By Michelle Strubeck for Seward City News –
We all have habits such as biting our nails, labeling ourselves as ‘shopaholics’, overeating, or smoking just to name a few. However, the lines between habits, compulsory behavior and addiction can sometimes be blurred. A habit is a repeated action or behavior that may not be recognized consciously. A compulsion is when people exhibit behaviors that are undesirable, but that they are unable to prevent. Some examples of compulsions include constantly cleaning to reduce the fear of “contamination,” repeating names or phrases, performing rituals such as constantly checking to see if the door is locked or if appliances have been unplugged, etc. An addiction is a compulsive need and repeated use of habit forming substances or behavior.
When those compulsory behaviors turn into addictions, people often find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They may ask themselves, “How did I get here? How could this happen to me?” When individuals are ready to seek help they often enter a 12 step program. There are a number of recovery programs out there, based on the type of addiction, but the 12 step program is often followed. The 12 step program originated with Alcoholics Anonymous and the method was adapted as a foundation for other programs.
Seward resident Barbara Gerlach knows all too well what is like to deal with personal demons. There was a time in her life when she struggled to get herself out of an undesirable situation. One day she found herself standing on a street corner, homeless and talking to herself. Barbara was living in Fillmore, CA at the time. On this particular day, Barbara found herself near Faith Community Church. While on the street corner Barbara called out to God. Upon entering the church Barbara met Pastor Mark Rathe. She asked for her mind to be cleared and for her life to be cleared of all of the wreckage. She asked for forgiveness and Pastor Rathe told Barbara she had already been forgiven.
In May of 2006, Barbara began her journey on the road to recovery and she started to study addiction. While on the road to recovery Barbara became a certified recovery worker by obtaining her CADAC certification. After going through turbulent times, Barbara knew she had a calling to help others. That is when she founded Recovering Hope, a 12 step program dealing with addictions. Recovering Hope fell under the umbrella of Faith Community Church along with other programs such as Al-anon, youth groups, Christian family counseling, education, and work within the community.
While Barbara follows the 12 step program when counseling others, she believes the first three steps are the most important. The first step is realizing your problem and reaching out for help. The first step is often the hardest step for most individuals. The second step is coming to believe that a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity. The third step is to make the conscious decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. Barbara considers herself to be a Christian with a big heart. She has spent many years working with the adult and adolescent population. Barbara said addiction affects the entire family as a whole and you should think of it as a ripple effect. It is Barbara’s main goal to reunite families that have been broken apart by addiction. She went on to say that our experiences define who we are. We can either make bad choices or we can become stronger and hold our heads high.
Although Recovering Hope is still an active program at Faith Community Church, Barbara eventually began to yearn for something more. After talking with her son and taking a trip to Yosemite National Park, Barbara came to the realization that living in California was no longer satisfying her. That is when she made the decision to return to Alaska. Barbara raised her family here and she has always considered Alaska to be her home. She returned to Alaska in 2015. Upon arriving in Seward, Barbara has been very grateful to Sea View Community services for helping her through a period of transition. Now that Barbara has settled into life in Seward, she is in the process of establishing a local chapter of Recovering Hope. Resurrection Bay Baptist Church has opened its doors to Barbara, allowing her to start an in-house recovery program.
Recovering Hope offers a safe place where no one is judged and anonymity is very important. Barbara stated that she provides a caring, loving, and understanding environment where no one can say anything she hasn’t heard. Individuals that go through the recovery process often find it a relief to talk to others in the same or similar situations and get that extra weight off their shoulders. Barbara went on to say that if individuals aren’t comfortable talking in a group setting, she is available for one on one sessions. All of Barbara’s services are free of charge.
Aside from continuing to counsel those with addictions, Barbara would like to get involved with adolescent prevention versus recovery and help the youth population find ways to navigate peer pressure. Regardless of whom Barbara counsels, she wants to show people how to turn a negative into a positive and change their behaviors for the better.
Recovering Hope meets every Tuesday night from 6 to 7 pm at Resurrection Bay Bible Church located at 412 Washington Street. If you would like more information about Recovering Hope, Barbara can be reached at 907-491-0102 or firstname.lastname@example.org.