is similar to those of many others who work here. God just put this job in front of me.”

    SDRM’s struggle with relocating to a larger facility was covered last month in Good News, Etc. and the mission seems victorious. In an order issued Oct. 7, Superior Court Judge Wayne L. Peterson ruled that the Court is “without jurisdiction to grant petitioner’s relief” and that the matters raised were properly resolved by the Court of Appeal, allowing SDRM to continue the construction to rehabilitate the old Harbor View Hospital site building for occupancy by homeless San Diegans.

    Salvation Army

    Another landmark in San Diego’s rehabilitation programs is the Salvation Army, whose Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs) include work therapy, counseling, anger management programs, chemical dependency education, Bible Studies, Chapel services, and 12-step meetings.

    Led by Major Doug Williams, ARC is a residential program with a minimum required stay of six months to a year. Admission is voluntary, and services are provided without cost to the participants. ARC is financed primarily through the collection and sale of used goods.

    The Salvation Army has historically been a leader in Alcohol and Drugs rehabilitation. The misery and poverty of London’s East End, where the Army was founded in the 1860s, was often exacerbated by excessive drinking, and led William and Catherine Booth, the Army’s founders, to regard alcohol as a social evil. To this day, the Army has retained for its members a policy of abstinence from alcohol and a philosophy of “heart to God and hand to man.”

    Marlene Gerber, community relations director for the Salvation Army in San Diego, finds some differences from the Army’s early approach to alcoholism and today’s rehabilitation centers. “The main difference is that today we often have dual addictions to alcohol and drugs,” she explained, “or sometimes addictions to drugs only. The average age is also younger. In the early days, the average alcoholic would have been in his 50s. Today, the average age for substance abuse is 33.”

    The program, which Gerber describes as “very intensive and long term,” requires residents to attend chapel twice a week. “Spiritual counseling is a big factor,” she explained.

    Although children are not accepted in the program, there are Family Education nights which the whole family is invited to attend.

    Gerber, who has worked for the Salvation Army for ten years, described her involvement with ARC as “serendipitous and rewarding,” after a family member had gone through recovery.

    Green Oak Ranch

    Green Oak Ranch is another large facility with a much younger program. Born 53 years ago under the Union Rescue Mission, which sponsors programs for the homeless and the addicted in the Skid Row section of downtown Los Angeles, the facility in Vista has been headed by Carl Fielstra since 1992 and is locally operated primarily for North County residents.

    Convinced that the struggle against addiction is also very much spiritual, Fielstra oversees the program to ensure a balance of spirituality, schooling, counseling and work.

    About 150 men and women reside at the ranch at no cost for about one year or more. Children are schooled within the facilities.

    Acceptance into the program requires a very tight screening. “We are looking for people who are tired of the old lifestyle and open to new directions,” Fielstra explained. “They also have to accept the fact that this is a Christ-centered recovery community, although no profession of faith is required to attend.”

    Work represents a large part of the program, occupying about 6 hours of the day for each resident, and including landscaping, kitchen work, and care of animals. “We learn to be diligent in our work,” Fielstra said.

    Fielstra believes that caring for animals can be therapeutically effective. “Many of our residents have very poor socialization skills. They are so disenfranchised that they don’t know how to relate well with people, so they can start relating to animals — that don’t criticize anyone.”

    “Caring for an animal can also teach us spiritual lessons,” Fielstra added. “It hurts us, for example, to see an animal become ill or injured, and to see that it can’t fulfill his regular purpose. It’s easier then to understand how our Heavenly Father is hurt by seeing us not fulfilling our purpose in this life.”

    Fielstra sees his program as unique in the fact that it involves a whole new lifestyle. “We don’t attempt to simulate the dynamics of the outside world,” he said. “Rather than studying recovery, we practice it with Christian values. There is more coaching as opposed to simple teaching.”

    Calvary Ranch

    Since 1975, Calvary Ranch in Lakeside has helped countless people to recover from drugs and alcohol. Residents come from different states and, sometimes, from other countries.

    Its founders, Pastor Tom and his wife Paulette, had already started three rescue missions in the most dangerous parts of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego. They presently live on the Ranch along with the staff to provide leadership and support. Everyone on the staff has graduated from the program.

    Unlike similar facilities, Calvary Ranch offers short-term programs, ranging from 14 to 90 days.

    “We usually recommend the 30-day program,” said Elder Aaron, who attributes the great success rate of such short programs solely to God.

    “Our approach is to equip people with the necessary tools, and we design our program so it will give all those tools in 30 days. We don’t want to institutionalize people. We keep people longer only in rare occasions, as in the case of a court order.”

    An important part of recovery at Calvary Ranch is a follow-up program. “We encourage people to attend our church services three times a week,” Elder Aaron explained. “If they are from other states, we tell them to get involved in a church in their home town. We don’t want them to just attend church, but to be active. Giving back keeps you accountable and plugged in.”

    “We tell people that, when they graduate, their lives have to be completely different from before,” he continued. “Our program really begins when they get out of here. At our ranch, we help them to form new habits and break old ones.”

    Restoration Ranch

    Restoration Ranch, a rehabilitation program for men only, has been flourishing in Ramona since 1999. Its founder, Murph Richwine, had lived many years in bondage to drugs, alcohol and sexual addictions before rededicating his life to the Lord on Easter Sunday 1990.

    After starting a “Most Excellent Way” group at his church, he decided to establish a place where he could reach men like himself, helping them to find the same freedom he had found in Christ.

    “We sold our house and bought the property where Restoration Ranch now stands,” explained his wife Karen Richwine.

    While the Lord decided to take Murph unexpectedly through a motorcycle accident in 2001, Restoration Ranch continues under the direction of Brian Storm, a former resident of the program.

    Karen’s excitement about the program is obvious as she tells of miraculous recovery stories of men who went from jail to college graduations, some even to Christian ministry.

    She is also excited about the support and involvement of the community. “We chose Ramona because it is far from the areas these men have lived in, and yet still centrally located. The local community has shown a lot of acceptance and encouragement.” “They also help us to keep a good eye on the men,” she added, laughing.

    Although the Ranch is presently helping only 25 people, with a large waiting list, Karen is not sure if opening the doors to more residents would be the right move.

    “We don’t want to impose on these neighbors who have been so tolerant,” she said. “Also, with a larger population come many more requirements.”

    Job training is an important part of the program. Residents work within the Ranch and take their abilities out to the community. They also have a Convalescent Home ministry.

    “Brian has had training as a mechanic,” Karen explained, “so he teaches some of those skills. He has also started a handyman service, taking the men one-on-one to do yard work, minor repairs, painting.”

    After the first 15 days, residents may return to their regular jobs or apply for work in the community. The Ranch has also a sober living program for those who have a full-time job.

    House of Sophia

    Marilyn MacDonalds, founder of a small recovery residence for women, The House of Sophia, believes that her own life is a miraculous story of recovery. Caught in the depths of depression, she was for years under psychiatric care, taking as many as 40 pills per day and spending thousands of dollars. Realizing that her only help was in God, she found the strength to break from it all and attended Westminster Seminary in Escondido, where she received a degree in counseling.

    She decided then to open a house for hurting women, many of them caught in the cycle of addiction, taking them off the streets, off prisons, and even from apparently normal lives. Many are referred from churches, which often pay the required tuition. She named it House of Sophia, meaning House of Wisdom.

    Days at the House of Sophia are busy and regimented. The women wake up early and go for a long walk, followed by a session at the gym. After one or two hours of Bible study, there is a meeting to organize the day’s appointments and assign chores. Scheduled is also ample personal time with the Lord. Daily activities also include church attendance, swimming, and computer and craft classes, with hairdressing and facials available at night.

    “Our program is unique because it is small and individualized. We help women to reassess their goals and make decisions. Those who have children plan to go back to their families. Here, they can be completely focused on the Lord and learn to become more in tune with the vision of Proverbs 31, discovering what the Lord wants them to do with their lives,” Marilyn explained.

    The House of Sophia has two paid staff members and many volunteers who give classes. Whenever more professional assistance is needed, Marilyn relies on nearby hospitals and sobering services.

    Marilyn only takes in women who are serious about recovery. “Some of our guests have called this a ‘Christian boot camp,’” she said.

    Being a Christian is another requisite for admission. “Our program is so Christ-centered that we have to take only professing Christians. Of course, some may profess to be, but only come to real faith while they are here.”

    Marilyn remembers particularly a pastor’s wife who came to her house after 18 years of dependency to prescription drugs. She is now healthy and working with children in Cuba. “Her husband told me, ‘I gave you my wife as a sick woman and you have given me back a beautiful healthy woman,’” Marilyn recalled.

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