Step one, month one in the path to recovery

Wednesday, January 27, 2021
John Richardson has been clean and sober for nine years. He now manages the men’s sober living house in Cassville that first took him in eight years ago. Contributed photo

Richardson: ‘I was broken, and I needed help’

There are 12 steps in the path to recovery, according to Celebrate Recovery, and the first step is for an individual to admit not only that there is a problem, but to recognize that their lives have become unmanageable because of it.

For John Richardson, the moment he admitted he was no longer in control was the moment that changed his life.

John Richardson had to earn back the respect from those he loved but hurt during his addiction. His son supported him on the day he graduated from drug court. Contributed photo

Richardson was the first person to move into the Cassville men’s sober living house eight years ago.

“I was raised in a violent and alcoholic family,” he said. “My father only knew how to instill fear.”

The first time Richardson tried alcohol was the first time he truly felt a happy feeling.

“I had never had a feeling like that,” he said. “It made me feel good.”

That moment for Richardson was in the eighth grade.

“This eventually led to drug use in order to try to keep that happy feeling,” he said. “That turned into the only life that I knew. I had never been around people who weren’t on drugs or alcohol.”

From the age of 18 up to age 47, Richardson had been imprisoned five times and had 13 rehab treatments.

“I was always willing to face the punishments,” he said. “I thought it was just the price I had to pay for the fun I had. I knew it was a problem, but I didn’t see a way to escape.”

It was during Richardson’s last prison term that he started to realize he was powerless over his addiction.

“It wasn’t fun anymore,” he said. “I was using alcohol and drugs to kill my mental pain.”

Richardson was released from prison in 2011, and a month later, he was arrested on another drug charge.

“I was facing 30 years to life,” he said. “It was then that I fully admitted to myself that I was powerless over my addiction. My life had become unmanageable.”

At that point, Richardson said he turned to God. The first step of the 12-step process offers a biblical comparison in Romans 7:18, which reads, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”

“I said, ‘I will do everything in my power to live my life right,’” he said. “I started recovery at the Celebrate Recovery in Cassville.”

Richardson said he was accepted with open arms and love.

“It didn’t matter what my situation was,” he said. “I was always secluded, my whole life, and Celebrate Recovery helped me be around people.

“It kept me around normal people who kept me on track. I went to every Celebrate Recovery in the surrounding area.”

Richardson had a Celebrate Recovering meeting almost every night.

“I also went to several churches,” he said. “I went to churches with many different denominations. I knew there I would be around good people for a least an hour that day.”

Richardson was accepted into the Barry County Drug Court program in 2012.

“I go to NA and AA to this day,” he said. “Now, I am a part of those groups, helping other people. I was blessed to get a construction job that I love. I am blessed to have a boss who is Christian and is an understanding and helpful man.”

Since he has been clean, Richardson hasn’t missed a single day of work in nine years.

“In my addiction, I would miss multiple day of work every week,” he said. “I got my GED in Drug Court in 2013. I got my driver’s license after not having one in 27 years due to eight DUIs.

“I have gained respect back from those I have hurt over the years.”

For many of those people, it took all of five years to see how serious Richardson was in his recovery.

“My addiction cost me a lot,” he said. “A belief I have developed in recovery is the Lord is first and my work is second. Work keeps me busy eight hours every day, which occupies my mind. Free time is dangerous for a person in recovery.”

Richardson now manages the sober living house which took him in eight years ago.

“I have talked to 300 people who have come through that house about their addiction, problems and recovery,” he said. “We all try to help each other. I have learned that you have to talk about your struggles. It is not good to hold it all in.”

Richardson has kept himself surrounded by people during his recovery for the last nine years, so he no longer faces it alone.

“Helping others is a way I can give back to a community that I have taken away from in my addiction,” he said. “All my life, I drank away my problems for the night. After my last arrest, the only person I had was God.”

In realizing his life was unmanageable and his addiction was in control, Richardson accepted the first step in Celebrate Recovery.

“For the first time in my life, I couldn’t kill the pain,” he said. “I realized I couldn’t manage anything, not even my freedom. I was broken, and I needed help.”

Richardson said he always tells the newcomers to say what is on their mind.

“It will reach someone,” he said. “Your story will reach someone in the audience, and they will absorb what you have to say and understand our experiences.”


This article is part of a monthly, 12-part series giving an inside look into the testimonies and lives of a dozen individuals who have met their recovery goal. Each month will focus on the corresponding step in the 12-step process, as well as its biblical comparison.

While the world deals with he COVID-19 pandemic, it also deals with the pandemic of addiction. For a time, due to social restrictions, Celebrate Recovery and other meetings were postponed. Those in recovery understand the struggle when they are unable to reach out for help.

With these testimonies, they aim to reach those who need help, but are unable to get it. They want to reach people in their communities and offer them a hand, a resource and a safe space.

In 2019, there were 304 felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges in Cassville, and as of the first week of December, there were 293 for 2020.

Places people can turn to include:

• Celebrate Recovery Cassville — Tuesdays at the First Baptist Church in the loft. Meal is served at 5:45 p.m. and large group is at 6:30 p.m., child care is provided. People may contact Mark Barton at 417-766-5449.

• Celebrate Recovery Purdy — Mondays at First Baptist in Purdy. Meal is served at 5:45 p.m. and large group is at 6:30 p.m. People may contact the church at 417-442-7435 or Charles Stults at 417-442-9357.

• Celebrate Recovery Seligman — Wednesdays at Mozark Fellowship in Seligman. Meal is served at 6 p.m. and large group is at 7 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mike Avers at 417-342-8659.

• Celebrate Recovery Monett — Thursdays at New Site Baptist Church in Monett. Large group goes from at 6-7:30 p.m. Child care provided birth to fifth grade, and The Landing group is available for youth grades 6-12. Meals to go at the end of every evening. People may contact 417-235-6135 for more information.

In addition, the local Clark Center office number is 417-476-1000. The 24-hour Crisis Line is 1-800-801-4405, and the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Those involved with this 12 month, 12 step series hope to reach as many people as possible in their communities.

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