Commentary

Granados: Conquering Addiction Through Faith

August 18, 2013 

I’m a big believer in second chances. Lord knows I’ve had plenty. And that’s what Converting Hearts Ministries is all about. The group, based in North Raleigh, offers counseling, career resources, addiction treatment and, when necessary, housing to men trying to find a better path of existence.

Shawn Saunders, one of the leaders of the organization, called it an enterprise farm model – one that uses work as one of its tools.

“Guys that are disenfranchised out of a job because of their addiction, you get them to grow crops, do anything to make money, bring value back to the community,” he said.

The group was started by Wayne Edwards. Saunders met Edwards in 2009, and they realized quickly that they had common goals. In 2010, they partnered together.

Those common goals are simple, as stated on the organization’s website. Their mission? “To rescue men from addiction for life.” Their vision? “To reach broken families through the power of the gospel within the context of the local church and seeing a measurable impact at home, work, and community.”

Saunders explained how two guys like them got so enmeshed in fighting addiction.

“Him and I haven’t really been addicted to anything,” he said. “But our parents were. My mom died of an overdose at 49.”

Edwards’ dad was an addict, as were both of Saunders’ brothers, one of whom now works at Converting Hearts.

Back in 2010, when The News & Observer featured the project, there was a transitional house housing three men and some outpatient counseling offices. Since then, they’ve added a farm as well as more staff and clients.

“We’ve housed well over 125 men since then and work with all their families,” Saunders said.

They have two residential sites and a thrift store in Creedmoor, in addition to their main office in North Raleigh where they do outpatient care.

They also take interns from area schools, and they hope in the future to strengthen their farm and increase their bed capacity.

Saunders is also hoping the model he uses can be a template for other areas. Right now, there is interest in Lynchburg, Va., Augusta, Ga., and even Charlotte.

A big part of the program involves getting the family of the addict to participate. Saunders says that’s essential if the client is going to make any kind of recovery.

“A lot of somebody’s recovering, believe it or not, is tied to the family,” he said.

If a family isn’t willing to show some tough love, the addict might not make it, he said. But it has to be balanced.

“On the other side of the pendulum, you can’t just ignore them and say get out of here,” he said.

When some people hear the words “faith-based,” it might get their back up. After all, not every addict is religious or even believes in God. But Saunders says belief in God isn’t necessary.

“Here’s our requirements to get into our program: You want to change and don’t know how to,” he said.

God often comes into that equation, however, especially when an addict starts to evaluate the state of his or her life.

“For most people, when they get to a point of addiction where they’re shooting heroin and need to have it every three hours or they’ll get dope sick – most people are calling out to God for help,” Saunders said.

The impetus for the partnership between Saunders and Edwards was based on calculated observation. They looked around the area and saw the need. “We didn’t really know of anything that was quite like what we were trying to do,” he said.

And it’s not just them. The organization gets help from the community, such as pastors, professors and even members of the business community.

Of course, not every person in need is cut out for Converting Hearts, and there are other options in the area.

“If they’re not a fit, we can place them somewhere else,” Saunders said. “We’ve had guys go to The Healing Place and other places.”

But if you’re looking for a faith-based, residential, perhaps farm-oriented approach to recovery, then Converting Hearts might be worth a look.

You can learn more about them at www.convertinghearts.org, and they’re hosting an addictions conference Oct. 4-5. Find out about that at www.pursuitofmore.com.

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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