Richard Wilson
Escaping the nightmare of addiction

No local church has the resources or the specific skills to meet every need it faces, whether to those it serves outside the church or to those already within the Christian familyAddiction often raises some of the more complex issues, requiring both specialist advice and longer-term ministry, care, and discipleship. The answer is often a partnership, with an outside ministry able to bring specialist advice and counsel, while keeping the ongoing support grounded in the local church. 

KEYS Community Detox is a church-based programme helping people escape from alcohol and drug addictionStarted as a registered charity in 2013, it now has twelve active centres in churches around the UK, with several others in the pipeline.  

The work has three elements:  

- Medical – Teams of volunteers are trained and equipped to support clients before, during and after detox. They use protocols developed by clinical experts, and always involve the clients own GP (or drug clinic) who organises any tests and prescribes any necessary medication. 

- Spiritual – The project is primarily aimed at helping those who are making an effort to improve their lives. They may be already on or be open to a spiritual route to recovery. Clients are supported through a recovery programme that uses a Christian version of the 12-steps to address the complex issues that are often at the root of addiction.  

- Community support – Community support is the vital third ‘KEY’ to the programme. Having the support of a loving community is a massive boost to anyone seriously wanting to make the lifestyle changes necessary for a future life free from drugs and alcohol. 

KEYS partners with and equips small church teams, with the churches themselves appointing a centre manager and gathering volunteers (approved by the church leaders) who are then trained by KEYS as befrienders or detox coaches. KEYS remains closely involved with the church teams, providing the ongoing professional support and medical advice for the individuals being helped.

Grounding the support in local churches allows the recovery groups to help deal with deeper inner pains that are so often the roots of addiction, often the result of traumatic life experiences. Much blessing has come through the use of the Freedom in Christ resources and the ‘steps to freedom’ and using the Sozo Prayer Ministry. KEYS have also run both ministries on Zoom during lockdown. 

In their recently published Annual Report to September last year, Project Director and founder, Dr Steve Smith observes: 

“The work of our charity has literally taken off over these past months in a way that we have previously not experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged and impacted us all in various ways, but through these extraordinary times we have seen the benefits of our work changing the lives of many individuals, like never before. Since the beginning of March, we have given what we call 'high level recovery support' to 23 men and women, which has included 14 detoxes. Of these, 11 are now experiencing new-found and lasting abstinence from drug and alcohol addiction, and 7 are actively in progress. These statistics are truly remarkable and represent a 200% increase in our workload compared to previous years.”  

Since September the numbers of people helped have continued to rise, although COVID-19 has, perhaps, been less of a challenge to KEYS than to some ministries, as for several years it has offered remote support to clients via the internet, alongside the one-to-one and group support offered by teams on the ground. As the Annual Report observes, “We were therefore well established in using Zoom, long before the rest of the world seemed to be turning to video-conferencing when lockdown hit! In addition, we have had our volunteer training online for some time, so thankfully, the recent restrictions have not hindered the development of our new teams.”  

Operations Director Laura Waters is convinced that being able to continue the essential work through this current season, with appropriate risk assessments, has lessened the pressure that might have been put on the NHS had detox support through the churches been withdrawn. Laura mentions the ability to undertake doorstep deliveries of prescribed alcohol or drugs as well as being able to continue befriending or coaching in appropriate locations, or over Zoom, and specifically the additional support given to family members during lockdown to enable them to support the individual on the programme. 

The KEYS website includes a number of encouraging testimonies witnessing to God’s restoration of broken lives. Read them here: https://www.keysuk.org/testimonies