OWATONNA — Keith Haskell believes it’s possible for every person struggling with addiction to turn his or her life around.
“I don’t subscribe personally or professionally to the theory that this is the life you were meant to have and this is all you get,” he said. “I don’t believe your God-given name was addict, junkie, prostitute, thief, all names people have taken on because they’ve been called that so many times.
To help people conquer all types of addiction, including chemical, sexual, gambling and more, Haskell and his church, Bridges to Hope, are starting a new chapter of an international Christian recovery program: Reformers Unanimous. There are more than a thousand other chapters around the country and beyond, as well as several inpatient treatment centers operated by the organization.
“It is faith-based and run by people who have a true compassion,” Haskell said when asked what makes Reformers Unanimous stand out from other treatment programs. “It’s very home-feel. There’s no financial pressure. [There are] nominal fees for curriculum materials, but no fees for attending the program. It erases one of the biggest objections people have to treatment, when there isn’t a way to afford it.”
The program, which Haskell said has an 80 percent success rate, stresses confidentiality and seeks to avoid some of the ego-driven behavior Haskell said he hears about in other programs.
“There’s a lot of war stories, a lot of bragging about things that aren’t good, and we don’t allow the war stories at all,” he said. “Not that we don’t address the addiction and causes and actions, but we don’t allow it to get into glorifying or bragging about the bad things you’ve done because that’s not why we’re there.”
The program kicked off with an orientation Oct. 7 and held its first full meeting Oct. 14, and so far those who’ve attended one weekly meeting have returned for more, Haskell said. The most recent meeting had 26 participants.
“We tell people, ‘Come with an open heart and open mind, and come at least four to six times before you make a judgment if it’s right for you’,” he said.
Haskell’s involvement with Reformers Unanimous dates back to 2007, when as a member of First Baptist Church of Rosemount, he was asked to help organize that chapter’s expansion into the Dakota County Jail. Once the Owatonna chapter is up and running, he said, he’d like to see the same happen at the Steele County Detention Center.
“When an inmate gets out of the jail, we want them to be able to plug right into the program and pick up right where they left off,” he said.
Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele said his office and Reformers Unanimous are still exploring a partnership but said he sees potential in the program.
“Anything that can benefit the inmates at the jail would be a good way to get going,” he said. “If it ends up being beneficial to the inmates, I don’t see why we wouldn’t try it. Both entities are on the initial stages here. It’s just a matter of what can we accomplish together.”
Haskell said he’s excited to offer a new option to people whose lives have been derailed by addiction and hopes Reformers Unanimous can help give people the tools to choose a better path forward.
“Recovery is part, and teaching better decisions, spiritual decisions through all of your life, not just your addiction personality or your recovery personality,” he said. “I think that’s the part some of the other programs might miss completely.”