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Program offers place to Celebrate Recovery

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    The Rev. Tom Scornavacchi tells those gathered for the Celebrate Recovery event of his struggle with addiction and how it brought him to where he is today. PAUL CWALINA/TIMES NEWS

Published September 18. 2018 12:33PM

People who have needed help overcoming addictions and people who offer such help gathered at Bethany Evangelical church in Tamaqua on Sunday evening to celebrate, share and learn.

The event combined a church service with elements of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and a one-stop shop of resources available to those struggling with addiction.

The Celebrate Recovery program bills itself as a safe, confidential place where people can share their experiences, strength and hope with others who are struggling with the same issues. Meetings are led by someone who has gone through similar struggles. According to Elizabeth Lehr, who runs the Celebrate Recovery program for Bethany Evangelical Church, the program is “Christ-centered and relies on eight biblical principles” to lead a person out of addiction.

Lehr was one of five speakers representing community organizations. John Sienkiewicz of Safer Streets for Tamaqua’s Little Feet addressed the gathering and highlighted the group’s outreach. The organization was formed three years ago and serves mainly to provide preventive drug education in area schools. Sienkiewicz also noted that helps those in recovery with necessary identification paperwork such as obtaining birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

Also formed three years ago is the STEP-Up, group which offers support for those in recovery.

Spokesman George Taylor said the group aims to educate the public and stresses that addiction “is a disease, not a moral failure.”

William Dougherty of Transcendent Recovery Top of the Rock in West Hazleton explained how the home he shares with other men in recovery is different from the halfway houses in which he spent time.

“Guys learn life skills and accountability here. Each guy has a set of chores and responsibilities. Then we alternate those responsibilities. One month someone is responsible for having enough food in the house, the next month one of his responsibilities might be taking care of repairs.”

The Hope and Coffee cafe manager, Loren Collura, spoke of the coffee shop’s drive to “smash the stigma of addiction.” The cafe, located at 137 Pine St. in Tamaqua, offers a substance-free gathering spot for those in recovery to socialize. The shop also employs those in recovery.

Three people gave their testimonies of recovery from various addictions, each crediting God’s grace as the catalyst for the necessary change in their lives.

Tom Scornavacchi initially rejected the idea of going to a church for help with his quest to be free of addiction for fear of judgment.

“I found acceptance there, instead,” he said.

Scornavacchi was so moved that not only did he become free of his addictions, he also became a pastor, having earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in behavioral health and addiction studies from Alvernia University and a Master of Divinity from The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He is associated with Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing.

At 11 years old, Donna Kuhla was accompanying her parents to corner bars and enjoying the night life with adults. She said her parents justified the unusual ritual by telling people, “At least she’s not running in the streets.”

It led to problems, though. She became addicted to painkillers as a teen and to becoming an alcoholic after her father died when she was 22.

Kuhla was in and out of detox centers, relapsing soon after being released until her mother finally kicked her out of the house.

“She had no choice,” Kuhla said. “I was drunk, homeless, and high.”

On July 4, 1993, Kuhla declared her own independence from her addictions, crediting God’s grace and the AA’s 12-step program. She has been sober since.

Tamaqua Mayor Nathan Gerace was also on hand and read a proclamation declaring the month of September as Recovery Month in Tamaqua.

The Celebrate Recovery program was started at Saddleback Church of Lake Forest, California. The church is led by celebrity pastor Rick Warren, who lost a son to suicide in 2013. At the heart of the program is the belief that a person growing spiritually will free themselves from addiction. Bethany Evangelical is one of 35,000 churches to offer the Celebrate Recovery program.

Kuhla had an affair with a married man after 93 and had a child out of wedlock a few short years later ruining an entire family. The conditions of the home she was shacking up in were not indicative of a sober woman. It’s not fair to those who have turned a new leaf to have those who haven’t claim otherwise.

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