Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“I hated myself”: Journey to recovery through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge April 30, 2013

A member of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir sings a solo during a presentation on Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

A member of the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir rehearses his solo before a concert on Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault.

SHE’S FOUR MONTHS to graduation, this mother of four, this 13-year meth addict.

Jill speaks with passion, sharing her downward spiral into addiction and her remarkable recovery through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. Her voice raw with emotion, Jill reveals how, as a single mom trying to raise a son and a daughter, who had cystic fibrosis, she gave her girl up for adoption. That pushed her over the edge.

Later, she would marry, have two more children and, eventually, her husband would enter treatment at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a faith-based recovery program for those with drug and alcohol addictions. “I watched him turn into a godly man,” Jill says. “Our lives are unbelievable. We love each other. It’s amazing what God can do when He’s in your life. He restores.”

Praise and personal testimonies highlighted the choirs performance.

Praise and personal testimonies highlighted the choir’s performance.

By age 13, James from my community of Faribault, was smoking crank out of a light bulb. The son of a teacher and social worker, he had no direction or purpose in life. He was using and selling drugs and breaking into places. By age 22, he’d been to prison twice, had a son. “You try to manage and have as much fun as you can before you get locked up again,” he says.

He also used heroin. Then his brother died. “They’re thinking they’re going to bury two kids in the same month,” James says of his parents.

In 2011 he graduated from the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge treatment program. “I found God and feel God. I have the joy of the Lord.”

And then James shares more. He was once best friends with a 27-year-old Faribault man charged last week with first-degree attempted murder and first-degree and second-degree assault in an attack on his fiance, stabbed more than 30 times. She survived and is out of the hospital.

“Bad things happen…God sustains you,” this former addict says.

Heartbreaking and inspirational stories were shared.

A soloist performs with the choir.

Heidi, 22, the daughter of divorced parents and an alcoholic father, grew up in a small town. She started drinking, eventually wracked up two driving under the influence charges, was in and out of court-ordered treatment.

She turned to abusing prescription drugs, yet managed to go to college, even held a job in sales. She stole from her family, got into heroin.

By her admission, Heidi says, “I threw away opportunities in life…I hated myself…I was sitting in my apartment all day getting high.”

Then she overdosed, suffered a seizure.

Heidi is set to graduate in May from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. “I needed a relationship with God,” this young woman says.

IF YOU’VE NEVER attended a Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge presentation like the concert/personal testimonies I heard at my church, Trinity Lutheran in Faribault, on Sunday, I’d encourage you to do so. You will never forget the stories of these courageous individuals who have overcome so much to reclaim their lives and their families and forge new relationships with God.

Choir members line up and dish up at the potluck after the service and concert.

Choir members line up and dish up at the potluck after the service and concert.

At the potluck dinner after the concert, I sat with Tyler, a 20-year recovering heroin addict and father of two boys, 9 and 13. When his wife died two years ago, Tyler knew he needed to change. You’d never guess, just looking at and talking with this well-groomed and articulate young man, that he’d once been into drugs. He’s been in and out of treatment several times. But this time, in the longer one-year faith-based recovery program, Tyler’s succeeded.  He’s set to graduate soon, will start college and work, and get his boys back.

Tyler, Jill, James and Heidi and about 35 others, through primarily song and those few personal testimonials, brought their messages of hope, joy and recovery to my church through the center’s community outreach program.

Anthony Bass, who played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1998-2000 and is now the church relations manager for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge and is planting a church in northeast Minneapolis, says the on-the-road programs are part of an effort to help fight heroin, meth and prescription drug addictions, showing “how God’s power has helped and restored.”

Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge has eight facilities in Minnesota—in Minneapolis, Brainerd and Duluth and one soon to open in Rochester. The name was changed last October from Minnesota Teen Challenge to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, more accurately reflecting the ages of program participants. Eighty percent are over age 18.

Bass also asked for prayers and financial support.

The Trinity Quilt Makers gifted the group with this stash of quilts.

The Trinity Quilt Makers gifted the group with this stash of quilts.

As I sang the hymn, “Who Are You Who Walk in Sorrow,” with the congregation and choir members, I considered how fitting these words:

Great companion on our journey,
Still surprise us with Your grace!
Make each day a new Emmaus;
On our hearts Your image trace!

FYI: Click here to learn more about Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

(Note that I may or may not have the correct spellings of names referenced in this story. I did not check the spellings. And, yes, I asked and was given permission, to photograph the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge Choir.)


11 Responses to ““I hated myself”: Journey to recovery through Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Amazing what God can do in lives, isn’t it?? While I have never had the amazing transformation story my faith journey has been steady and consistent which is fine by me! Sounds like an amazing presentation and a true testament to how God can really work in any life. Love the stack of quilts, too! Lovely!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’ve attended several of these presentations and each time left uplifted and impressed. It truly takes courage to stand up there and sing and/or tell your story. And, yes, God can effect change. So powerful.

  2. htrax107 Says:

    I wish these young men and women the very best in their continued attempt to find health and happiness through the help that Minnesota Adult Teen Challenge is able to provide for them. I know how difficult it is for them having watched my 25 year old grandson suffer from addiction to drugs since he became a teenager and be in and out of treatment programs and prison for several years. Getting clean and sober is one thing but the really difficult part is becoming strong enough to stay clean and sober. It takes a very strong person to do that and they do need God in their lives for them to see how great life can be without the crutch of drugs that they have been relying upon. To learn to rely on the love of God and all that he can and will provide for you is essential but for those who seem to have lost that hope, it is a very, very difficult struggle. And for those who love these young men and women, it is just as difficult a struggle for them as they watch as these young people work so hard to change their lives and still seem fall back over and over into habits that seem to be impossible to escape.They are all in my prayers.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You are so correct. Staying clean and sober has to be the difficult part because it’s so easy to fall back into those habits, in with those same old friends once out of treatment. And, yes, for those who have lost hope (in God), the challenge is even greater.

      My heart just hurts for you, your family and your grandson. Addiction to drugs or alcohol truly does affect the entire family. I think most of us could share a story or two about how we’ve been impacted by a family member or friend with an addiction. You want to “make it better,” but that is not within your power, except for the power of prayer and of love and support.

  3. All is not lost – all is not hopeless – Inspiring post for those who need help and those who can open their hearts and give a little of their time to great causes!!! I will not go into specifics, but have been around the ugly side of alcohol as well as drugs – more happy endings than sad endings though. Thanks so much for sharing – Have a Great Day:)

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I think many of us have been personally touched in some way or the other by alcohol and/or drug addictions. So happy for the happy ending.

  4. Jackie Says:

    “I was lost, and now I’m found”, I love hearing these stories of recovery, but especially “the healing”, as a result of having a relationship with Christ Jesus! I was not aware of the facility to be opening in Rochester, I will keep my ears and eyes open for it’s arrival 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I don’t know when the facility is opening in Rochester. But when it does, I bet some church in town will host this choir. Just impressive testimonials to the power of God and the strength of the human spirit.

  5. It’s so great when programs work. I recently heard a statistic that 80% (or it may have been 90%, I can’t remember for sure) of people who go through rehab end up back doing the same destructive behaviors again. My stats may be wrong, like I say, but the point is, it’s SO HARD for people to get out of that lifestyle. I hope that this program has better results!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge offers the longer year-long program, which I think makes all the difference. Plus, it’s faith-based, another reason for success. I expect your stats are correct.

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