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Rest in silence: An addict's story of self discovery

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Guiding Light's recovery program offers a unique experience at a silent retreat in Three Rivers, Michigan

 /The Hermitage Community

 /The Hermitage Community

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Life is noisy. It’s difficult to find those moments where you have nothing to think about but your own thoughts, your connection to the Great Beyond and the toiling of the grass. That’s the idea behind the Hermitage Community’s silent retreat center in Three Rivers, Michigan, where patrons spend most of their stay in total silence. 

“Our lives are full of distractions,” says Naomi Wenger, Director of the Hermitage Community. “The silent retreat is a practice of surrender. It’s an opportunity to pray with presence and attention.”

If life is noisy, life in addiction is even noisier. The Guiding Light is a non-profit based in Grand Rapids, their unique recovery program for men focuses on meaningful internal reflection that will guide them to freedom from addiction. Program and spiritual directors knew a silent retreat would be a great opportunity for them to do just that.

“At first, the guys are real uncomfortable with the silence. We like things that make the guys uncomfortable, that’s when growth happens,” says Steve Pratt, Recovery Case Manager. “Cleaning up from drugs makes the guys feel a lot of anxiety, and the clutter of noise can become a crutch.”

The Hermitage Community boasts 62 sprawling acres of rolling hills, meadows, and woodland. The amenities are rustic and the food is all natural. There is plenty to behold.

“It was very enlightening to be able to go for 48 hours without speaking to anyone or hearing your own voice,” says *Nick, of the recovery program. Formerly in real estate, Nick’s luck has been hard to recover since the Great Recession. Slowly his problem with alcohol slipped into addiction. “A butterfly landed beside me and I just reflected. In that moment I felt it had more insight than I did.”

In addition to the scenery, they give daily devotionals and sing hymns for guests. There are many trails and even a labyrinth. There is always something to think about.

“I thought about my daughter a lot. It really gave me a sense of getting in touch with myself, to focus on the little things that we take for granted.” Nick says he’s traveled the world but never really stopped to look around and enjoy life.

“If the men don’t change, the same man will fall into addiction again, so we challenge them to change,” says Steve. “At the retreat they are forced to think about the things in their lives that need reflection.”

Naomi believes that quiet, intentional time with God allows God to do the transformation we subvert by exercising our own will. “For those struggling with addiction, the retreat is an exercise of dependence on God and is good practice in denying power to the triggers of addiction,” Naomi says. “Our best hope for them is that they gain a love for the experience of God’s presence.”

Guiding Light Recovery program is a four to eight month process. Every man in the program takes a silent retreat during their time in the program and sometimes discover a personal breakthrough. Each finds something different from the experience, hopefully they find a part of themselves they lost along the way.

*Some of the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Guiding Light

Through the guiding light of God's Spirit, Guiding Light partners with individuals to fulfill their God-given potential through rescue, recovery and re-engagement in community.

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