Friday evening I stepped through the doorway of the Learning Center at First Missionary Baptist Church of Moss Point and was
immediately greeted by the sight of folks of all ages gathered around a long series of tables in the main room. Brand new copies of Celebrate Recovery booklets, Bibles, and handouts could be seen scattered among them as the facilitator struggled with the challenge of introducing most of those in the group to the concept that all of us are powerless in some way over our hurts, hangups, and habits. Many of them had never struggled with a substance problem but had come to the meeting at the invitation of sister Fagan because they had seen the love of Christ reflected in her life and so were eager to sit under her mentoring and learn more. But those present who had experienced the devastating consequences of having turned their lives over to the pursuit of a mood altering substance fully understood the concept of powerlessness and the need for surrender to God to overcome addiction. Among the group, I soon spotted the man I came to see…a man who fully understood how powerless someone can become over a substance…and how powerful God is to help overcome that same addiction. That man was Joe Jackson.
Seeing Joe Jackson, one would hardly guess he is old enough to have served with the medical corps that helped withdraw the last of our soldiers from hospitals in Vietnam at the end of the conflict. Injuries sustained there have led to a lifelong limp, but that didn’t keep him from a long working life that led from completing his army service to decades working in oil refineries which landed him at the last with Chevron in Pascagoula. But that’s not what ultimately put us together.
What put us together wasn’t even Joe’s final victory through Christ over cocaine and other connected addictions nine long years ago, an addiction that had devastated his life despite his persistent work ethic. What put us together was Joe’s decision to do what most people in recovery say they would like to do but never do the time necessary to do it…Joe’s passion to see others set free from addiction through the power of Jesus Christ, and then trained to help others. What we in Next Step call the 2-2-2 Principle! (2 Timothy 2:2)
Wrapping up his counseling course of study at William Carey in 2010, Joe was required to find a local facility that would take him on as an intern for a short period so he could have hands on experience. But with HIPAA confidentiality rules, few institutions are willing to utilize un-certified or unlicensed volunteer help with their clients due to the high risks involved. Joe was at the point of discouragement as door after door closed but then he made one more call and I was blessed to be the one who answered. We got a lot of calls like his, but most were of no value because the person on the other end of the line was just looking for a quick chance to tell “other addicts” how to stay sober but had no intention to study and become “a workman who need not be ashamed.” (2 Timothy 2:15) Most were not Christians and even if they were, they often didn’t show signs they would stay the course. Most would come out for a week or so and then disappear. So it was hardly worth the effort of the interview. Joe was different. He was ready to make it his life’s calling once he was able to finish his legion of hours required and get his certification.
Fast forward three years next month and Joe Jackson has logged many an hour of hard work with men and women seeking relief from their addictions. In three years as his clinical supervisor I have been pleased to see a man willing to listen carefully enough to understand the concepts and strategies behind the spiritual warfare counseling model and then to implement them as shown, without losing the original purpose or spending more time trying to teach the client than listening to the client. When he first started his internship as a counselor, I can remember guys trying to bail when they heard they were being assigned to him. They wanted someone to talk to who had a reputation. But as soon as they had a couple of sessions with Joe, they soon found him quite capable of not only seeing where they needed to work but also telling them some things they had never thought of that were at the root of their problem: something we at Next Step call “Strongholds.”
As Paul told the church in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, that the need after recognizing our Enemy is to recognize thoughts contrary to God’s Truth that have been planted by our Enemy and with our consent. They need to be demolished, to be pulled down. The strongholds concept of counseling is foreign to most addiction counselors but Joe quickly embraced it and made it his own. He soon made his own unique blend of the War for the Soul model of strongholds counseling with his own years of experience and through that method he has now scattered men and women around the country with a unique understanding that they can now share with others.
Due to an error, the cake commemorating Joe’s 9 year anniversary at the support group study mistakenly said “11 years” on it instead of 9. But looking at that 11 years just made me wonder where Joe will be in in his personal spiritual growth in two years when that sober date is fulfilled if he has grown this much in the last three! Can’t wait to find out.
Here’s to you, Joe Jackson, for your work with the Next Step model and for help in “Equipping Believers with Biblical Answers” to Addiction Recovery!
Martin Britt <><