When Mark McManus talks to people battling addictions, he speaks their language.
McManus, 56, is founder and executive director of Power for Abundant Recovery Ministries, which works to provide hope, healing and restoration to those in the Christian community affected directly or indirectly by addictions. The nondenominational Billings organization is a year old.
By the time the McManus was 29, alcohol controlled his life. He would drink a wine cooler on the way to work and down a half-pint of vodka at lunch. Then he’d drink two to three gin and tonics after work and consume a quart of beer every night.
McManus, a high-functioning alcoholic, somehow managed to keep his life going at home and at work. But things were slipping.
“I had come to the end of myself, and I knew I couldn’t stop,” he said, sitting at a picnic table in a Billings park. “It was affecting every area of my life in destructive ways. Every boundary I set for myself, I crossed.”
Most alcoholics who reach a pivotal point remember it. For McManus, it came the night he ran out of alcohol at home and reached for the only thing he could find, a bottle of NyQuil.
He grabbed the cold medicine, twisted off the cap and drank it.
“In one breath I said ‘thank God,’ ” McManus said. “And the second breath was, ‘you’re sick. Do you realize what you’re saying?’ And then I realized that there wasn’t any control. It was owning me.”
Compounding his self-loathing, McManus, a Christian, was active in a church.
“I loved God and I loved Jesus and I kept falling and falling.” He said. “I felt a lot of shame, and I didn’t know who I could talk to or who would understand.”
Eventually, McManus completed alcohol treatment and then continued his recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. He’s been sober now for nearly 28 years.
McManus is a big believer in the 12-step program espoused by AA, which he said helps people deal with the “soul work,” helping heal the mind, will and emotions. But McManus needed more.
AA’s 12-step program speaks of a “Power greater than ourselves” and making a decision to turn one’s will and life over to the care of God “as we understood him.” McManus sometimes saw resistance to people like him who specifically defined their higher power as Jesus Christ.
That led him to create a program with a Christian emphasis.
“Coming through my own addiction and seeing people within the faith community struggle with addiction, I thought it finally came time to provide an avenue for recovery for Christians,” he said.
He wanted it to be a place where participants “could be rigorously honest about their addiction, but they didn’t have to leave their faith at the door.”
McManus, an adjunct therapy specialist in the recovery field is also a certified Christian life coach, found others who shared his vision. Power for Abundant Recovery started on April 4, 2015, with one other person, McManus said.
“It was two of us in a room, and we just prayed,” he said.
The group grew to three, then 18, then 40, and now is up to around 80 people. Open and closed addiction recovery groups are held at First Christian Church, at the corner of North 29th Street and Sixth Avenue North.
Open groups invite people with any types of addiction, including gambling, sex addiction, eating disorders, alcohol and drugs. The closed meetings are geared to alcohol- and drug-abuse.
Study groups that focus on the PAR’s own faith-based 12-step program, and on co-dependency, take place at 1133 Fourth Ave. N.
“We’re going to start doing a podcast on our website so people can get some encouragement and help,” McManus said.
He is quick to point out that PAR isn’t meant to be a replacement for church fellowship. Instead, the hope is that the help an individual receives will enhance his or her relationship with a home church.
“The overall goal is to help the body of Christ and church families get healthy,” McManus said.
PAR is slowly starting to make its program available to churches interested in implementing it. The organization has already gotten inquiries from Bozeman and Miles City, as well as from South Dakota.
The Rev. Jeromy Emerling, pastor of First Christian Church, is PAR’s vice executive director and director of pastoral outreach. He will work with pastors who want to implement PAR in their churches, McManus said.
“We’re not marketing to expand,” McManus said. “We’re listening to where God wants us to go.”