Janesville's 12 & 12 center offers fellowship during holidays
JANESVILLE--Josh Finley is ready to extend a welcoming hand Tuesday, when the warm lights go on for 24 hours at Janesville's 12 & 12 Drop-In-Center.
Marathon meetings and heartfelt fellowship will offer a friendly oasis for people in recovery from Christmas Eve through much of Christmas Day.
“For me to be able to offer my hand in friendship might make someone's Christmas,” Finley said. “That's what keeps me sober. To be able to help someone who wants it, too.”
He remembers making breakfast for a mother and a daughter who were having a rough Christmas morning a couple of years ago.
“It was the best gift I got that year to be able to give them a moment of joy,” Finley said.
The daughter returned later in the day to thank him.
“We don't turn anyone away,” said Finley, who just celebrated three years of sobriety. “When you walk through that door, you don't have to be alone. There's an ease and a comfort in this place. You know you'll get a cup of coffee and a smile.”
The Christmas gathering has been happening for years to help people avoid alcohol and drugs during the holidays.
A new event, beginning at 6 p.m. on New Year's Eve, offers 12 hours of meetings and fellowship until early New Year's Day.
“A lot of people don't have anywhere to go on New Year's Eve,” said Jim Brewer, president of the 12 & 12's board of directors. “We offer a safe environment, and we give people something to do so they don't have to go home and face their demons. The worst thing for an alcoholic is being bored.”
Brewer has been sober for 18 years. He gave up drinking and doing drugs when he got tired of hurting people.
“One day I said, 'I can't do this anymore,'” he said.
Brewer firmly believes in the power of the drop-in center.
“I would do anything humanly possible to keep this place going because it saved my life,” he said. “And it has the potential to save someone else's life.”
Some in recovery may spend Christmas haunted by memories of loved ones and friends they have alienated with destructive behavior caused by their addictions.
Others may have negative thoughts and feelings during the holidays, which might make them want to isolate themselves.
The 12 & 12 center offers an alcohol- and drug-free refuge, where those in recovery find others who understand what they are going through.
“I was able to relate to these people because they were just like me,” Finley said. “I did not feel alone anymore.”
The nonprofit 12 & 12 center, established in 1987, is supported through donations of money and time. Since 2008, it has operated at 402 W. Delavan Drive in a building that was once a grocery store and later a strip club.
Members of the recovery center are grateful for the full kitchen and big screen TV, but the most endearing feature is a place to call home.
“If it weren't for the fellowship of these people who care so much, I wouldn't be sober today,” said Fred Butler, who plans to attend the Christmas marathon.
“Some of the people in this building know more about me than my own family,” he said. “You can't put a price tag on most of what happens here.”
Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.