Before Bedford Free Methodist Church launched a Celebrate Recovery program last year, church leaders didn’t have to look far to find a person with the right experience to help start and lead the program.
The congregation includes Lindsay Endris, who received a standing ovation from state legislators this January during the State of the Judiciary address in which Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush praised Endris for turning her life around and “even organizing a drug recovery program through her church.” In June, Endris received equally enthusiastic applause from fellow Free Methodists at the Wabash Annual Conference.
“I’m a grateful believer who struggles with addiction, co-dependency and self-esteem,” Lindsay Endris told Wabash delegates two days before the third anniversary of her sobriety.
Endris grew up in a loving, supportive family that faithfully attended church. She excelled at sports, got straight A’s and earned a degree in elementary education. She became a first-grade teacher.
“During that time, I became very highly addicted to pain medication, heroin and meth,” she said. “I cut the people that I absolutely love the most out of my life. That’s what addiction does.”
Her 2013 arrest received prominent coverage from Indiana news media.
“I was the teacher that was the heroin addict and meth addict that got arrested very publicly,” Endris said. “My whole life was about being perfect, so you can imagine it was just awful. It was horrible.”
Endris did not know how she would face community members whom she expected to reject her. Bedford FMC Pastors John Lane (now the Wabash Conference superintendent) and Scott Salm (whose daughter was Endris’ childhood best friend) visited her in jail, however, and she experienced the support of the rest of the congregation when she was released.
“My church came around me, and they supported me 100 percent,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how amazing it is to walk through the doors and not be judged.”
Endris entered a drug court program and attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings. She appreciated those programs, but she desired additional structure in her life. Salm encouraged her to check out Celebrate Recovery.
“Immediately, I fell in love with it,” said Endris, who especially liked the 12-step program’s emphasis on Jesus Christ as the higher power. “That’s the only reason why I’m staying sober —having Jesus Christ there, having these guidelines, having support, having the church behind me.”
Endris is a mother reunited with her children. She has a job, a house and a car.
“I’m so happy that I can say no today,” she said. “I’ve been able to rebuild my life back, and I’m going to tell you it does not happen if you don’t have support.”
Since launching with 20 people, Bedford’s Celebrate Recovery now averages 40 people; 68 people came one night.
“We’re reaching an element of people who would not come to our regular church services,” Salm said. “It’s just so amazing to see the number of people who’ve been helped because of Lindsay’s story and Lindsay’s recovery.”
His wife, life issues group leader Connie Salm, noted Celebrate Recovery is not just for addiction but is designed for any hurt, habit or hang-up.
Bedford’s Celebrate Recovery includes several small groups, and Endris leads a women’s addictions group.
“I’m so grateful because I’m now able to give back, and that is the one thing I wanted to do,” she said. “It’s called Celebrate Recovery for a reason.”1