XENIA — Homeless, living out of dumpsters, hooked on drugs and teetering on the edge of death — life had reached some severely bitter ends about a year ago for Ric Matteoli.
“I was spiritually empty, hopeless, broken and wanting to die,” Matteoli said. “I was pretty far away from normal society, living like an animal in a trash can. That was my life. I had no relationships with my kids, my family. And I was down to 120 pounds.”
The 40-year-old Fairborn man spent 20 years of his life in active addiction, overdosing six times in recent years on heroin, before things finally changed.
On Jan. 29 of last year, Matteoli surrendered.
“I went to the Christopher House,” he said. “I started going to 12-step recovery meetings and then started going to Lighthouse (Baptist) Church. I got all new friends, moved to Xenia and got really involved in the recovery community in every aspect of my life.”
It was around the same time Matteoli entered treatment when Xenia’s Lighthouse Baptist Church started its now rapidly-growing recovery ministry, which celebrated its first anniversary Friday night.
What started as 19 people meeting at the church on Friday evenings has grown to reach more than 500 people during its first year. On any given Friday, the ministry draws in upwards of 100 people — people fighting addiction and people trying to help those fighting addiction and serve God.
“We started this ministry because God placed it on our heart to start a ministry specifically focused on people struggling in addiction,” said Pastor Josh Bevan. “We have a heart for people that are broken and struggling with addiction because God has a heart for the broken. We believe God has the answer and we want to share that truth with those who are struggling.”
Following a meal 6:30 p.m. every Friday at the church — located at 2040 W. Second St. —there are weekly testimonies of true life change. Stories of recovery. Stories of faith. Stories of hope. Testimonial time is followed by Pastor Bevan who speaks from the Bible, with what members find to be a challenging and inspiring message.
“I love to see the transformation, to see the peace and joy these people have, that calmness,” Pastor Bevan said. “When many of them started coming they were nervous and broken.”
Many of those who attend the recovery ministry go on to be baptized, Bevan said, and even become members of the church — as is the case with Matteoli, who has turned his life around. He is approaching one year completely abstinent of drugs and alcohol while rebuilding relationships with his children and family, pursuing a new career path as a chemical dependency counselor, mentoring men, and becoming engaged (this past Sunday) to a woman with more than a decade in recovery, who also serves others in recovery.
But the ministry is not limited to people in recovery, Pastor Bevan said. It is supported by community leaders on various levels. Bevan said this is not to discourage participation in any other form of recovery program or treatment.
Eric McCarthy of Fairborn supports this. With about three years in recovery, practicing complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol with good standing in the fellowship of a 12-step program, McCarthy found Lighthouse Baptist Church’s recovery ministry only recently, and began attending three months ago.
He said it has drastically impacted his life in a positive way, and he gave his testimony to the group Friday night during the one-year celebration.
“There is no monopoly on recovery,” McCarthy said. “There are a whole variety of ways … Some people can actually go straight into a church and pray to Jesus and he removes it. That wasn’t what worked for me. But we have to have these sorts of places. They love on people there. That place is full of love. It’s taught me to love people more… I was a terrible person for a lot of years and God loved me anyways. If He loved me when I was like that, why wouldn’t I love others?”
Lighthouse’s general services are at 10 a.m. Sundays.
For more, go to lbcxenia.com or facebook.com/lbcxenia/.
Brian Evans is a free-lance writer and is also a person in recovery. He can be reached at email@example.com.