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“I guess it was God,” Cynthia Roberts responds when asked how she got involved with St. John the Baptist Recovery Outreach Center in Akron. “I’ve struggled with addiction, and I’ve worked with women who have addictions, but I wanted more. So I prayed.”

The answer to her prayer arrived when she was offered the chance to become a full-time counselor for St. John the Baptist Recovery Outreach Center, a Catholic Charities program that opened earlier this year and was funded by a special Catholic Charities Follow Up Appeal conducted in May 2018. “I saw God’s hand in this program,” Cynthia says. “I wanted to grow in my spirituality and help others.That’s His purpose for me.”

The recovery center, which occupies the former St. John The Baptist Parish rectory, works closely with the Barberton Campus of Summa Health System (and soon with Summa’s Akron Campus) to identify people struggling to beat their addictions. Counselors like Cynthia befriend these individuals while they are in the hospital emergency room, meeting them on their terms, and providing the necessary assistance. “They’re afraid,” Cynthia says of those fighting addiction. “They don’t know recovery. We tell them we’ve been there, and we try to engage them and show them where we are now.”

Gaining someone’s trust is a major part of being a recovery counselor, and listening to the recoveree is often the best way to develop a rapport. “I don’t push. They feel your vibe, and you sit back and allow the conversation to happen,” Cynthia says. Following an initial meeting in the hospital emergency room, Cynthia maintains a relationship with the recoveree through recovery. The process can last up to a year. After that, the recoveree goes into the empowerment phase, with the counselor still rooting him or her on. “I say, ‘I’m still here for you. Look at you now. Keep on pushing on.’”

Success looks different for every recoveree, but Cynthia explains the overall goal of the program. “We want all of our recoverees to achieve what they need and to come back and represent St. John the Baptist Recovery Outreach Center,” she says. As someone who has been sober for eight years, Cynthia understands that recovery is an ongoing process. “I’m able to go into the darkness and gradually help others, but I can’t help anybody if I can’t help myself.”

Knowing that she can have a positive impact on the lives of others serves as strong motivation. “It’s not a job; it’s my life,” she says of her work as a recovery counselor with this Catholic Charities program. “I get chills just talking about it.”

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