Step 12, month 12 in the path to recovery

Wednesday, December 29, 2021
In 2013, after 40 years, Mark and Cathie Barton reunited and got married after he gave his life to the Lord. Contributed photo

Barton: ‘My brother had actually made funeral arrangements for me’

The twelve steps seem like miles at the beginning of one’s journey, but eventually, those on the road to recovery take that final step, and it all seems worth it.

Step 12 in Celebrate Recovery (CR) is to carry out the message to others and practice the principles in all of one’s affairs.

The biblical comparison for this step is found in Galatians 6:1.

Mark Barton fell in love in 1973 with Cathie, but due to his lifestyle, they split up. Contributed photo

It is very clear that although one may have reached the final step, they must continue to both model and share their journey to those around them.

Mark Barton, co-founder of the CR in Cassville, is 17 years sober from cocaine and methamphetamine, and he continues every day to take a step and witness to others.

“I think 50 percent of people who struggle with a mood disorder also struggle with addiction, and visa versa” he said. “I am one of those who has a dual diagnosis. I am an addict, and I have a mood disorder.”

Barton said one of his favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 6:14, which says you can’t heal a wound by pretending it’s not there.

“I grew up in Springfield,” Barton said. “I know now that I grew up with ADHD that was never diagnosed.”

He said he struggled throughout school, getting Ds in grade school, which didn’t help his already strained relationship with his father.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me, so I can’t blame him for not understanding it either,” he said. “It was back in the 1960s, so I would get whipped for bad grades.

“One thing I’ve learned with CR is to take inventory of everything, the bad and the good.”

Barton and his father never had a good relationship, and Barton had a lot of anger he had to deal with.

“I got into a lot of fights,” he said. “But back then, I didn’t know one person who saw a therapist or took medication for mental disorders.”

In a dark time for mental and mood disorders, when there wasn’t a lot of help or understanding, Barton found himself in an even darker place.

“When I was 12 years old, I tried to kill myself,” he said. “I took my dad’s belt and tried to hang myself, but the door came ajar and when I fell, I broke my wrist.

“I kept thinking my parents would be home and I would have to explain how I got hurt. I went outside and I pretended that I broke my wrist while playing.”

It was then at age 12 that Barton first started drinking and smoking marijuana.

“My freshman year in high school, I fell in love with Cathie,” he said. “The connection and the chemistry between us was amazing. But after two years she broke up with me. She was a Christian and I just drank too much.”

Over the years, Barton would think about her and wonder what she was doing in life.

“I had such a problem with authority figures and when I got out of high school I got busted for the first time in 1975,” he said. “I got four state felonies for marijuana.”

Barton said he knew he had a problem with authority figures, and he always had the feeling they were always out to get him.

“So what did I do? I joined the military,” he said. “I scored high for mechanical work, so I became a part of the Seabees, a branch of the service. Our motto was, ‘We build and we fight.’”

Barton spent three years active and three years in active reserve.

“I spent my 21st birthday in boot camp,” he said. “I was active from 1978-1981.

“When I got out I moved to Dallas, and a friend of mine found me in the phone book.”

That was in 1981, when Barton was invited to a party and, at 23 years old, used methamphetamine for the first time.

“Things eventually came crashing down and I moved back to Springfield,” he said. “In 1984, I got interstate trafficking charges and spent a year in a halfway house. I started cooking meth in 2000, and I would rotate my setup from a house to a storage unit to a shop to another house.

“In 2004, I had been up for a long time without sleep. I had a lot of charges, so I was cooking around the clock to make money to pay off attorney and other fees.”

On Aug. 10, 2004, Barton woke up in the burn unit of St. John hospital in Springfield.

“I had been in a drug-induced coma for seven weeks,” he said. “I didn’t remember the fire at that time, but over the years, I have pieced it together.

“They told me it was a meth fire and that there was a cop stationed outside of my room.”

Barton said once he realized they knew he was in there for meth, he assumed he would be treated badly.

“But, it was the opposite,” he said. “I spent three months in the burn unit and it turns out most of the people who worked there were Christians.”

As a child, Barton had not been raised in a church environment.

“Bobby Eden would come into my room and tell me about Jesus,” he said. “I didn’t want to hear it at first, and if I could have run I would have. But, after awhile I started to look forward to his visits.”

While in the hospital, not even one of Barton’s drug-using friends came to visit him.

“My brother had actually made funeral arrangements for me,” he said. “My daughter came to visit me, but I didn’t want her to see me like that.

“When it was time to leave, they told me I would need several more surgeries and needed to stay in a nursing home for three months.”

Barton said Bobby would tell him, “God has a plan for you.”

“I was in a low place,” he said. “Seventy-eight percent of my body was burned. I had 17 felonies that had been filed against me and they took my daughter away and told me I could not have contact with her for one year.”

Barton was getting depressed, and his suicidal thoughts came back.

“I went to the store and bought an adapter,” he said. “I put it on the tail pipe and ran the hose up to the window. I had a bunch of pills that I was taking from my burns. I was scared.”

Barton said suicide had been on his mind, and even though he was scared, he started the car.

“I started praying and thinking of my daughter,” he said. “I said, ‘I don’t know anything about it, but I am going to give this Jesus stuff a year.’

“Everything changed after that, I had hope and I wanted to be productive. I asked God to show me who he was.”

That day was 16 years ago, and Barton said he hasn’t had a suicidal thought since.

“I have nothing but a positive outlook on life,” he said. “There is this song by Anne Wilson called ‘My Jesus.’ It is kind of my anthem.”

So there he was, living in the Budget Inn, when he went to the Cassville laundromat.

“There was this booklet from Crowder that said, ‘Older adults going to college,” he said. “I enrolled in college and started the addiction counseling program. In my biology class I had a partner, I told her I was looking for a church to go to so she invited me to a church in Monett. Her husband was the preacher at New Site Baptist Church.”

Barton went from a laundromat to college, and meeting a pastor’s wife to New Site, finally finding Celebrate Recovery.

“We started CR there with about six people,” he said. “After a year, we had 50-60 people in CR. Then, my psychology teacher Heidi Henderson, asked me to come to the First Baptist Church in Cassville to speak to her Sunday school group.”

That is where Barton met Sharon Sater.

“I told her that we needed a CR in Cassville and she, with tears in her eyes, said she needed to pray on it,” he said. “After 10 days, she came to me and agreed to start it. Our first meeting was April 21, 2009.”

Henderson, Sater and Barton started CR in Cassville with about 10 members, four of which were leaders.

“We have seen 80-100 people over the years,” Barton said. “In 2008, Barry County started Drug Court. My psychology class would attend, and I wished I had had that when I was in trouble.”

In 2012, Barton was attending a Fourth of July event at New Site when he got a notification on his phone.

“I got a notification that said there was someone I may know on Facebook,” he said. “It was Cathie, so I sent her a message.

“After 40 years, I told Cathie that I had given my life to the Lord.”

It wasn’t long before the two met in person for the first time in decades.

“I have never been so happy,” he said. “We were married four months later. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but this is as close as it gets.”

Step 12 is about yielding yourself to God to bring the word to others through words and actions.

“When I started I thought it was a weak person who went to counseling or to a meeting,” Barton said. “But, I was wrong — it is really the opposite.

“Sharing the stories like these people have this past year, that takes a strong person. I would like to tell people that with the new year coming up, do what I did — give God a year. What is a year if you aren’t happy now.”

Barton said he is thankful for the scars on his arms because it opens up an opportunity to witness.

“I always tell people at Celebrate Recovery that Jesus was the last thing I tried and the first thing that worked,” he said. “I would like to thank my pastor, Aaron Weibel, for his friendship. It was his wife Cindy that invited me to New Site Baptist church. He was a great mentor and taught me a lot. I honestly wouldn’t be where I’m at without his friendship.”

Barton said he is sharing his suicidal stories in hopes of helping someone else.

“It’s not easy to talk about, and that’s part of the problem,” he said. “The stigma about drug addiction and mental health keeps people from seeking treatment that they need. I hope these testimonies will help and encourage others that it’s ok, and that they seek the help they need.”

Barton said he takes full responsibility for his action and he doesn’t blame anyone else for his decisions.

“I knew right from wrong,” he said.

Background

This article is part of a monthly, 12-part series giving an inside look into the testimonies and lives of a dozen individuals who have met their recovery goal. Each month will focus on the corresponding step in the 12-step process, as well as its biblical comparison.

While the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, it also deals with the pandemic of addiction. For a time, due to social restrictions, Celebrate Recovery and other meetings were postponed. Those in recovery understand the struggle when they are unable to reach out for help.

With these testimonies, they aim to reach those who need help, but are unable to get it. They want to reach people in their communities and offer them a hand, a resource and a safe space.

In 2019, there were 304 felony and misdemeanor drug-related charges in Cassville, and as of the first week of December, there were 293 for 2020.

Places people can turn to include:

• Celebrate Recovery Cassville — Tuesdays at the First Baptist Church’s Family Life Center in the loft. Meal is served at 5:45 p.m. and large group is at 6:30 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mark Barton at 417-766-5449.

• Celebrate Recovery Seligman — Wednesdays at Mozark Fellowship in Seligman. Meal is served at 6 p.m. and large group is at 7 p.m. Child care is provided. People may contact Mike Avers at 417-342-8659.

• Celebrate Recovery Monett — Thursdays at New Site Baptist Church in Monett. Large group goes from 6-7:30 p.m. Child care provided birth to fifth grade, and The Landing group is available for youth grades 6-12. A meal is served at 5:30 p.m. People may contact 417-235-6135 for more information.

In addition, the local Clark Center office number is 417-476-1000. The 24-hour Crisis Line is 1-800-801-4405, and the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Those involved with this 12-month, 12-step series hope to reach as many people as possible in their communities.

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