Alicia Sharpton makes no bones about telling you, flat out, that God Almighty, Himself, told her to do it.
It was in what she describes as spiritual visions given to her over time that God revealed the purpose she was to fulfill.
And that was opening Beauty for Ashes — A Healing Place in November 2016.
The Christ-centered program, located in Springfield and embarking on its fourth year of operation — is designed to help women struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.
“We are a rescue and retreat center,” said Sharpton, founder and president. “Our purpose is to rescue women from addiction and allow them to retreat away with God.”
While Sharpton, a former drama teacher with experience in ministry, believes the program is crucial in today’s society, she admits there was time when she had limited knowledge regarding addiction.
But amidst tears, she openly describes how that changed one day in 2010.
“I was heartbroken. I was devastated,” said Sharpton, upon learning that her son was struggling with a cocaine addiction.
Raising him in a Christian home, loving him and believing they had a close relationship, Sharpton explained, she struggled with understanding how the grips of addiction had laid hold of her child.
“The 70 pounds he had lost was very alarming, and I knew something terrible was wrong, but ignorant to anything regarding addiction, I never in a million years expected this to be the cause,” she said.
Sharpton said for what seemed like the first time in her son’s life, she couldn’t help him — being forced to trust that giving God full reins with him, he would live to overcome the “death trap called addiction.”
But it was in this situation, she said, that God revealed the meaning behind a vision she had five years earlier. What Sharpton described seeing was an old schoolhouse, alongside dormitories of women.
“I knew (the women) were broken, but I didn’t know how,” Sharpton recalled.
But after her son went into treatment, she understood.
“God revealed that the dorm ladies were addicted,” she said, relating that vision to her path in eventually opening the program. “I never realized that God would use my own child to train me to do what He called me to do.”
Sharpton went on to serve as director of an area treatment center, and afterwards, she felt confident God wanted her to step into the vision he had given her.
She sought counsel from other treatment centers and recovering addicts — coupled with much prayer — to get a skeleton idea of what opening a local program would entail.
“I had to step out in faith and trust God, even though I was afraid,” Sharpton said about opening Beauty for Ashes — A Healing Place, a name also derived from a spiritual vision she described.
Seeing herself walking through the remains of a burned farmhouse, Sharpton said she stumbled upon a diamond in the ashes — a vision in the late 1990s she admits that she misinterpreted at the time.
“And the Lord said, I have been refined in the fire because that’s what a diamond is,” Sharpton said, explaining that later she understood God was revealing the road she had ahead with her son. “I was given visions over time that I didn’t understand at the time, but God was preparing me for what was ahead.”
And that preparation eventually led to the formation of Beauty for Ashes, a nine-month, intensive, Christ-centered program designed to help women ages 18 and older struggling with addiction.
To date, the program has graduated 14 girls, with an additional three expected by January 2020.
Beauty for Ashes literature states its mission is “to assist and equip women in becoming transformed physically, emotionally and spiritually through God’s transforming power, unconditional love and forgiveness.”
Beauty for Ashes residents reside together at a round-the-clock, supervised house, accommodating up to eight at a time.
Each lady, armed with a Life Recovery Bible, commits to participating in Christ-centered 12-step sessions, recovery meetings and Bible classes.
Additional classes include those in anger management, leadership skills, finance and co-dependency, to name a few. GED classes are also available.
The ladies also attend church weekly and take part in household chores and physical fitness.
They have limited visitation and phone calls during their nine-month stay, so they can “truly focus on a new way of life, making a sacrifice in order to be a resident of Beauty for Ashes,” Sharpton said.
Cost is a $50 entrance fee, and a clean drug screen is required. No medical detox is provided.
Upon entry, the first three months are deemed a 90-day blackout period, in which letters, visits and phones are specifically prohibited.
Sharpton explained this allows the ladies to search within and find out who they are and allow God to bring them back to His original purpose for their lives.
The women also attend speaking events to share their stories of addiction and the impact Beauty for Ashes is having in their lives.
“Beauty for Ashes changed my life and changed the lives of my family because they see the miracle,” said Talisha Harrison, a graduate of the program, who now serves as its marketing coordinator.
Harrison, coming from a home rooted in addiction, said she eventually found herself struggling with cocaine and opioids, landing her time in jail, and later overdosing.
But now, while sporting a huge grin, Harrison said she is no longer an addict, has found God, love, truth, peace, restoration and purpose.
“It’s amazing. I get to watch these girls’ lives change every day,” she said about working at the Beauty for Ashes house. “I watch miracles every day. They come in broken and sad, and I get to see that change. It’s beautiful. For those who feel there’s no hope, there is hope.”
For more information about Beauty for Ashes — A Healing Place and its requirements, go to beautyforashesahealingplace.org.
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