André Wilson knelt before Carmen Malawe and proposed to her in front of the surprised guests. It was the 2001 Overcomers Outreach Anniversary meeting, one of many Overcomers meetings they had attended as part of their own recovery. Now, as a couple, they are leaders in the same work that rebuilt the foundation of their lives.
Because Carmen had used drugs and alcohol for years, she attended a drug rehab program in Elizabeth in 1999. Soon after, she met The Hope Center’s Karen Storz. Karen told her about Overcomers Outreach meetings, a 12-step addiction recovery program sponsored by New York City Relief’s (NYCR) Hope Center. Carmen attended a meeting the next day and hasn’t missed one since.
André said he was once a “homeless crack-smoking car thief.” He also moved to Elizabeth in 1999 after serving five years in prison. Through the recovery meetings, Carmen and André became friends. The rest is history.
After their engagement, they began counseling at the Hope Center with Bill Hoffman. “Counseling has been instrumental and foundational not only for our marriage but for our spiritual lives as well,” André explains.
In addition to leading Overcomers meetings, Carmen and André work with several individuals, helping them work their recovery by sponsoring them. “When I’m able to see the growth in people’s lives, it’s overwhelming,” Carmen explains. “It always makes me cry.”
They both agree that the biggest frustration in this work is when people don’t “stick with” their recovery. “You put a lot of time and work into sponsoring and it’s challenging to continue to give out to a person who is not getting it,” they say. That’s when they remind themselves of their own pasts and regain hope for others.
The Hope Center, an outreach of NYCR, offers Overcomers Outreach meetings in Elizabeth and Cranford, NJ. Overcomers, a 12-step addiction recovery program is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, but is based on distinctly Christian values. To find out more about this, one of the most successful recovery programs, call (908) 352-8778 or visit www.overcomersoutreach.org.
Written in 2002.