Recovery at Clay Street is an outreach ministry of First Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, that helps people addicted to everything from alcohol to pornography on their road to recovery. Many of their members are addicted to opioids, which is a growing problem all over the country and especially in this region.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse statistics, 11.5 million people abused prescription opioids and 2.1 million had an opioid use disorder in 2016. Out of those national numbers, Tennessee is the third highest state for prescribing opioids, behind Alabama and Arkansas respectfully.
There is a national and local problem with opioid addiction. Recovery at Clay Street tries to help with that problem one person at a time. Pastor Jack Carpenter has led Recovery at Clay Street for the past three years, and he has seen and experienced first-hand what addiction can do and how to overcome it.
“I was addicted to alcohol, and I went through a 12-step program with them, well it was called Celebrate Recovery when I started going,” Carpenter said. “By the grace of God, I beat my addiction and started trying to help others with theirs. They asked me to lead it about three years ago. I was an unofficial ministry leader for two years prior to that.”
When Carpenter took over the program he said he changed the name and reworked the program to be more faith-based than it already was.
“The first thing I did when I took over was change the name so people would know something was different,” said Carpenter. “I tried to introduce Jesus into the program, we talked about God, but not much about Jesus. I knew there was no way we were going to get there without Jesus in the center of it. I’m a big believer in scripture, and I believe there’s no way to the father without the son.”
Twelve-step programs, similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, use a set of principles that guide people with addiction through recovery. The steps focus on facing the problems caused by the addiction, making amends and continuing on with life after addiction. The programs are also sponsorship and group-based, so people with similar problems can help each other overcome it.
“A lot of other 12-step programs are just a feel-good, pat on your back approach,” said Jason Falin, director of New Direction Networks, a non-profit that helps and promotes ministries in the Kingsport area. “Recovery at Clay and other faith-based programs offer the word of God on top of that circle to empower people.”
During his five years working with Recovery at Clay Street, Carpenter has seen the effects of all types of addiction, but he stressed the severity of opioids.
“I have seen families just completely devastated by opioid addiction,” said Carpenter. “There is no demographic you can put to it to make any sense of it. It can range from teenagers to the elderly. We averaged 30 to 35 people a week, and of that, over half was addicted or had been addicted to opioids. That’s just the ones who stayed. We would have three to four new people a night, and almost all of them were addicted to opioids, but most wouldn’t stay.”
In addition to their in-person ministry, Recovery at Clay Street also uses Facebook to reach out. In the short video, “The Face of Addiction,” filmed by Falin and New Direction Networks, Carpenter talks about how addiction affects everyone around, not just the person addicted.
"If you really want to see the face of addiction, look in the mirror,” said Carpenter in the video. “It’s you. It’s me. It’s everyone. Addiction doesn’t just touch the person who’s addicted, it touches every single one of us. Many families of addicts suffer in silence, too afraid to talk to anyone.”