- Mental Health
Submitted by: Susanne Johnson
When Jonathan was in Seminary, he worked at a charter hospital for people with behavioral issues and mental health problems. He became a pastor and counselor. He wanted to help people, but he wasn’t sure what was the best way.
Mental health problems and alcoholism ran widespread in his family and he believes that this played a significant factor in his desire to work with people in this field.
During that time he became interested in the 12 steps and soon thereafter was working at a recovery program in Columbus, Mississippi. There he learned a lot about Substance Use Disorders while running their spiritual program.
Prior to that, in 1999, he ended up homeless and desperate in the streets of North Carolina after making mistakes and poor choices in his life. He was a pastor before that, but after he got divorced he lost this position. He had resentments, never stopped believing, but knew he had to take a different path and make different choices. Also his depression was very bad during this time. He was stranded in North Carolina, homeless and laid down in the woods near an Interstate. His life was miserable, he had no hope. He didn’t see any options to fix anything in his life to make it better and couldn’t see any way out of this miser, therefore unable to help himself. His life didn’t make sense to him, he had no place to go. At first he thought that he wanted to die. After a couple of days of being hungry and desperate he changed that thought. Jonathan explained, “It was not that I wanted to die, or that I didn’t want to live anymore. I just didn’t want to live like THIS.””So God, help me. But if you can’t, please let me die.”
After some time of prayer, he heard a voice telling him “Walk back to me.” He made the most difficult call after burning most bridges in his life and contacted his mother, telling her that he didn’t know what to do. But he would agree to anything his father or she would suggest. He returned home defeated and afraid of his own choices at age 35. It took a while for the relationship to his family to get better, but they saw he was not running from responsibility and that he was doing the right things for the right reasons. Consequently, all improved slowly and steadily.
He didn’t do drugs, and was only drinking moderately. But he wanted to understand what made him make those poor decisions in life, so he started reading lots of books about addiction in general. He came to the belief that his major problems were not caused by the substances, but by codependency, low self esteem and a form of sex addiction.
In 2006 he returned to Kentucky. He wrote a spiritual manual for people with addiction and mental health problems. He continued to learn about the different mental health problems people face in order to understand them better and serve them in a spiritual way. In 2009 Jonathan’s mother passed. They barely kept their head above water, living from money through selling his mother’s home. He delivered newspapers, took on a variety of temporary jobs, all while he was figuring out where to go from there. “I realized in 2010 how bad my anxiety was, and that it truly interfered with my ability to work and live a normal life.” After taking some medication and noticing that all of a sudden, he no longer became anxious, he realized that his problem was not the anxiety itself, but the fact that he was creating his own anxiety.
The medication emphasized to him that he had a thinking problem, not an anxiety problem. He learned that at every moment that anxiety appeared he had to check his thoughts. A counselor he was visiting at the time told him that anxiety is a perceived threat. A form of fear. Now he believes that if he has anxious feelings, they result from anxious thoughts. “As soon as I feel anxious, I have to check my head. I have to see if I’m thinking straight. I don’t have a problem with anxiety. My body responds properly to my fears and thoughts. I have a thought problem.” Taking Charge, When You’re Not in Control’, by Patricia Wiklund, was the book that helped him a lot during this time.
The local pastor at the biggest church in the area was thinking of starting a program to help people with addiction. Jonathan handed him his spiritual program saying he could borrow it to forward his approach. After he and his wife attended a summit to learn more, they finally agreed to be part of this church’s attempt to help those struggling with addiction.
Jonathan had reservations about running this program knowing that it would be a huge time commitment. He shared his reservations with his wife, acknowledging that once they committed they couldn’t turn back. She was so excited about Celebrate Recovery, and they ultimately both made the decision to go forward with it. Attendance was light at first with groups ranging from sometimes five to a maximum of thirty people. However it quickly grew and filled the church in Paducah, Kentucky and now every Friday evening people gather seeking help with their issues through the program of Celebrate Recovery.
As the program continues to grow and draw new individuals who seek help for themselves and to help others to get better, many have also been attending since it’s inception in 2010. Jonathan works hard to make this program a safe place for the community to connect, have a good time, listen to live music, eat together, get help and talk to each other. He also works at a local mental health and addiction center where he helps people who struggle in this area, to find employment.
He invites anyone to come and engage in Celebrate Recovery every Friday night at the Father’s House in Paducah, KY hopefully finding there, “what you are looking for to start a life worth living.” He found his passion in helping those who are feeling hopeless and who need help with addiction, alcoholism, codependency, depression, anxiety or any other life issues.