Dee Humphrey: using personal experience to ease addiction in Bainbridge

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, March 3, 2024

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When Dee Humphrey drank his first beer at 15 years old, he had no idea it would lead him to rock bottom. He didn’t know his first hit of marijuana would evolve into harder drugs and, eventually, a drug addiction he struggled to shake. But, without those hardships, he would have never given his life to Christ and put himself in a position to change lives. 

Humphrey leads the Celebrate Recovery (CR) ministry at Southwest Baptist church. CR is a faith-based addiction recovery program that assists people with dependencies of all kinds to stay clean.

“God never meant for us to be bound up in addiction,” Humphrey said. “He never meant for us to be lost and undone, and, you know, feeling unwanted, not loved. That’s one of the things we try to do here is love on people, encourage people, and we try to help people understand that it’s ok to love yourself.”

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More than 100 people struggling with addictions (CR uses the term “dependencies”) fill Southwest Baptist Church every Tuesday night. They come for CR and to surround themselves with a community of people who are going through the same things as they are. 

The ministry deals with all kinds of dependencies: drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, food, financial, depression, etc. The ministry is judgment-free, and Humphrey said he welcomes everyone with open arms.

“That’s what God’s called me to do,” Humphrey said. “I know that’s why I’m here.”

Humphrey brought CR to Bainbridge in 2006 with his wife, sister, and brother-in-law. He chose to start it after getting clean of his own addiction.

Humphrey struggled with a 9-year drug addiction. He said it started when he drank his first beer in high school. He began using marijuana and then graduated to harder, party drugs in college. His recreational drug use turned into an addiction, and at 26 years old, Humphrey hit rock bottom.

“I was married, and I finally figured it out,” Humphrey said. “My wife was like, ‘I’m done. I’m not staying here. You can’t keep a job. This is horrible.’”

That moment spurred Humphrey to make a change. He put himself into a drug addiction treatment program at Greenleaf Behavioral Health Hospital in Valdosta, GA. The program lasted 30 days, and Humphrey knew he needed more help. 

He went to a treatment facility in Tallahassee, then to Penfield Christian Homes in Union Point, GA. He got to the faith-based rehab center in August of 2006, and it was at Penfield that Humphrey realized he could overcome his addiction.

“I had a salvation experience there,” Humphrey said. “When I went to Penfield, I gave my life to the Lord… That was the push for me. I surrendered my life to the Lord started getting serious about reading the Bible, daily devotion, prayer. I started getting serious about truly who God was, and little things started changing.”

Humphrey graduated from Penfield two months later in October, and moved back to Bainbridge, where he had lived before. 

“Coming back home,” Humphrey said. “That process of like, not feeling safe here almost, I had to figure out, I was like, ‘I’ve got to create a group. I need a place I can go where I can feel safe, not judged, where I can talk to other people like-minded.’ That’s when we started CR.”

The ministry started at Fellowship Baptist Church In October 2006. Lisa Reyes, a member of the church, attended CR at Fellowship. She went on behalf of her husband at the time, who was struggling with addiction. 

Humphrey, through the program, worked with her and was able to help get her husband clean and stay clean for at least 10 years until they eventually split. Reyes said she hopes he’s still clean but could not say if he is or not.

“I feel like [Humphrey] is my brother,” Reyes said. “He has been there and watched what has went on in my life from day one, and he’s always been encouraging… he’s been there financially if I needed something, you know, at my low point. He’s seen me go through my divorce. He’s just been there for whatever.”

Reyes has stayed involved with the ministry since then and now leads a small group and is a part of the worship band.

Humphrey moved CR to Southwest Baptist in the mid-late 2010s. Current CR member Linda Duran-Moulton said she “stumbled” into the ministry in 2019 when she was struggling with alcohol and drug dependencies. 

Duran-Moulton said Humphrey has been a defining factor in her journey to stay clean. She has relapsed while in CR but said Humphrey has never stopped supporting her.

“When I didn’t know if God was going to put the pieces back together, I leaned on [Humphrey’s] faith,” Duran-Moulton said. “He never gave up. Anytime I would go in there and pick up another blue chip, and blue chips are symbolic of relapse or starting over, he would just applaud and be happy and praise God with a big smile on his face- like, you know, just like God would do.”

Bainbridge resident Trenton Jackson had been through a nearly 10-year battle with addiction before finding Humphrey and CR in 2022. Jackson’s dependency started with drugs when he was 15. In two years, he had gotten hooked on hard drugs and almost lost his life multiple times. At 17, he went into a drug-induced psychosis wandering the streets of Augusta, GA, shirtless with a bible in his hands. 

He went to a crisis center after that incident to attempt to get clean. He then joined the Army, where he relapsed. He left the army after a few years and lived homeless in North Georgia.

“I ended up living in a tent in the mountains up in Jasper and Ellijay,” Jackson said. “I did that for about six months, living in a tent, and finally decided I was done talking to myself in the tent and doing all that crazy stuff.”

Jackson worked a job until he made enough money to put a down payment on a car. He then drove down to South Georgia, where he spent two years at a halfway house before moving to Bainbridge. A mutual friend of his and Humphrey’s connected the two, and Jackson was at the very next CR meeting.

“They put me in contact with Dee,” Jackson said. “He was like, ‘Look, I’m going to be here, CR is Tuesday night at 7 o’clock, I expect to see you.’ they put that accountability in my life as soon as I got here.”

Humphrey appointed Jackson to a small group leader role months after he joined. Jackson said Humphrey was a role model for him.

“I heard that he was a very Godly man and that he strives for righteousness,” Jackson said. “He lived up to that expectation… The CR here in Bainbridge has really set my path in motion. Because, I mean, I was going to church still before I came here, and I really enjoyed the presence of the Lord, but I never strived for what the Lord wanted for me.”