A substance abuse treatment center founded by Major League Baseball star turned Christian minister Darryl Strawberry is now open in Central Florida.
"I think it's pretty amazing and awesome to be able to go back and really help people from a place where I came from," Strawberry, who wrestled with substance abuse throughout his career, told The Christian Post.
The eight-time all-star and four-time World Series champion founded the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center (DSRC), which is located in St. Cloud, Fla., in partnership with Oglethorpe Healthcare Inc. Strawberry and his wife, Tracy, have also started a Christian recovery program at Oglethorpe's behavioral hospital in Longview, Texas.
Oglethorpe CEO John Picciano says several different programs will be made available at the DSRC, which held a grand opening event last week, including a 28-day residential treatment program and high performance neurofeedback (HPN) therapy for professional athletes who suffer from symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The HPN program will be led by Jack Youngblood, an NFL Hall of Famer who played 14 seasons in the league in the 1970s and '80s.
Picciano says Strawberry has shown by example that it is possible for an addict to turn his life around.
"So we believe in him...We believe in redemption. We believe in recovery. We believe that people get second and third chances in life," said Picciano.
One of the challenges Strawberry says he faced while trying to overcome addiction was his own fame. It's hard for celebrities to identify with others who are undergoing treatment, he says, not because they are superior but because they are faced with added pressures from things like media attention that other people do not have to deal with during recovery.
For that reason the DSRC is open to everyone 18 years of age and older but also has a special program designed for athletes. Athletes Helping Athletes will allow sports stars to make positive life changes alongside their peers while also letting them know they're not alone.
"If they have a chance to go to a place where they can identify with other people that live the same type of lifestyle, I think it would make a big difference in all their lives," said Strawberry.
Strawberry believes his own recovery would have taken off much faster if he had been given the opportunity to participate in a similar program while he was going through treatment.
He was also told in some treatment centers that he wasn't going to make it, he says. That should have never been the case, however, and he wants those running the DSRC to be a positive influence on clients, letting them know they can recover and that people care for them.
"We care because we've been there," he said. "We understand the struggle and we understand the rejection that comes along from all the people that don't believe…in you when you're struggling with addiction."
There is also a spiritual element to the recovery program. While Christianity will not be forced on anyone who goes through treatment at the DSRC, Strawberry says, a counselor will be there to encourage residents get in touch with their spiritual side.
"It's just not about the clients getting clean...it's about the wholeness of becoming in touch with their spirituality, becoming in touch with God," he said, adding that when he visits the center he will share biblical principles with those who are receiving treatment.
Strawberry says he gave his life to Christ in 1991 at a conference held by evangelist Morris Cerello. He returned to his worldly ways, however, and as a result "all hell broke loose" in his life in the years that followed his salvation experience.
One of the reasons why he says he returned to his old ways was the lack of discipleship he experienced after being saved.
"If you don't get discipled you go back to the familiar," he said. "And I went directly back into the familiar, and the familiar is what the world is."
About 11 years ago he moved to St. Louis with Tracy, who has also struggled with addiction and is now his wife. They started attending church, got married and spent five or six years growing in their faith before sensing the call into full-time ministry.
Strawberry is now an ordained minister, and together he and his wife are the founders of Strawberry Ministries. The organization helps addicts, teens, people affected by autism and others, but their primary mission is to lead people to Christ.
"We're here because of what Christ has done in our life," said Strawberry. "And he will do the same in others lives, and our main goal is to get people to follow Jesus more than anything."
Strawberry is scheduled to speak alongside other Christian pastors, athletes and celebrities at three upcoming Wildfire Weekend men's events. A marriage book he wrote with his wife – The Imperfect Marriage – is set to be released by Simon & Schuster this August, and he also has plans with Oglethorpe to open another recovery center in St. Louis in late 2014.