We have all heard the stories, about famous people or possibly someone in our own family, of how their problems were not solved at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a needle. The spirit of addiction, in whatever form it chooses to manifest as in a person’s life, whether it is drugs, pornography, gambling, or alcohol, eventually sets the addict on a path of distraction that kills, steals, and destroys not only the user but family and friends. It destroys because, in essence, that evil spirit has nothing better to do than distract from the one source that can heal or set straight whatever the root cause is of the addiction. That one source that can heal all wounds is Jesus.
Doug Spears, Celebrate Recovery Pastor at Living Word Church of God in Buckhannon, West Virginia, was a normal pastor’s son who attended church every time the doors were open. As a teenager living in a small town in the northern part of the state, Doug became rebellious against his family and started to hang out with his ‘secular’ friends from school since there were not many male kids his age at the church. At 15 years old he took his first taste of alcohol at a friend’s house.
“When I would go to their house we did things there that we didn’t do at my mom and dad’s house. Their parents had liquor cabinets and beer in the refrigerator. And even some of the parents, as long as we stayed there, didn’t mind us drinking in their home.” Doug stated.
By the age of 16, Doug admits that he was an alcoholic. Getting drunk was all he wanted to do. He was kicked out of school for possession of marijuana twice in one year and was expelled. He was quick on his feet and in the eighties, the Internet was in its infancy. Nothing was computerized to search for any transgressions in a person’s past so he was able to lie on a job application saying he was 18 years old. He became the youngest guy on a crew of traveling construction workers.
At the age of 17, Doug became a father of a beautiful baby boy but was overtaken with his addiction to alcohol and drank every day. It was no help that the group of guys he now called co-workers liked to not only work hard but party hard.
Always working out of town placed a tremendous strain on his relationship with his son’s mother and it was “drunk away” as Doug put it. He moved back to his hometown, and that is when he was introduced into the world of opioid drugs with oxycontin by his new girlfriend. It was the new “miracle” drug and was being prescribed on a regular basis making it easier to “score” from the doctors.
The high from alcohol, at this point, began interfering with Doug’s pill use so his addiction eventually progressed and he became utterly consumed with taking and selling pain medications.
Living relatively close to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Doug inevitably was introduced to heroin and became a dealer.
Doug elaborated, “That old lie that heroine is stronger and cheaper–ha! You give everything you have to addiction. It is never cheaper. You just want more.
“I thought being a dealer was a lucrative way to have all the money I wanted in my pocket but, more importantly, all of the drugs I wanted to use without having to rob and steal.
“From the time I was 22 until I was 26, a lot of bad things happened. During this period, friends died, overdosed, and there were abortions. I could go on and on. It was the worse four years of my life.
“One day, I shot some drugs up just like I did any other day and I woke up in the bathroom floor with a needle still in my arm except about seven or eight hours had passed. That just meant I was so close to dying that I woke up when a lot of people didn’t wake up–I knew right then.
“I didn’t know it was God at the time. Looking back I know that it was God that said, ‘If I didn’t do something–make a change–your not going to be alive much longer.’ At that time I was using about four to five hundred dollars worth of heroin a day.
“I called my dad who lived in Buckhannon now. He had moved to pastor the Living Word Church of God.
“I called him. I told him the shape that I was in and that if I didn’t make a change, he would be burying me. He didn’t hesitate. Even though we didn’t have a good relationship, he still loved me. He told me to come down and that he would do anything that he could to help me.
“I’d like to say I came down here, and everything changed, but I can tell you one thing, you can change locations, but if you don’t have a heart change, you will gravitate towards the same people that you knew before. Same people, different names.
“I got down here, and I found out what methamphetamine was. Meth is not a part of what goes on up in the northern part of the state. We’re just three hours away, but it is a whole other scene. Same spirit–the spirit of addiction–just using a different tool.”
Doug, being an overachiever, didn’t just want to use it, he wanted to have an unlimited supply and began making it. Through a series of events, he was incarcerated at the age of 29. While waiting for trial, the evidence against him was inadvertently destroyed, and he was released.
“God even worked in that. They had to let me go. That is a miracle on its own. That doesn’t just happen.
“I believe that God knew that if I were in prison, I would be where I was at, three years later, to accept Him. God has a bigger plan that none of us see. And I wish I could tell you that when I got out of jail that it changed but I am hard headed and it didn’t.”
The first thing Doug did was get high after being released from prison. Actually on the way home from being picked up.
Now out, the only friends around were because of the drugs. Doug went back to selling drugs and to his pill addiction, by mouth and intravenously, but never returned to methamphetamine or heroin. He would go “doctor shopping,” making appointments and visiting multiple doctors in multiple states.
“One day I woke up in June 2010, 33 years old, and it was like any other day. I woke up. I got high. I had gotten a phone call, and I was on my way to either buy or sell drugs. When I got to Kesling Mill Road, I clearly heard a voice, ‘If you draw close to me, I’ll draw close to you.’ I instantly started to cry. I knew that it was God and that my whole entire life was wrong. I didn’t know that was in the Bible–James chapter 4 verse 8–but I knew that it was God. I knew about God, but I did not know God. I knew my dad did know God so I pulled over because I was crying so hard.
“Can I tell you it felt good to cry. I had not cried in years. I had not cared about anything. I was just in a numb state. I just thought that this, a drug addict, is who I was.
“That is another lie, that this is who you are. That this is my thing, and Jesus is my parent’s thing.
“When I would come to my parent’s church I would come after worship and leave before the altar call. That way there was no conviction because worship will convict you. I just came to please my mother and father.
“So, I was beside the road crying. I knew that it was God. I knew that my life was wrong, and whatever just happened to me I knew one thing, I want more of that! That is what I have been looking for, and I didn’t even know I was looking for something.
“After that encounter, I was instantly sober. I was crying–convicted. Some would say I had a Damascus Road experience. That’s what it took for me. God visits people in different ways.
“I called my dad who was at a camp meeting. He directed me to another local pastor who had made a covenant with him to pray for each other’s kids. He was already praying for me. I called, and he and another pastor met me at the church. Instead of making a drug deal that day, I gave my heart to Jesus!
“Here is one thing most people don’t know about my story, during the last year of my addiction, my dad had been questioning everything about God. ‘Why me? I’ve done everything you asked of me. Things like that.
“At a camp meeting, out of thousands of people there, a man called my dad out and told him to stop questioning God. God had it.”
From that point on Doug’s father put his faith into action. He would anoint Doug when he was passed out and continually prayed. A year later, at the very same meeting, the speaker gives a sermon and says seven people in the crowd should give God 24 more hours. A woman seated beside his dad, whom he didn’t know, told him that God wanted him to go up. So he did. The power of God was incredible and the next morning when he woke up, he started thinking that it has been 24 hours. It was within five minutes of that thought that Doug called his father.
So, this event happened the night before Doug woke up, got high, and went to make the drug deal but heard God!
“I have a testimony of deliverance and my dad has a testimony of faithfulness,” Doug added.
After the 18 year-long battle Doug has been completely delivered from the desire to do drugs, but he also knows a temptation is a powerful tool of the enemy. He is conscious of who he surrounds himself with and relies on the redemptive power of Jesus to maintain his sobriety and his overwhelming desire to serve the Lord. The love of Jesus inside of him keeps him from allowing his flesh to win him over.
“Our flesh has a memory,” Doug said. “We will always revert to what we used to like, and if someone has a problem with sex or gambling, that is their crutch. Satan knows where you are most vulnerable.”
About four years ago Doug felt an unction to start a recovery Bible study at his father’s church. He and three others began meeting and it soon went to ten people confirming that there was a need for the study. Using only word of mouth, the group kept growing and after one particular meeting, Doug saw a need to have something more structured for them to follow. He began to pray and ask the Lord to lead him to the answer. Shortly after that, a friend asked if he had ever heard of Celebrate Recovery and told him about it. Doug didn’t think much of it and continued asking God to send him an answer. A few days later another friend mentioned Celebrate Recovery. Doug again goes on and still prays for an answer. Then, for the third time in a week, another person mentions it, and Doug finally got the message.
After visiting Celebrate Recovery at Horizons Church in Lost Creek, Doug was sure that the program needed to be in Buckhannon. He began taking steps, and those who began the study group with him are now the leadership in the CR program at Living Word Church of God.
“I knew I was doing the right thing. God has blessed it, and we had 79 in attendance last week.
“We are big on fellowship because most people when they come out of whatever they are in –sex, trade, gambling–whatever the hurt, habit, or hangup is, they are coming out of a world where if they were a drug addict, all their friends are drug addicts. If they were an alcoholic, all their friends are alcoholics, etc. We are big on fellowship so they can make new friends, because if you don’t come out from among them, and find new friendships, it doesn’t matter what Jesus does in your life, you’ll always get dirty and revert back to what you are used to. It says that if Jesus truly set you free, stay free!”
With an epidemic of drug use occurring in West Virginia, and unfortunately also since this fact echoes across local and national news stations, churches, Celebrate Recovery, and other organizations like it, are vital to helping combat the spirit of addiction. Doug has seen an exponential growth in his group meetings over the last year.
“Love those people,” is the advice Doug gives.
“First and foremost show love. Don’t be judgmental. If someone has a Celebrate Recovery in their town–I want to tell you that it is a community ministry. It just happens to be in a host church.
“Celebrate Recovery is non-denominational and it’s meant to work in any congregation. If there is one in your town, send those in need there.
“It’s an amazing program and creates a safe environment for hurting families, men, women, and children, to experience Christ. It doesn’t push an agenda. It shows that no matter the problem, Jesus is the answer. He is our one and only true Higher power, and He can set you free from anything.
“If you have an addiction of any kind go find a Celebrate Recovery group and check it out.”
The most common question Doug receives from those he ministers to is, “Is Jesus real and if Jesus is real, can He help me?”
Doug’s answer, “I am here to tell you He is absolutely real! He absolutely desires to help you!
“I wasn’t looking for Jesus. Jesus wasn’t lost, I was. He found me. And He is looking for you too, whoever you are out there. Get into a Celebrate Recovery group. Keep trying. What do you have to lose? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
Since forming Celebrate Recovery in Buckhannon, another group has been birthed in the area out of members from Doug’s original CR group at the Buckhannon Campus of Horizon Church.
Doug is now an ordained minister and a state representative for Celebrate Recovery. He has a passion for sharing his story, and especially to those close to his hometown in the northern part of the state. His desire is to minister to the very people he was around during his earlier years and help them overcome the spirit of addiction.
“What He did for me, He can do for you. He is no respecter of people,” Doug added.
Doug is now 39 years old and happily married to Kate who is one of the first members to attend the Bible study in support of Doug’s radical change for Jesus. His son, now 22 years old, he says is a better man than he was when he was that age. “I am so proud of the man he has become.”
Doug is often asked to speak about his journey and shares the transformative power of Jesus Christ at churches and other groups. For more information on Celebrate Recovery or to contact Pastor Doug Spears see below.
Main feature photo: bigstockphoto.com