12 Steps director finds healing through service to others
At one time in her life, Carolyn Silas said, she was junked out on cocaine, with no clear path to recovery.
“I was living in Newport, (Va.), and I was strung out on drugs and I wanted to be free of drugs, and I couldn’t get free …” Silas said, noting her family’s solid footing in the community made borrowing money to facilitate her habit almost too easy for her.
But then Silas moved to Kansas, began going to church and came to realize the only way to find salvation for herself would be through helping others. That’s when she founded Walking 12 Steps with Christ, a Bible-centered 12-step recovery program, based in Kansas City, Kan. The program ministers to the community in a number of different ways.
Founded in 1994, the nonprofit organization offers twice-monthly 12-step meetings for those recovering from, as Silas said, “all compulsive behaviors.” Meetings are at Floods of Joy Missionary Baptist Church, 1946 N. Third St.
The meetings are conducted in a similar way to Alcoholics Anonymous, but Silas said there was one fundamental difference.
“In the Alcoholics Anonymous, they don’t want you to talk about Christ because it infringes on the right of other people to believe what they want to believe,” said Silas, who is now an ordained minister and a chaplain with the Wyandotte County Detention Center. “But in our program, you can talk about Christ and you can feel free to talk about (whatever you believe). We just keep loving you, and eventually you may want to talk about Christ, too.”
Belief in Christ is not a requirement to participate in the program, Silas said. The organization is Bible-centered because that’s where Silas’ own beliefs lie, but the point of the program is to help someone, no matter what their personal belief system happens to be, she said.
“We’re not trying to persuade people to be any denomination,” Silas said. “Because that’s when the ministry got started, that’s where my faith is and I personally believe in Christ. But because a person does not believe like I believe, it doesn’t mean that I should not honor them.”
Silas doesn’t stop at offering the 12 steps to recovery, though. Her organization helps detainees who are released from the Wyandotte County Detention Center find housing — even going so far as to pick them up from jail and drop them off “where they need to be, so that when they get out, they don’t go back to the same old places,” she said.
For the past eight years, Silas’ organization has also provided a free Valentine’s Day meal, called God’s Marriage Feast, for homeless or impoverished couples in the community. The meal is served at University United Methodist Church, 3148 Parallel Parkway, in Kansas City, Kan.
“We have someone teach us about marriage, (we) sing solos, read poetry to our spouses, renew our vows, dine together by candlelight,” Silas said of the event. “The purpose of it all is because when people are economically oppressed, they’re usually so caught up in how they’re going to make it, they don’t take time to celebrate their marriages or their relationships.”
Also for the past eight years, Walking 12 Steps with Christ, in partnership with the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office, has offered a Toys for Tots program for children of Wyandotte County Detention Center detainees. Each year a party is staged for children to come and receive a toy, stocking stuffers, snacks and a visit and picture with Santa Claus.
Perhaps the organization’s largest undertaking thus far is a recovery home for female addicts, called God’s Ordered Steps House, that will be in Kansas City, Kan. Silas said the home will offer overnight stays, referral services and in-house classes focusing on life skills.
“Our primary function will be on mentorship, sheltered mentorship, and those basic things,” Silas said of the house.
Fundraising for and organizing of the house is now under way, but Silas said she hoped the house would be ready by summer.
Over the years, Silas said she has seen firsthand the benefit of the programs her organization offers.
“I’ve seen many people kick their addiction and we end up referring them to (sponsors) who are like them, and so it gives them an opportunity to be with someone who understands the addiction part … they understand what impact the addiction has,” Silas said.
She insists, however, she is the one receiving the most help from all of this. Helping others, she says, helps her to focus on her own recovery. She also suffers from fybromyalgia, a painful condition that frequently keeps her bedridden. She says the days she can get up and go to work are proof that God is working on her behalf.
“I get more help out of this than I give. It’s just I just believe that … God gives me special help to stay clean and focused and working on myself because I want to help somebody else,” Silas said. “Whatever we do for somebody else, God causes it to happen for us. And in my attempt to help other people, God has strengthened me … and as I’m doing this, he helps me so much.”
For more information about Walking 12 Steps with Christ, contact Silas at (913) 999-8546.