"I cried out to God, 'If you love me, you will take me.'" Faces Of Recovery - Trent Bergeron

My name is Trent Bergeron. I was born and raised in the small town of Franklin, Louisiana. I have been in Minnesota now 10+ years thanks to meeting a strong, beautiful amazing woman, named Patricia (Patty), whom I am grateful for, proud of, an honored to call my wife. I realize now that this was the work of Jesus, I just didn't see that while in the life of full blown addiction.

My addiction began at the age of 12 years old by sneaking drinks. That in itself continued on, increasing all the while. At 16 years old I was asked to be part of a band. I have been playing piano since I was 5 and that is a true passion if mine. By getting in the band, through no fault of the band members, my drinking increased heavily. I never liked being around people who did drugs, both the people and the drugs scared the crap out of me. However, at 18 years old, I was introduced to weed, cocaine and crystal meth. I hated pot because it made me hungry and slowed me down. On the other hand, cocaine and crystal meth made me feel amazing. I could and would go for days. I felt like I was in control, that I fit in, and for once in my life I was burying the one thing that happened to me as a child.

At a very young age, I was sexually abused by my neighbor, repeatedly, for quite a few years. This created confusion in my mind for a very long time. Once I gave my life to drugs, It was easier to get high than to think about it, or tell someone about the abuse. Both my addiction and thought process about the abuse started out with me being in control. It didn't take very long at all for me to surrender completely to the life of addiction, which basically never allowed the pain from the abuse to come to the surface, and that brought me great joy. At the time this all started, I just wanted the hurt to go away, so I was driven to something that could do that, and I found it.

The affects it had on me were insane. I’ve never been an overweight person, but in the beginning of my addiction, and for quite a while, I was lucky to have weighed 120 pounds. I wasn't eating. I was only drugging and drinking. Spiritually, I was broken. God was present. I experienced his presence in my addiction at times, but chose never to embrace it. Actually, when people spoke to me about God and how much he loved me, my immediate response was this: “If God is real and loves me so much, how come he is allowing this life of addiction to happen to me?” I was an emotional train wreck.

I couldn't keep, and never desired, to have a job, and the only relationships I had were with those who were doing the same thing I was doing and accepted me in that lifestyle. I left Louisiana because I had to. I had signed over the titles of my home and my vehicle to a crack dealer. I had the mentality that if I left that place, my addiction would be left behind with it. How freaking insane and delusional is that? I knew who I was when I left, and when I got to Minneapolis, I met this amazing woman. I realized one day after being in here, when left alone at her apartment, that I brought all my pains, hurts, and bad habits with me. I was filled with the hope that maybe people could help me change my life. It didn't take me long for me to realize that the hope I had was false, because it was misplaced in people, not God. Therefore, I picked up right where I had left off upon getting here.

My drug use had stopped completely, but my alcohol addiction was a big, huge monster that grew daily. The lying and sneaking was out of control until finally I decided one day that all had to stop. So I quit lying and just did whatever I wanted to for all to see. My agenda was no longer hidden – it was in plain view. I was a selfish, arrogant, sick person. My bottom began when I realized that everything I was doing was having a direct effect on everyone around me. I hurt a lot of people in really bad ways who had nothing but love for me. I was spiraling downward at a pace to quick for me to stop. On Aug. 24th, 2009, I had reached the end. My drinking was up to a 5th of Brandy and at least 2 cases of beer a day. While lying on a couch in someone’s house that night, I took a hand full of pills, downed some brandy and cried out to God, "If you love me, you will take me." I just wanted to die. I remember feeling very ill. I curled up in the fetal position. I remember smiling, out of hopes that I would not wake up. Obviously, that didn't happen. What did happen is amazing.

My wife asked me to leave the home we were staying in. I made a call and went into detox at a hospital. My wife reached out to me there and said I would like you to meet this pastor. Wanna guess what my first thoughts were (lol)?? Anyway, I agreed. Upon leaving detox, I stayed in touch with this man, but I relapsed, like usual. I was made to leave the home again and I wound up downtown at the Salvation Army. I have never felt so all alone in my life.  I had a choice to make: Change or don't. Live or die. I had spoken with someone from there while at the hospital, and I just so happened, without even knowing whom he was, to run into him the minute I got out of the cab downtown. He got me into the Beacon Program at the Salvation Army.

On August 28, 2009, my recovery began and this is how: I woke up in the middle of the night, 2:33 a.m. It was raining. I got out of bed, hit my knees and cried out to the Lord. I gave my life to Jesus. Without hesitation, and upon getting to my feet, I felt lighter than I had ever felt in my entire life. My life of recovery began at that moment, with Jesus. I reached out to the Pastor I had met, who had never given up on me, and I shared this experience with him. We are best friends still to this day.

What keeps me abstinent from the lifestyle of addiction today is Jesus – my relationship with him, and my love, trust, hope and faith in him. What fuels me today is the love, grace and mercy I receive from God. His word is the fuel for the fire in my heart to reach out to and help others always, no matter where I am. What I feel today is not possible from a drug or a drink. It can only come from Christ Jesus, my Lord. I have surrounded myself with people who share the same goals. I don't go to unhealthy places today to prove that I can be there, and I get rid of (personal) things that serve as reminders of my life of addiction.

Acts 15:11 says, "We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of our Lord Jesus." This is my core belief today. When I feel like I need to be saved, here lies the truth.

Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" This is how I get through each and every day. I know that God is with me, working in my favor. I just have to believe this and be in a committed relationship with Christ, carrying out his will to the best of my human ability, and victory is promised.

My life is so different today, and it isn't because of me – it because of the source of my hope and belief system, Jesus. My marriage is healthy and flourishing. I am productive at my job, and I’m out and about in society. I'm always looking to help others get out of bondage and addictions, hurts and bad habits by leading them to the most miraculous love and healer that will ever be, Jesus.

What gets me excited and fills me with enthusiasm about the future is that God loves us all. No matter what, God loves us. The word of God gives me hope and direction on how to live and lead others into freedom. It breathes life into this new body in recovery, free from addiction. Because of what God has done, is doing to do, and will do in me, I am hopeful that I can reach others by being a vessel of Christ by way of my story.

Today, I am the Director of Recovery Ministries at a local church. I would not be in this place today had I not experienced what I did in addiction. But more importantly, I would not be here had I not given my life to Jesus Christ. God knows my heart because Jesus owns my heart. My mission is to be on mission with Jesus at all times. Addiction begins or ends with a decision, and that decision is all ours. Today, only by God's love, grace and mercy am I free, and I want the whole world to know that. I will never stop telling my story.

"I knew my codependency was going to kill me." Faces Of Recovery - Candie Schintgen

My first drink was at age 12. From that point forward I dabbled in many other drugs. Diet pills, pot, acid, anything that the people I was hanging with at the time used, I used. I really wanted to be the cool kid and did everything I needed to fit in, which included losing myself and becoming whoever I needed to be. By the time I was 21, I could look back and call myself an alcoholic. I worked at a day job most of the time hung-over, and then working night job at a local bar.

In September 2000, I was married to the man of dreams. We had such a great dream of a future. Shortly after the wedding, we found out we were going to have a baby. I stopped the partying scene. I began to focus on being a mom, the most important job. Unfortunately, my husband and I were not on the same page.

My first adult rock-bottom came shortly after our 2nd daughter was born. We needed a change, so we started attending a local church. Every weekend we would argue on the way to church, put on a smile as we walked through the door, and then leaving the same way we came in. It was our life. I didn’t think it could be different or should be different. I was married and that was my focus – wife and mother were my titles.

In 2005, my husband and I found out we were expecting baby number 3. We decided to move out of my dad's home and into our first home as a family. You remember that dream of a future? It hadn’t come yet. Up to this point we had just been doing life. The drinking I enjoyed as a kid would come and go in between doing what was best for my kids. I was drinking so I could fit into my husbands lifestyle. I was drinking so I could drown my failing marriage and life.

In 2007, I hit another rock bottom. Our youngest just turned 1, and my husband said he was moving out of state. He wanted to try and relocate us to start a new life. Knowing where our marriage was at stability-wise, I begged for him not to go. I spent the next couple months trying to figure out what to do. I was able to look at my marriage and life from a different viewpoint and see that our marriage was not healthy. Neither of us were healthy. In July 2007, I decided I wanted out for good.

During this thought process of wanting out, I found someone to tell me all the right things and fill in the emptiness. When I was younger, I went from guy to guy. Never really being alone, always blending into whoever they were. The root of my alcoholism wasn’t alcoholism. It was codependency – never wanting to be alone. I assumed I couldn’t raise my kids alone.

My husband and I had one more baby before our marriage ended horribly. My faith was tested throughout that pregnancy. I wondered if God wanted me to stay or go. I stayed in that emotional place of failure, guilt and shame for quite some time. In 2009, my life took a drastic turn. I decided to challenge myself to stay sober for 1-year. Shortly after the challenge I walked into a new church, and it changed my life.

I was finally taught that God forgives me and loves me in abundance – that he wanted to bless, lead, guide and direct my life. I was sober, but I was in such a dark place. I was still living in shame, guilt, failure, unforgiveness, all that I thought was normal.  I was brought into the light. Two years after attending the Church, more light was brought into my darkness. I was introduced to a faith-based recovery program at my church. Yes, I was still sober. But my life was still not where God wanted me to be. I still wasn’t free. I started attending the recovery program, got a sponsor, and started working steps for hurts, habits and hang-up’s, and I attained freedom! Though it was finally a light, during this time, I still wasn’t being honest with myself or sponsor, and I was still hiding from God.

Time to get real: On December 23rd, I went to my sponsor and hit my knees. Surrendering to God once again, I knew my codependency was going to kill me. I never thought that with alcohol or the other drugs I had used. I did with codependency! I was always searching for something to fill the emptiness – not seeking God to fill the hurt areas of my life. I finished my steps, and I experienced healing, I knew the way I wanted my life to go.

Falling again: My new freedom allowed me to think I could start a new relationship. I knew what I wanted and made sure this person knew – I made it very clear that if he couldn't be that person, we wouldn't be together. So he became that person, and I ignored all warning signs.  I was healed, I had God, and I had everything together. We had a whirlwind romance, and then we got married and it became a tornado. He became his true self and we were separated after our first anniversary. I was so lost devastated that God would have this happen. Through my marriage, I learned that even if I want people to change I can’t make them change. I can give them tools, encourage and point them to Jesus. They still have their will that they alone have to surrender to God. I was very angry at myself for allowing this to happen and put my kids through another failed marriage.

Begging for restoration and direction: I still had the desire to make my 2nd marriage work, (sound familiar from my first marriage?). More now than ever, I had surrendered my life to Christ, I was married under God, my kids knew my commitment to a healthy marriage. I was pregnant with my 5th child, and I didn’t want to raise him and the others alone. So I endured 2 years of living in mental/emotional abuse, to the point that I began to believe and live out all the negative words that were spoken over me. This also brought up all negative words, shame and guilt from my first marriage. I stepped into a world of not being present and just doing life. It was a life I had to be at because of my kids. I continued attending church. I felt freedom before and I longed for it again. I knew God was good, but not sure how to obtain freedom in him.

In April 2015 my life hit another crazy low. I lost my mother, my rock, my co-parent. During this time of intense grief and a lack of control, I struggled to hold on to my sobriety. To be lost in a world of numbness was right at my fingertips – a world where I could forget my circumstances and pretend life was different. I chose to hold onto my sobriety. I knew Satan would have a victory if I gave in to my temptations.

I was still trying to find myself, raise kids, heal, stay sober – to do life without just doing life. I wanted to smile again, I wanted to not hurt. This is when during a talk at my church rocked my socks. It was based on Mathew 10:39, which says,  “Whoever finds his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], and whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity].” Msg.

Shortly after this God was placing people in my life and things to trigger he wanted a deeper relationship with me. He wanted to transform my life. But I had to chose to be transformed.

I decided to go back to school and really dive in to see what God had in store for my life. I graduated with my associates in leadership and ministry in June of 2016. I accomplished something I never thought I could. God has been forming my life, my kids’ lives, and the lives of those around me, all because I decided to surrender to God and allowed God to use me.

It hasn’t been easy to choose the Godly path. He never said it’s always going to be easy, but he has definitely grown me through all of my trials. Every day when I surrender to him, my day is different. Every day I use God to fill and heal all areas of my life. I know sobriety from all crutches are important. I know I am enough to raise my 5 kids solo, even though the world tells me different. I believe that God will always be on my side. I will continue to dig my roots in all promises of God. I belong, I am worthy, I have purpose, I am redeemed and I am forgiven!

Praises For Faces Of Recovery

Diane Pietro is the CEO of the Twin Cities Photography group and a leader among photographers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, and she recently had some incredibly high, humbling, insightful, and amazing words to say about my Faces Of Recovery portrait project that I thought I'd share here on the blog. I will be sharing some of these words again on a video in the near future as we I'm getting ready to launch a crowd-funding campaign aimed at getting this project resourced to take the next steps of development. In the meantime, I thought I would share these words here. Thank you for your kind words, Diane! 

The most wonderful thing about images is that they take us to places we may never go physically. They invoke emotions and dreams. They inspire and spark the imagination about worlds that can be.

The most powerful thing about images is that they bring about self validation by documenting a life. I never knew the power of a self portrait until I photographed recovering fathers being reunited with their families. For some of those children, the images we gave them were the first they ever had with their dads.

When Seth Hinrichs came to the studio and explained his project, Faces of Recovery, I immediately knew he was in for the journey of a lifetime – and what better person to do this project than Seth? He has the social and technical skills to deliver stunning images to people who almost disappeared from life. His welcoming personality and warm heart make you feel at ease and accepted immediately, allowing his clients to open up and expose their authentic selves.

What Seth is giving his subjects is more than an image. It is a voice—a celebration that declares “I have not only survived, but I am important enough that a stranger has taken his time to learn my story and document it.” With one look at his work you will find that Seth has a way of finding the beauty and strength in people. His studio lighting skills are exceptional.

The stunning images produced by Faces of Recovery have a rippling effect, starting from each subject and circling out to their families. Imagine being a parent of one of Seth’s clients. What better gift could you receive than seeing your child beautiful and whole again after so many nights imagining the worst. And more importantly, having your child wanting to be seen again and being proud of who he/she is.

This important project needs to be funded so it can grow and raise awareness and hope for those who are still battling addiction. To every addict and family effected by addiction, these images will take them to a place they may not be able to go physically right now, they plant a seed of hope mentally that may one day bring them home again.

Regards,

Diane Pietro

CEO, Twin Cities Photography Group

 

"I sat in jail...realizing that my life was over. I was found out." Face Of Recovery - Jennifer Bailey

I was a sensitive child who idolized my father.  He was a very successful attorney in my home town of Williston, ND.  Unfortunately, my father was bipolar and an alcoholic.  Although he never touched me in anger, I do remember being scared of him when he would come home drunk and break pictures, dishes, and screamed foul things at my mom. Sometimes he would disappear for days on end.  He also verbally abused me, calling me ugly, stupid, and unable to make friends with who he thought I should be friends with.  Because of this, I had very low self-esteem and acted out overtly in school.

My grandfather was one of the “town Doctors” and was an upstanding citizen of the small town we lived in.  He gave me the attention that I needed from a male role model in my life and I loved him deeply.  But, this presented an entirely different problem.  Because of the violent and tense situation of my home life, I couldn’t’ understand why my grandparents didn’t rescue us from this situation.  It was a dichotomy that I wrestled with well into adulthood.  Of course, that was a different time where people didn’t get divorced.  Doing so brought shame upon the family.  It was an ugly family secret. 

In high school, I did have a lot of “popular” friends, but I felt like they took pity on me and had me around as a joke or someone to laugh at.  I was tall and quite gangly.  My dad called me “slats”.  Because of this, I took my first drink at the age of 16 and was a “one and done” alcoholic.  I had consequences the first time I drank.  I blacked out and had an inappropriate sexual experience with a boy that damaged my reputation.  The strange thing about this is that I wanted to do it again as soon as possible.  As you hear from most alcoholics, after the first sip of alcohol, my awkwardness was relieved.  It felt like I finally found the book that gave me all of the answers to life.

Alcohol was the filler of the hole in my soul left by being a disappointment to my father and family.   My feelings of failure in my academic and social life caused a lot of inner turmoil. I felt held to a higher standard, but couldn’t produce.  Because of this, it made me not value myself and proceeded to turn to alcohol to deal with these feelings.   I couldn’t figure out why I felt like such a failure all of the time, but found out much later in life that if you become an alcoholic at the age of 16, life is going to be pretty messed up until treatment is provided.

Things got worse in my 20’s.  As my alcoholism progressed, the consequences became much larger.  It seemed I was always searching for something that I couldn’t find.  It progressed from never having alcohol in my house and only going out on the weekends, to going out during the week and showing up to my jobs extremely hung over.  I then had to have to have boxes of wine in my house.  Then came the DUIs (first one when I was 21 years old) and being diagnosed with pancreatitis at the age of 24. 

I had met the man that was to become my husband when I was 22 year old.  We ended up getting married when I was 26.  My father had sought treatment for alcoholism and bipolar disorder many times, but was unable to stay sober.  He died when I was 27, at the age of 53.  The same age his father died of the same disease. 

I felt this strong pull to get married as soon as possible.  My only requirement for my husband to be was that he was not my father.  This helped cause me to marry a man that I didn’t truly love.  He was a musician, which was great for my progressing alcoholism as I could go to his gigs and drink.  I was the life of the party, so I thought. He also was gone a lot which left me at home alone with my disease.  

I had pursued a nursing degree shortly after getting married.  This was a poor choice of careers for me, as with every single patient I took care of I became co-dependent.  Taking the job home with me was a regular occurrence, which lead me to drink more.  While pursuing my nursing degree, I chose a nursing assistant job at a level one trauma center’s ER.  Not understanding my addiction to not only alcohol but to adrenaline, I became depressed and started having nightmares about the things that I saw at work.

I tried to talk to my husband and my family about these things and it was extremely unfair to do that to my loved ones.  I would have sessions where I would verbally vomit out things that I saw at work.  This was selfish as I felt better after my conversations but left my loved one’s feeling worse.  This helped cause me to start hanging out with the people I worked with more and more.  This caused me to grow farther away from my husband and family and more towards those that I worked with.

I met my current fiancé at work.  I would gather with those nurses, paramedics, cops and residents that could drink like me.  One of those was a paramedic.  We both were stuck in marriages that weren’t going well.  I was advancing fast into my addiction with more and more consequences, one of which was infidelity.  We only had an emotional attachment at first as “no one understands what we go through” type of friendship.  Then it progressed to indiscretions that were few and far between, always with alcohol involved.

After graduating from nursing school and showing up to work hung over as a graduate nurse, my friends had a mini intervention.  They took me to my first AA meeting in 1999.  I proceeded to be sober from1999-2006.  During this time, I had two kids with my husband and gave all of my energy to making my marriage work and staying together for the kids.

During my sober time, I left emergency medicine and moved hospitals in order to stay away from the man that I had cheated on my husband with.  My sponsor made me call him in front of her and end the relationship.  But, he kept showing up in situations that neither one of us had control over.  I would unexpectedly have to float to the ER and there he would be.  Or being in the ICU and he could bring a direct admit on a day that I would be working.  We both were committed to trying to make our marriages work, until something happened that would send me over the edge.

My rock bottom started in 2006.  I had been through a horrible health situation which involved my pancreas and gall bladder.  My gallbladder was removed in order to try to relieve the pancreatitis that I had been suffering from more and more during my pregnancies.  With my first child, I got pancreatitis so bad that I had to be admitted to the hospital with my baby being constantly monitored by a neonatologist and myself being on a Dilaudid drip.  This lead to a chronic pain situation for which I was placed on Oxycontin. 

I had not had a drink of alcohol for seven years, but was on a very heavy duty narcotic to treat my chronic pain due to my pancreas and botched gallbladder removal.  I eventually had my pancreas stented open, I weaned MYSELF off of these drugs, which lead to my addiction lying to me and telling me that, “...if you can get off of all of those drugs yourself, you must not be an alcoholic.  Alcoholics are addicted and you were on a boatload of narcotics and never abused them."  This lead to a relapse in 2006 at a concert.  I had two beers and quit. 

My oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2006.  He was a huge disruption in class and would have daily notes sent home by the teacher spelling out how disruptive he was in school.  This helped cause me to do a shot of vodka before the bus came in order to deal with the constant flow of negative comments from the school.  I felt a huge sense of loss because there was something wrong with my child.

My husband and I grew even more apart as my drinking got worse and worse.  By 2009, I was drinking every day and had to drink before answering the doorbell, picking up my kids, and even going to work.  My pancreatitis returned even worse and I had several hospitalizations.  All the while, lying to my doctors that I wasn’t consuming alcohol.

I also resumed contact with the man that I had cheated with.  He also was suffering from a progressively worse relationship with his wife.  His grandmother was dying and he moved into her house and was taking around the clock care of her.  He told me he wasn’t going back home.  This was the perfect storm. 

I was now addicted to Dilaudid (the pain medication that I took for my pancreatitis).  I asked a patient of mine how he shot up Dilaudid.  He told me, and I took home insulin syringes from work and began shooting my own pills.  My gastroenterologist told me that there was nothing more that he could do for my pancreas and he had done surgery on it multiple times with no success.  He suggested a pancreatectomy.  I began the work-up for that and was scheduled to have it done January of 2011.

Because I was so scared of withdrawing from alcohol at work, I began diverting Ativan from patients.  I would pull it out of an IV bag and sneak into the bathroom and shoot it up in my foot.   I then began doing the same thing with the bags of Dilaudid and Fentanyl that kept my ICU patients sedated.  One day, I pulled out a dose of Ativan out of one of my patient’s IV bag, went in the bathroom, shot up and the worst thing happened.  I shot too much.

I went back to my patient’s room and one of my fellow nurses was concerned about how I was acting.  She went to the charge nurse and they brought me to a room down by the ER.  Security pulled all of the contents of my pockets out and I was done.  They put me in a cab and sent me home.  Not only had I lost my career, but I lost my identity all at the same time.

On Halloween on 2010, I had been texting the man that I had an affair with and ended up drunk and passed out.  My husband saw the texts on my phone and declared to me the next day that we were getting a divorce.  He moved downstairs and we tried to live together for the sake of the kids.  This lead to an even deeper spiral downward into drug and alcohol use.

Subsequently my second and third DUI’s took place in very short succession, which landed me in the Hennepin County jail for six days.  My husband called my family and told them of my affair and my dismissal from my job and nursing board.  I sat in jail during that time realizing that my life was over.  I was found out. 

Being in jail was cathartic.  Because I had a lot of experience working with the jail population, this lead me to be able to survive without getting hurt.  I would trade my ability to write a good letter to a judge for an inmate and hence, they would protect me when I slept.  I then would go around and get everyone’s story.  They all were either addicted or were the kids of parents that were addicted.  This kept me going, all the while having a deep anxiety that I would either have a seizure in jail as a result of alcohol withdrawal and being taken to the very ER that I had worked at in an orange jumpsuit.

They finally let me out of jail at 4:00 a.m. on the sixth day.  I walked and walked the streets with no money and no one to call. Walking in the dark, there was only one place that I could call from and that was the hospital that I had worked in.   What a humbling experience.  I called my husband and threatened him that if he didn’t come and pick me up, I was going to call the women that I had met in jail that knew where I could find Heroin.  He agreed to come and pick me up.

He took me to the house and gave me 10 minutes to pack.  He then took me to a hotel and told me that I had 24 hours to find somewhere to go.  I had snuck a bottle of vodka in a pair of boots.  So, I proceeded to drink my vodka and try to arrange to go to treatment somewhere.  My insurance told me that the only program they covered was Hazelden because of their Health Care Professionals Program.  I was floored.  Going to Hazelden???  My dad had gone there twice.  I really was excited to go to a place that had such a great reputation.  I was ready.  But first, I needed to get an alcohol evaluation.

I showed up at the evaluation drunk.  The worst thing that could happen to me was for them to decide that I didn’t meet the criteria to get into a residential treatment.  So, I wasn’t going to let that happen.  Of course, the evaluator knew I was drunk he made me blow into a breathalyzer.  He then told me I was accepted into Hazelden to detox and then go into residential treatment.  Whew, my plan worked!

I spent 37 days at Hazelden.  My family was really angry with me, so I felt really ashamed and alone.  My boys who were 9 and 7 at the time came to visit with their father once.  It was really hard to see them.  Here I had had every intention not to hurt them the way that I did, and it happened.  The shame was unbearable.

However, there was a miracle taking place during that time.  I entered treatment a diabetic with chronic pancreas pain and looming pancreatectomy surgery.  As the treatment for my alcoholism progressed, my blood sugars normalized and the pain that I was feeling was gone.  No more was the pancreatectomy looming.

The man that I had an affair with came to visit several times.  This caused a ton of problems with my counselors and family.  However, it helped me at the moment.  He brought me food as I only had 10 dollars in my pocket.  My friends in treatment that were from faraway places and had no one to visit them would come with me and it was a nice diversion.

I was extremely concerned that I had nowhere to go after treatment.  Again, my family was angry, my husband was done with me, I lost my kids, and I had 10 dollars in my pocket.  My counselor realized that I was wasting precious treatment time worrying about this and told me to go back to my room and say the “Third Step Prayer”.  I did, all night long, over and over. 

The next day, the van driver came to my group and asked me to come with him.  I asked “Why?”  He told me that he was taking me on a tour of sober houses.  Sober houses???  I can’t afford a sober house.  I went anyway.  The drive from Center City to Saint Paul was a long one.  But, we arrived at Fellowship Club in St. Paul in about an hour.  Then I was to wait for something that I didn’t understand or expect.

In came a women with her hair all piled on top of her head, removing curlers.  She said “Jennifer Bailey, let’s go look at my sober house.  Sorry I am pulling out my curlers, I thought you were coming tomorrow, not today!”  Her name was Jennifer D., the owner of sober houses in St. Paul.   Getting into her car, she started asking my story.  I told her.  She looked surprised. 

We then arrived at the Farrington House.  She took me on a tour and we ended up in the basement room, the one that I would move into.  She asked me “What are you going to do Jennifer?  You are in a bit of a situation.  Where are you going to work?”  I said “I’ll work in a fabric store if I have to, but I am going to work.”  She said “I work at a fabric store!!”  What a coincidence.

I then told her I would be honored to move into her sober house, I had no choice!!  But, I had no money.  She asked me if I had a family. I told her that I did, but they wouldn’t help me, they were too angry.  Then she took my mom’s number and between her and my counselor, they secured one month’s rent.

I ended up going full force into the sober living life, the solution of AA, and securing a humbling job at IHOP serving pancakes.  With my spiritual life flourishing, the challenges of my own tornado of divorce, family problems, a broken foot while doing my chore, court for my DUI’s and subsequent in house arrest, being without my kids, my relationship with the man I was having an affair with, etc., all seemed to work out.  It gave me confidence that God would take care of me.

After 9 months of living at the sober house, the woman that helped secure my bed at Farrington asked me to be the manager.  I agreed and stayed another 9 months as the manager.  This helped my recovery in an immense way.  It gave me the confidence to move out on my own 9 months later, slowly get my kids back, and repair my relationship with my family.  I also had enough trust in my Higher Power that he would lead me either toward or against my relationship with the man I had an affair with.

Today, the future is bright.  I went through more pancreas problems, but am lucky to have a phenomenal doctor who helped me avoid the pancreatectomy and, through several non-invasive procedures, has fixed the problem for now.  I just finished my bachelor’s degree, which has always been a dream of mine!  I also was just accepted into the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies in order to complete a Master’s degree in Addiction Studies and Co-Occuring Disorders.  This would never be possible if I would’ve stayed in my addiction.  At 46, the death of my father is a constant reminder that this disease could kill me in a few short years.  This is NOT going to be my legacy. The man I had an affair with is now my fiancé. My kids are learning to trust me again and love living with us.

All of the good things that are happening are due to keeping myself spiritually fit, and daily realizing I am powerless over my addiction.  I also am open to hearing God speak to me as to what His will is for me and my family.  It’s not always easy as I still have to wrestle with guilt, shame, and a brain that tells me every day to use drugs and alcohol.  But, now that I have identified that it’s my addiction talking, I can ignore it.  Life is amazing, one day at a time.


"I literally was living in my own hell." Faces Of Recovery - Kimberly Lau

When I was little, my mom was my best friend. I went to her for everything!

As for my dad, I always had a hard time communicating with him. I actually lived in fear of getting in trouble. As I got into my teens years, I realized there was no evidence of a "father/daughter" relationship. I'm not sure what exactly caused this on his behalf, but I never felt like he cared much.

In middle school I wanted to be accepted by my peers, just as any child would. I wanted to "fit-in," but I always was rejected. So, in 8th grade I met some friends who finally accepted me for who I was. I started smoking cigarettes and finally felt like I belonged somewhere. That same year, I had my first drink. That turned into a party, as I was celebrating my cousin's wedding.

As I entered high school the following year I was opened to a world of new peers. I started dating a sophomore about half way into my freshmen year. We became pretty serious fairly quickly. None of my friends cared for him. Of course I ignored what concerns they had because I was "in love." 

A year into the relationship we started breaking up on and off. I slipped into depression as my heart was breaking, but also very confused as to what I wanted. I was constantly being manipulated, verbally and emotionally abused. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted to fix it. I was determined to change it!

His parents decided to move out of state and I couldn't bear the thought of him leaving. My mom agreed to him living with us. Things got worse. I was not only being manipulated but controlled, not just by him but he controlled me through my own mom. At this point I was smoking weed to numb it all, partying and drinking on the weekends, too. I couldn't handle all the emotional and verbal abuse. This continued until my junior year.

There were a couple of nights when I had school the next day, he would come home all wasted and drugged up. I locked my bedroom door every night and he still managed to get in. He would violently wake me and force himself on me. I was so sick of my lifestyle. I wanted out! I sank more into my depression and hated him for it all. I kept trying to get rid of him, but I felt trapped.

The first glimpse of hope I had was him moving out of state for a job. The spring he moved, I though to myself, "FREEDOM!!!" Even miles away, he continued to harass me by phone all the way up until I was 19 or 20. After he was gone, I met a whole new group of friends. I continued to indulge in the party life, experimenting with pills. I felt so free and happy being able to do what ever I wanted! I dated a couple of guys, none of which were not good for me either. I started feeling hopeless wondering what I did wrong. Why couldn't someone love me the way that someone should be loved!?

In January 2008, I met the most incredible guy. I felt like it was almost too good to be true. We started exclusively seeing each other for a few months. In June 2008, we found out we were expecting. As I was 19, and we had only been dating for a few months, I was shocked and scared out of my mind. I was not ready to take on motherhood! If I was feeling this way, I could only imagine his thoughts and feelings! However, the honorable man that he is, he stood by my side and supported me each step of the way. I sobered up for the duration of my pregnancy.

After our daughter was born, May of 2008, we went camping and he got down on one knee and proposed. This whole time I thought..."Am I dreaming?" "Is this real?" In October of 2010 we found the an awesome church. We started attending frequently. In January of 2011, we got baptized together, along with a few of our friends. I started hanging with friends who also stayed at home with their babies. On weekends we would go out to the bars, or if he was hunting the next morning he would stay with the baby so I could go out. At the time I was smoking again every day, all day to handle the pressures of motherhood with a colic baby.

I remember moments of complete frustration and feeling like a failure,] because, as a mom, you feel you should be able to calm your baby. My husband was working night shift for the first 4 years of our marriage. Even though I wasn't a single mom, I honestly felt like it because our schedules were so opposite. I started to get pretty depressed again.

I met a friend through a mutual friend who was also a stay at home mom, and I found myself in trouble before I even knew it. I started heavily smoking, taking Xanax and drinking on weekends. I started to seek attention from another person and ended up having an affair. My depression hit me real hard. I had contemplated of suicide, because, what in the hell was I doing!? What's wrong with me!? I found myself at the lowest point I' ever been in my entire life, I was at my complete rock bottom. I hated myself and again I felt trapped. My mind and depression became my worst enemy. 

In May 2011, I was at home on my hands and knees crying out to God while contemplating suicide. I begged God to help me & get me out of this disaster I had placed myself in! I heard Him say, "Ok Kim! I'm here, trust me, have faith, I'll get you through this!" I opened my bible to Hebrews 11:1. It says, "Now faith Is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I held so tight to that truth. That's when I decided to throw myself into recovery. I immediately cleaned up and got sober.

In July 2011, I came clean and told my husband everything. It was the worst day of our lives. I literally was living in my own hell. I never wanted to hurt him, our marriage, or our family. The person I became was not the person I am. We ended up being separated for 10 months. I kept seeking out God and His direction for me. I kept going to recovery and getting my strength from the Lord. I thought for sure my marriage and my life was over, but God gave me hope and a new life.

In October 2013, my husband re-proposed, and we started over. In February of 2015, we welcomed our second daughter into the world, and in June of 2015, we were blessed with the purchase of our very first home. It hasn't been an easy road, and we have put a lot of work into it. God found me in my broken and shattered life, and has completely restored me. I know I'm so unworthy, and you probably think I should be living a miserable life, but God's amazing grace and mercy saved me from myself. Exodus 14:14 says, "The LORD will fight for you; You need only to be still." What a wonderful promise that is! The Lord is constantly fighting for me... and He is also fighting for you!

"I really have no excuse for turning out the way I did..." Faces Of Recovery - Steve Rotz

I really have no excuse for turning out the way I did.

My childhood was great. My folks were old school, but fair. I have 3 brothers and two sisters, and all but one were partiers. I was no exception. From the time I was 7-years-old, I used to dream of what it was like to have a drink with the boys. I was raised as a Catholic, but by the time I was in 9th grade, I didn't believe any of it.

I got my first job when I was 12 or 13. I was a farm hand at a neighbor's farm. I got paid $5 a day, got a beer at lunch, a beer at supper, and all the tobacco I could chew. By the time I was in 10th grade, I was an every weekend partier. I drank beer and smoked a little grass. By the time I was 22, I was drinking 4 of the 7 days of the week, and had developed a liking for whiskey.

I drank heavily enough that my stomach was in severe pain a lot, so when I was 24, I quit drinking. I smoked a little more grass and discovered PVC cement. My dad always had some on hand, so I could sit in the basement and inhale this stuff till I fell asleep. When it dried out, as I often left the can open, I'd break off dried chunks of glue and smoke it. My dad caught me a few times, but I don't think he really knew what I was up to. I did that for a while until I was unable to sleep. I felt like I was suffocating. I'd hear strange voices on the radio and hear screams in my head. I thought I was losing it! So I quit the glue.

By now, my guts were feeling better, so I started drinking again. All this time, I was functioning somehow – working and playing softball. My dad sold his house and I built a house with my two brothers. Then I began dabbling in the occult. I had a hole inside that I had to fill with something. I was communicating with spirits (demons, I now know), and it started to take a toll on me.

I had SOOOO many voices in my head! I'd drink to quiet them, but it didn't always work. I was angry and afraid. I'd try to get rid of spirits by calling more spirits. I wanted to die, but I didn't have the will to do it. I didn't want to do what the voices were telling me to do, that's for sure.

I got attacked by a spirit one night in my bed, and that really messed me up. I couldn't tell anyone what was happening – they'd think I was crazy. That was rock bottom. I had no hope. Nothing I did had any effect. If I had one drink, I had a lot of drinks. I'd try positive thinking, and the voices would shout that down. I felt worthless. 

In March of 2009, a friend invited me to this church in a movie theatre, and I dug it. I had this big empty hole in me, and I started filling it with good stuff. It really took hold when I got tricked – yep, TRICKED, into attending the church's recovery program. I was starting to believe, but I still lived this double life. I was saying how cool sobriety was... as I was drinking a beer. At a softball tournament one time, someone called me out.

I went home that night, half in the bag, with a choice – something was going to happen that night. It was either going to be really awesome, or really stupid. I hit the floor in my room, put my face to the floor, and asked Christ to forgive me and lead my life. And He did. That was my day: August 28, 2009, between 11:30 and midnight. I'll never, EVER forget it. I haven't drank or drugged since, and I haven't touched anything occult. The voices went away. No more night time attacks – I had something bigger now. I had joy – actual, real joy. I believed it. ALL of it!

I got a sponsor, worked the 12-steps, and began leading in my church's recovery program. I began teaching others out of the Bible and my experiences in life and recovery, and I even got married. God's calling on my life is to help others who were hung up like me. I went from being a slave to all kinds of things, to freedom in Christ. 

These days, I try to bring freedom to others through God's word and love every Monday night. If you would have told me 7 years ago I'd be doing this – and actually joyful AND sober?? I'd have called you the biggest liar. Since that day in 2009, I've gained some things and lost others – some of them were significant losses. But I still have this joy that was given to me. How is it possible? Only through Christ.

"...As I realized where I was, I began to cry..." Faces Of Recovery - Rae Ellingsworth

I awoke early one morning not being able to sleep because of the painful withdrawal symptoms.

My entire body felt disconnected, my hands were cold and clammy, my muscles jolted in the cold sheets. I felt nauseous. I got out of bed, walked over to the window and carefully drew back the shade, not to wake the other 3 young women who were still asleep in the room.

As the sun shone in, I gazed out the window looking down from the 7th floor of the secured unit I was on. I looked across the river to the snow covered banks and watched students walk to class with their backpacks on. I watched them for a few minutes and as I realized where I was, I began to cry. The tears stung my face. I felt angry and confused. “How the hell did I get here?” I thought. I was 21 years old, confined to a hospital floor, in a lock-down detox unit. I had been admitted to the emergency room a few nights earlier for my substance abuse issues.

I had lost everything.

I used to be one of the students walking to my classes at the University of Minnesota. Now, that had all just seemed like a dream. The life I was living was no longer filled with classes and essays. My days were consumed by finding ways and means to get more. Getting high became my full-time job. I was unemployable and if I didn’t have dope a few hours after I woke up, day after day, I was sick and was willing to do whatever it took to get money or drugs. I had become someone I didn’t recognize. My frail body ached. My arms were covered in track marks and bruises. I longer took care of my appearance or body, when I arrived at the hospital I was a mess. Drugs had taken over my life, I felt desperate and alone. That moment while standing at the window, on a cold February morning gave me just enough of the realization I needed to try.  Just try, something different. I knew that I could no longer go on living the way I was living. Something had to change.

I believe that my addiction began long before I ever started using drugs. From a very young age I realized that I was different. My mind was always racing with crazy ideas and in my soul, I desired to be accepted, I just wanted to fit in and feel like a normal kid. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that my displaced feelings were only a symptom of my disease.

No one ever plans on growing up to be a drug addict. When I was a little girl I had big dreams of being an actress or model. I was always dressing up and putting on skits for my family and friends. Growing up I had a loving family, a good childhood, I was well taken care of. We definitely weren’t perfect, every family has its dysfunctions and mine was no different. My parents were working class people with strong moral values who took care of my siblings and me the best they could. I was a good student, always wanting to please my parents or teachers. I picked up perfectionist traits early. I thought that if I studied hard enough, got good grades and stayed out of trouble I might find the acceptance I was yearning for. I excelled academically, I had all kinds of friends growing up but always felt apart from. I never felt “OK” inside, something was always missing. I can recall feeling in school like everyone had this instruction manual, that they all knew what to do, and I didn’t receive a copy. My instruction manual was lost.

I started experimenting with drinking at a very young age. At first it seemed fun. I lost any inhibitions I may have had, I loved to entertain people and be the center of attention. That familiar empty feeling disappeared when I partied. I soon began to pride myself on drinking more than any of my friends. Drinking on the weekends wasn’t enough for me, I remember many days in high school of swigging from a water bottle of liquor that I had stolen from my parents in my backpack before classes. I started making poor choices, blacking out and putting myself in some pretty dangerous situations. I quickly developed a strategy to continue my using while “maintaining” my life. I became a liar, a manipulator. I hid things from different groups of people. It was exhausting trying to keep all of my different stories straight. But, no matter how much I drank the emptiness returned.

And then I was introduced to drugs. I was hooked almost immediately. I wanted to try everything and experience all of the different effects I could. There were no restrictions on what I said or did when I was using. I felt free. I moved out when I was 16, I switched schools several times as I moved around but somehow managed to graduate high school early.

I had learned to put on the façade that everything was under control. If I could just make everyone think I was doing ok, maybe I would feel that way too. By the time I was 18 I was renting my own apartment and working 2 jobs. I managed to pay my bills, buy a car, work and go to college. I told myself I was independent, that I didn’t need help from my family or anyone. I thought that I was living a great life because I had nice clothes and designer purses. I thought my life was so glamorous, partying all the time, hanging out with gangsters. I began to believe my own lies. The truth was that I was living with my abusive, drug dealer boyfriend, barely maintaining my grades to keep my scholarship I had earned to the U of M, I was neglecting my family and I was miserable. I began to do things I never thought that I would do.

My life during my using is a blur, I can categorize those years by the drugs I was on at the time, “...the summer I was on meth, where I was awake for 21 days." “2011 when we could get OxyContin like candy..." I did any drug I could get my hands on, there was a time when not knowing what I was about to snort excited me. But I always told myself I would never shoot up, because to me that meant that I was a real addict, which I had told myself for so long that I was not. I fooled myself into believing that I could control my using. Opiates were definitely my drug of choice and once I was introduced to heroin all bets were off. I became jealous of the people I was using with who seemed to get so much higher than me by shooting. I was scared because I had always hated needles, but my curiosity overcame my fear.

My life slowly began to spiral out of control. I was jumped by 3 men during a drug deal gone bad. I collapsed on campus and stopped attending classes. I lost my job because I missed too many shifts. My car was repossessed and I began prostituting myself for drugs. I acquired 3 felony drug charges and spent time in jail. I felt as though I could not function without drugs.  I had become so physically dependent on drugs that I had knew I would have to find a way to get drugs every single day for the rest of my life. I was certain that was the only way I could survive. I pawned all of my possessions, stole from whoever and where ever I could and did absolutely despicable things to get high.

After being kicked out of several places I finally ended up at one of my dealers houses for a few weeks. He eventually dragged me out of his house because he said I was “too o.c.” (out of control), he forced me into his car and told me he was bringing me to my mother’s house. On the car ride there I begged him to please give me something just to take the edge off, anything - I pleaded. He tossed me a few pills and I scoffed, “That’s it?”

I was at the end of my rope. I hadn’t spoken to my family in months. My boyfriend was in jail, I had distanced myself from any friends that I had left and even my drug dealer couldn’t stand me. I wanted to die.

I literally jumped out of his car as he came to a stop and ran away, he screamed at me from the window. I walked for hours, I thought about my unsuccessful suicide attempts in the past and how stupid I was for not even being able to do that right. My mind raced as I searched for anyone who I could call for help or at least one more hit (although I didn’t even own a cell phone anymore and had resorted to searching for the remaining payphones in the city).  My cheap winter boots became soaked with snow and slosh, I hadn’t showered in days and wasn’t wearing any make up or a bra for that matter. I eventually made my way to my mom’s house, cold, desperate and ashamed.

My mom and I were always close – more like girl-friends than mother and daughter. And although my addiction had caused distance between us, as soon as she opened the door and saw all 110 pounds of me, she knew immediately. I could never hide anything from my mom. That’s why I tried my best to just stay away completely. She held me tight and wiped my forehead as I confessed to her my problems. She wrapped her arms around me and prayed while I cried and tried to catch my breath. I knew I needed help but still wasn’t sure if I was ready. I had been to treatment before, because my parents who were now divorced wanted me to go, but  I didn’t stay clean, I had been to 12 step meetings because the courts wanted me to, but that didn’t keep me clean either.  I just didn’t think I could do it. It seemed impossible.

I tried detoxing at my mom’s for a few days, she would bring me Aleve every few hours and try to make me eat. I couldn’t stand being there, I escaped a few more times to get high and she had enough. She called my dad to come to get me, and when he arrived the look he gave me was one of disappointment and disgust. He told me he was bringing me to get help and I refused. I turned into a 5 year old, stomping my feet and screaming that I wouldn’t go. After arguing back and forth for some time he firmly shouted “Get your shit, we’re leaving." 

I was filled with resentment and packed a small bag filled with a change of clothes and a few undergarments unsure of what was to come. But I had a plan, I was the type of addict that always had a plan. I told myself that I was just go to appease my family and when my boyfriend got out of jail I could get high again. I had hope that someone would come save me from whatever facility I ended up in with a bag of dope and a rig ready to go. I never imagined that day, February 7th, 2011 would be the last day that I used.

After being in that lonely detox unit for 5 days I entered an inpatient treatment program for 21 days. I had agreed to go talk to the counselors and go to sessions where I began talking about how I was really feeling. They offered a family program which my parents both attended. Around this time, my mom had been given 6 months to live. She was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer a few years before which had worsened and spread to her lymph nodes and other organs. I was grateful to be able to be a part of her life again. My gratitude was swallowed by the selfish addict voice in my head that whispered to me, "When your mom dies you can use again. That will be the perfect excuse." I graduated treatment and participated in an aftercare program at the same facility.

In treatment I was introduced to all kinds of 12 step fellowships: AA, NA, CA, and CMA. I moved in with my mom and younger sister and attended meetings on almost a daily basis. I got a part time job at the mall and things were getting better. I didn’t have a car so I got to know people by asking for rides. I made a few friends, got a sponsor and followed suggestions. I couldn’t believe how quickly 30 days turned into 6 months. I started working steps and repairing some of the damage I caused in my past. I had heard other people share at meetings and started to feel a small flame of hope inside of me. I saw the possibility of actually living a “normal” life.

My mom passed away on December 13th, 2011 at the age of 51. I believe that it is only by the grace of God that I was able to be there to take care of her in the months previous to her death and to be there to hold her hand as she struggled to take her last breaths. Being able to comfort my siblings and be present during that time is a feeling that no words can describe. I was able to be a part of my family. I made amends to my mom before she passed away and she was so overjoyed to have her “Rae-Rae” back. That reservation that I had about using when she died was lifted and I was able to stand up at her funeral in a church that was so packed with people who loved her - it was standing room only and honor her memory by giving a eulogy. Processing death is a painful process but I know that I never have to use over my feelings of grief or sadness. I get to celebrate my mom today by making her proud because I know that she is smiling down on me saying, “Life’s a trip."

When I had about a year clean I discovered my place in Narcotics Anonymous and now exclusively attend NA meetings. I never imagined feeling so at home in the drafty basement of a church. I get to hear others share their experience strength and hope and I never have to feel alone again. Getting clean is no longer about just not using drugs, it is about finding a better way of life. I feel a part of the fellowship.

I regularly attend meetings, I have a home group, I have a sponsor, I work the 12-steps. Those are all things that were suggested to me and I have done them and will continue to do them because my life is at stake. I take my recovery very seriously and never want to become too complacent in my program. I believe that working a program of recovery helps me on the path of self-discovery. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a person who suffers from the disease of addiction. Addiction manifests itself in all areas of my life which is why I must always put my recovery first.

Recovery has given me the opportunity to live so much more than a “normal life." I live an extremely blessed life today. I am so grateful for the path I had to take to get here and for the journey that God has given me. My lost dreams have awakened and I am thankful for another chance at life.

There have been many people that I used with who have died. I have seen people relapse and go back to actively using and I know in my heart that doesn’t have to be me anymore. Today, I have true friends, people who want what’s best for me and love me for the person I really am. I am allowed to be myself today – the beautifully flawed, imperfect being that I am. I never thought that recovery could be fun, but after getting to know myself and finding out what it is that I really like to do and who I am, I have had some amazing times! After 4 years there are still days that are really hard for me to stay clean/ This is a process and a difficult journey. But I know that no matter what is going on in my life there is absolutely no excuse for me to pick up. I have been empowered with the freedom to live my life today. I am no longer restricted to the chains of addiction.

I am currently in college and will be graduating with my associate’s degree after this semester! I am planning to go on to complete my bachelor’s degree next year. I have great relationships with my family and friends today. I am proud to say that I can be held accountable, I am trustworthy, and I am honest. I never thought that my life would have turned out this way, I didn’t know that there was any other way to live. I am excited about the possibilities my life is open to now and I am forever grateful.

"Trying heroin was like falling in love. I knew immediately I would do it until I died." Faces Of Recovery: Kaitlyn Arneson

Some of my earliest memories are of feeling innately uncomfortable with myself. I felt “wrong” and couldn’t tell if everyone else felt like that and just hid it well or if I was the only one. My parents divorced when I was in kindergarten and I began therapy a few years later. I remember that at around 14 years old my therapist told me that I didn’t have anything diagnostically wrong with me. I felt like a fraud because I was so sure that something was wrong. The lack of any diagnoses felt like a defeat; there were no words for that something that felt wrong and it made me feel like it was all in my head since no one else could see it. I felt really alone.

My drug use began in high school. I was in advance placement classes and a dedicated student, but I was also really restless and compulsive. I had a lot of friends and was liked by most people. Yet, I still frequently felt “wrong” about myself despite what others said, how good my grades were, or how many friends I had.

In the beginning I used mostly stimulants to “help” get through school. However, I was always very curious about drugs in general. I remember going through a drug unit in health class my sophomore year of high school and even though the instructor discussed drugs in a negative way I was drawn in by the idea of using drugs. I kept thinking, “Those could change how I feel” and that was my ongoing struggling: dealing with my feelings and never feeling comfortable with my emotions. So my drug use started in high school, but the drive to avoid my emotions began much earlier.

In high school I was never satisfied with myself or my drug use. I wanted to be cooler, more interesting, more likeable, and I dabbled in a number of drugs hoping they would be my answer. I tried psychedelics and club drugs and smoked weed when nothing else was available. I was always disappointed with my drug experiences. I’d look forward to partying all week and as Saturday came the anticipation would well up inside of my gut. I’d take a hit of something and feel a nice high and then eventually it would mellow out or perhaps not get me as high for as long as I imagined it should and I’d inevitably come down and feel a deep depression in the middle of a party. I was always disappointed but never dissuaded - it would always be different next time.

During this time I began to live a dual life. Many of my friends did not like that I drank and I was not going to let them know that I was using all sorts of drugs too. At the same time I was developing friends in my using circle and I wanted to prove myself to them. Of course my parents could never know what I was up to either. So I tried to balance seeking out and using drugs and partying with showing up to football games and family dinners sober. I began to live a very private life within myself and not a single person truly knew who I was.

I graduated high school in the top 10% of my class, with honors, and went to a private college on a full academic scholarship. I felt excited to “start over” somewhere else. I wanted a new identity because I didn’t like myself. I never felt cool enough - I was too emotional, too high maintenance, too high strung. I wasn’t one of those cool, relaxed girls. I obsessed over things and dwelled on every interaction with friends and acquaintances - Was I too needy? Too clingy? Did I reveal too much? I was determined to be cool and more relaxed. Without putting much thought into it, drugs became a part of this fresh start too.

I stopped using stimulants because my anxiety was getting out of control and I turned to mostly weed and alcohol. At the same time I began to be very controlling over what I revealed about myself. I put up walls and calculated every word. I remained on my perpetual quest to escape how I felt. I partied hard my freshman year, but I also worked very hard at my academics and got on the dean's list for both semesters.

I went through phases of wanting to stop partying and I’d stop for a few weeks or a few days. Eventually I’d end up partying again and I’d rationalize to myself, “Oh that’s just how college is.” Sometimes I’d use by myself and I’d tell myself, “Oh at least I’m not partying like all those irresponsible burnouts.” This pattern continued into my sophomore year.

When I was 19 years old I tried heroin for the first time. I had just gotten out of a bad relationship and gone through an even worse breakup. I was in the midst of another identity crisis and was feeling too “known” by those closest to me. I was still balancing my using friends and my non-using friends. Life was really messy and I felt like I was falling apart. Trying heroin was like falling in love. I knew immediately I would do it until I died. I knew immediately that I would wake up longing for it the next day. I knew that if I wasn’t careful I would die with a needle in my arm.

I didn’t immediately start using heroin regularly because I did not have a lot of access to it and I didn’t want to be someone that used hard drugs too frequently (because I wasn’t an addict). I was just someone who regularly drank, smoked pot, tried whatever random pills I could find and occasionally dropped acid. But as long as I only infrequently shot up heroin I was not an addict. I (somewhat) functionally used heroin until my senior year of college.

Through this time I vacillated between using many drugs, using only certain drugs, quitting everything cold turkey for several days, trying new drugs, going to NA meetings, going to AA meetings, getting into recovery, getting out of recovery, and overall uprooting my entire view of drugs and myself every few months.

I spent a while sober and living with a group of Christian girls only to relapse a month before the lease ended, stealing from everyone, and unceremoniously moving out without a word to any of them. I went through several jobs and several groups of friends. My life at this time was characterized by long periods of stability punctuated by short bursts of complete insanity. This all culminated in disaster my senior year of college. Over the course of just a few months I failed out of school with only one semester left until graduation, was fired from my job, was arrested and charged with a felony, alienated myself from my only non-drug using friends, and lost much of my contact with most of my family.

During this time my drug use increased dramatically. My mental health was failing and I didn’t have the ability or the resources to pull myself out of the hole I had dug. I embraced my identity as an addict wholeheartedly and felt like perhaps there was something beautifully tragic about my predicament. I realized that I was going to die and probably very soon. At the time it all seemed very fitting.

This is when I began to work in the sex industry. This is something that I’m still not altogether comfortable sharing about and I won’t go into great detail, but I quickly found that everything came with a price and if I was going to die with a needle in my arm then why not? Long before my addiction I had felt a low simmering emptiness and darkness. As I fell deeper into the recesses of addiction I felt a certain sick satisfaction that my insides were finally matching my outside. Now everyone could see what my therapist all those years ago could not: there is something wrong with me. Selling myself allowed me to outwardly present to the world the internal degradation that had haunted me for so long.

I don’t know when I hit my bottom, but I continued to use long past any feelings of “bottom” that cropped up. I had long let go of any dreams or hope or future. Then one day I went for a drive and I passed through my old neighborhoods and drove by my old school. I was struck by how different life had been then. I noticed a sign pointing towards some kind of event at my old high school and there were people waving flags to usher me in. I don’t know why I turned in, but I was largely just curious. I walked into the doors and was greeted warmly and told, “Welcome to Church”. I felt deflated. How many wrong turns in life does one need to make in order to find themselves at a Church? What a horrifying turn of events. I had dabbled in and long ago disposed of any notion of Christianity.

Unfortunately I felt obligated to stay because people kept talking to me and ushering me further into the building until I was somehow seated in the front row. I stayed from start to finish and then left vowing never to return. The following Sunday, against my better judgment, I came back. Not long after I was on the early coffee team and suddenly I was a regular attender to church. I was still using drugs and still working in disreputable ways. But I also felt less alone. I told a few people that I was trying to get clean and they encouraged me. I started going back to NA meetings with the hope that I’d find something there to help me too. I was slowly starting to feel human again.

I never meant to become a Christian. But one Sunday, after coffee team, I wandered into a service; something I had successfully avoided after my first visit. It felt strangely intimate and I felt incredibly desperate. I had a few days clean, but I could see the relapse on the horizon and like a crashing wave it would always take me back out to sea. I heard the pastor mention the parable of the lost sheep. It struck me then that these people would probably see me as a lost sheep. I wondered if God saw me that way too. I didn’t actually know if I believed in a God at all. Yet it seemed fitting that if this God was real perhaps he had led me here, through all the darkness and through all my demons, he had guided me out like a shepherd. Perhaps my entire had been leading up to this moment.

I couldn’t understand why a God would do that. Why not bring me here before all the drug use and all the bad decisions while I still had things of value? What not get to me while I still had my future and hope and dignity and humanity? More still, why not find someone else with money or power or marketable skills? Why go so far for someone so incapable? The world had already told me in so many ways that I had and was nothing worthwhile. It seemed impossible to me that there would be a God like that. Still I thought, “God, if you’re real and if you really want me and if you really brought me here then you can have me. But I don’t have anything for you”. Right then I felt His presence and the reality of my situation - my addiction, my mental health, my profession - didn’t matter anymore. I felt enveloped by the God that had created me and had orchestrated my rescue. I didn’t know if I would get clean or become employable or finish my degree or repair my failed relationships. All I knew was that I had come home and that I was going to be OK.

It took a while for my life to change. I began to pursue recovery in ways that I was not capable of pursuing before. The addiction that had run my life for so long had finally met it’s match. In God I found a power greater than my addiction. I had hope. I firmly believed that God did not want me to die in addiction which meant that someday, even if I couldn’t see it then, I would be free. I continued to go to 12-step meetings, I built relationships at church with people who held me accountable, and I became authentic. I still had a lot of fear, but everyday the Lord taught me what it meant to truly be created in His image. He is the overcomer and part of living as a being created in that image is embracing the power to overcome. Slowly one day clean turned to sixty and eventually I was getting my one year medallion. That was 3 years ago.

Today, I am clean. I am a mother. I work a full time job in the mental health field. I am finishing my degree. I have a better understanding of my own mental illness and with the help of medication and therapy I can live normally. I am a productive member of society with friends and a family who love me. I am still on coffee team at church and I finally know my creator. Life is not perfect and there are still things that happened in my addiction that haunt me. But for today, by the grace of God, I don’t have to live like that anymore.

"When you're told nobody else will ever love you enough, you start to believe it…" Faces Of Recovery: Aimee Hicks


My name is Aimee. I’m an addict and alcoholic.

My older sister and I were raised by a single mother, who did the best she could, I didn’t see my Dad often, and he was an active alcoholic most of my younger years.

My story of addiction began after my grandpa died. My mom, sister and I moved in with my grandma. I tried alcohol for the 1st time at 11 years old when I snuck some from under the kitchen sink at my grandma’s house. I became a “regular” when I was in junior high, maybe 12 or 13. I would sneak strong liquor and my friends and I would drink it before school many days of my 7th and 8th grade years of school. I also tried speed for the 1st time and was also regularly doing liquid rush. I also lost my virginity when I was 12, and continued to be promiscuous, often going to parties and getting wasted, and sleeping with whoever was willing. I was trying to numb the pain of losing my grandpa.

In high school things just got worse I would go to frat parties with my cousins who were 7 and 8 years older than me, I remember blacking out and waking up in a strange bedroom, with a strange guy many times. I also had an older sister who drank as well. I became her shadow, if I was with her my mom would never ask any questions about where I was going or who I was with. She also made up excuses for me and took care of me many nights I was too wasted to stand or walk. My mom also occasionally allowed my sister to have parties in the garage as long as everyone stayed the night. I recall my sisters friends getting me drunk because I was really funny when I was drinking. I became who I couldn’t be in real life. I was looking for love and attention in all the wrong places.

When I was 16 I found what I thought was love. He told me he loved me, that I was beautiful and fun and we drank together. After a few moths he became verbally, mentally, physically and sexually abusive. I recall on one specific occasion, we had gotten into a verbal confrontation, he told me I was a slut and nobody would ever love me, and that I was worthless and I should be thankful he was even with me. It started to get physical and I ran into the bathroom, he followed me and cornered me and slapped me so hard I had a bruise in the shape of a handprint on my face.

I kept going back for more. When you're told nobody else will ever love you enough, you start to believe it.

In August I found out I was pregnant with his baby. He was upset at me for trapping him. He didn’t want to be a dad and he was insistent that I terminate my pregnancy. I told him I wouldn’t and he reminded me that I was not only unlovable, but I also was going to have a baby and who would ever love me with that kind of baggage?

I continued to drink and party knowing full well I was pregnant.  Luckily I found my courage and my strength. His name was Chris and through Chris I gained the courage to leave Kyle. I went into labor at 19 weeks and on October 18th 1989, I gave birth to a stillborn, perfect, tiny baby boy whom I named Tanner.

Chris and I continued to hang out. We partied and drank and had a great time together.  We got engaged my senior year of high school. We moved in together 3 days before my high school graduation and had set a wedding date for the following July. I got pregnant with my oldest daughter and we married in May instead.

My drinking days were over. I was now a mom and I loved every second of it.  My husband continued to drink, most of our marriage I recall him always with a beer in hand.  Several years and another daughter later I was dealing with some medical issues, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease and I gained over a hundred pounds.

In 2004 I had gastric bypass surgery and lost those 100 pounds. Fast forward a few years, I had a couple more surgeries and then I started having widespread pain, my back, my neck and my legs. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety and I was having my pain treated at a pain management clinic.

I took my pain medication as prescribed for a year or so, and then I needed to take more to treat the pain. So I went to my regular doctor and told her the pain clinic wasn’t treating me anymore and she started prescribing me Vicodin. At one of my appointments at the pain clinic they had gotten information that I was getting medication elsewhere as well and they ended our plan.

Of course my pain was still there. So I talked my doctor into just taking over my pain management. Eventually I was being prescribed 210 oxycontin and 75 Percocet every month, along with Xanax, Ambien and Adderall for lack of energy. What started as legitimate reason for pain medication had spiraled out of control.

There were many days I didn’t get out of bed. My daughters raised themselves and my husband was working 2 jobs because I couldn’t hold even down one.

There were days I was a “functioning” addict, I made some really poor choices like driving with my girls in my car, putting their precious lives in danger as well as others because I was driving high. There were times I didn’t sleep for days. I’d be scrubbing my floors at 4 in the morning, and in those moments, days really, I started to become scared.

There were many days my daughters made themselves dinner and got themselves to bed all alone because I wasn’t able to function, I was so high. There were day’s I would take between 15 and 20 oxy’s, my marriage was in shambles, and my husband’s drinking was out of control – it was how he dealt with the dysfunction.

We separated for a few months; I moved out of our home, I couldn’t bear lying in bed every night smelling beer as my husband slept next to me. I also got really sick, I was completely iron deficient, and had a chronic low white blood cell issue; I had virtually no immune system. The doctors discovered I had Sjogrens syndrome, whose symptoms mirrored fibromyalgia.  I couldn’t commit to anything and when I would I would always cancel last minute.

A friend had been inviting me to her church for weeks. I figured what do I have to lose; my life was already a mess. I sat through that 1st service and sobbed. That pastor was speaking to me. He was preaching exactly what I needed. I felt like it was home, that it was a church where I fit despite my messed up life. I bought a copy of that weekend’s sermon and brought it to my husband who was a self-proclaimed atheist. The next week he asked if he could come to church with me, I was amazed. He gave his life to the Lord and we were baptized together, December 2009. We both became very involved in our church, I was volunteering wherever I could. Little did I know, they noticed that I that I had a problem.

October 18th, 2010 Tanner’s 21st birthday, I had just had my monthly med check and my husband and I had spoken several times during the day because he knew it was a tough day for me. We had planned a walk when he got home. He called on his way and I didn’t answer. He came home to find me on the kitchen floor not breathing and turning purple. He thought he had lost me.

He called 911 and the first-responders were there within 2 minutes. Luckily my heart hadn’t stopped, yet. My husband was told if he had gotten home minutes later I would have not survived. I was taken by ambulance to the hospital with 3 doses of narcan on the way, 2 more at the hospital. I have no recollection of even taking any of my medication. I was treated, admitted and stayed overnight. The hospital physicians just told me to lower the amount of the meds I was taking and sent me on my way. My overdose was not intentional. 

We were still very involved members of our church, The Crossing. My husband called one of the pastors because he needed support. Two Pastors who head up our faith based recovery program got involved and STRONGLY encouraged my husband to get me into treatment.

The following Monday, I walked into Hazelden taking several Percocet. I didn’t want to do this sober. I was terrified. I was safely detoxed over 3 days and then went to a unit where I would spend the next 24 days.

Those 24 days (and all the days following) I had absolutely no pain. The entire time I was there I was in a fog, following the rules but not really investing myself into the program, I went to get sober and I didn’t really need to know how to stay sober or how my life became unmanageable. I knew all that already!

My husband attended the family program. I was discharged with the condition I did outpatient treatment for 8 weeks. That’s where it got real for me. I learned from my family how my addiction had affected their lives, mostly my daughters, how I had hurt them. My husband was my biggest cheerleader through everything! I had several amends to make. I had decided to go to Crossing Recovery and it didn’t feel like a right fit for me at the time, so I stopped going. I attended another recovery meeting for 6 or 8 months.

On the one year anniversary of my overdose, I got a tattoo of a green lifesaver with a cross on it as a daily reminder of my journey. The green signified new life and growth.

I had left the Crossing for a while but never lost my faith. My husband asked me for a divorce after 19 years of marriage. I was crushed, but I made it through with newfound strength, determination, and courage because I was sober and with the support of a lot of people who love me.

God led my path, when I wanted to give up, it was he who whispered you’ve got this, don’t give up, and you’ve come so far. Mother’s day 2012 I walked back into the Crossing for the 1st time in well over a year and Pastor Kelly Dykstra saw me and she came over and gave me a hug and said welcome home, and I was.

I have recently started really working my steps again. One Sunday I was at the Crossing’s Zimmerman campus and when one of the pastors prayed over communion that day and he was very emotional. His words that day were for me. I sobbed and came to the realization that God really was my lifesaver and he let me live that day because he wasn’t done with me yet.

I have a purpose. I need to be his hands and feet and reach other addicts with my testimony.  If I have helped one person with my story every second of what I have gone through was worth it. Today I am a beautiful mess. I have also been sober 3 and a lahf amazing  years!

My names Aimee. I’m an addict and an alcoholic.  

"The lie was how I thought the drug was improving my abilities..." Faces Of Recovery: Troy Heling

My name is Troy and I’m an addict. I’ve been fascinated with music ever since I can remember singing and writing songs even before I learned to play an instrument.  My childhood was pretty normal, my dad worked and my mom stayed home to raise myself and my two younger sisters.  There wasn’t any alcohol or other drug abuse going on.  My parents divorced when I was 13 and I discovered the guitar shortly after.  Playing the guitar allowed me to move between all the social groups in high school pretty easily. I was accepted by most, but I still felt alone.

I drank in high school at parties to fit in, but it wasn’t really something I cared for, then in college I decided to smoke some pot with a pianist who was in a jazz trio with me.  That was it!  It’s like a switch was flipped! I was hearing music like never before and playing things on my guitar I’d never thought of. I found myself becoming a decent musician and an even better addict as the years went on.  The lie was how I thought the drug was improving my abilities as a musician, but what it really improved over the years was my ability to lie, cheat, steal and to manipulate others to my advantage.

I was married and had 3 kids, my wife (who was an alcoholic) and I would talk and daydream about getting clean and sober and how much better life would be. One night we got into a huge fight and I ended up in jail. When I got out I vowed I would stay clean (again). I relapsed shortly after and my wife took the kids and went to her parent’s house. I threw my stash in the garbage in disgust and then went over to the neighbors and got totally wasted. I woke up laying on my kitchen floor surrounded by garbage. Apparently I had dug out my stash and used and didn’t even remember doing it. That was my rock bottom.  I called a friend from AA, he came and picked me up and took me to a meeting. It didn’t matter that narcotics were my drug of choice...a drug is a drug. My wife and I tried to work it out but we just couldn’t make the curve.

I eventually went back to school and received a degree in CAD Engineering, I raised two children by myself (with the help of family and friends), I worked for a local company being part of a product design team and still played 2-3 nights a week. Music was and still is a huge part of who I am. The guitar with me in these portraits is named Layla.  She’s been with me through a lot of the insane years (and bears the scars), and all of my sobriety. She carries 25+ years of my blood, sweat and tears in her.

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with MS...lost my job...lost my house.. Thank God my kids were older and pretty much self-reliant. I can still walk with a cane, and had to go on disability. I can’t play out in clubs anymore, and I’ve never been more at peace.

One of the greatest gifts of sobriety has been reconnecting and developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. When I was single and using I was reading the Bible, reading the words but not living them. Eventually I walked away from it.  The Lord gave me what I needed when I needed it, and when one door shut another one opened...I am still playing guitar (tho’ no longer in clubs), I teach, do volunteer work, He has given me this opportunity to dig much deeper into His Word .

By the grace of God I’ve been clean and sober 20 years now. When I’m asked how I did it my answer is: Turn it over to God,  don’t use, don’t drink – do all of it one day at a time, get involved in a 12 Step group. 

It’s that easy and it’s that hard.

"I grabbed his pistol and began to squeeze the trigger…" Faces Of Recovery: Diane Rauma

Hi. My name is Diane Rauma. I am a recovering alcoholic/addict and I have been clean and sober for 20 years.

I had my first taste of alcohol at 6 years old. Alcohol was the norm in our house and my grandmother said it was good to have a nip before bed; it helped a person sleep better no matter what their age. So she gave me a shot glass full of white wine before bed at night. It did help me sleep and I liked how it made me feel.

I grew up with four older brothers and a much older sister. I was the baby. Three of my brothers turned me onto pot at age 9 and hard liquor. My dad made wine all the time so alcohol was always readily available, that was the beginning of me becoming a full- fledged alcoholic/addict. I smoked pot, drank and started on the harder drugs like acid, speed, mushrooms, peyote buttons, opium, and hashish, all through grade school and high school. In high school at 16 years old I became an IV drug user and became addicted to crystal meth.

I was shooting meth into my arm at least 3 times a day, every day. I dropped out of school at age 17; I was going into the 11th grade. I began dealing drugs to make money to buy more drugs. I became promiscuous in my sexual behavior and I would do just  about anything and sleep with anyone as long as they supplied my habit. Life went on this way until I was into my early 30s when I sobered up.

I was sexually abused by 2 family members from the time I was 9 until I was 16 years old. I left home at 16 years of age.

I had met a man and I knew him for 3 days and moved in with him and 1 year later we went to Alaska. I was in Alaska for 6 years, all the while still selling drugs, sleeping around and shooting dope. I had short lapses of sobriety but they didn’t last long – maybe a week or two while I was waiting for “supplies” to come in and then I would relapse and be back at the using lifestyle.

The relationship began to get physically abusive on both parts but we stayed together. I became pregnant and I stopped using everything except pot for 9 months, I didn’t smoke everyday, but on occasion, so in my mind that made it ok. I gave birth to a healthy 7lb 3oz baby girl and as soon as I could I was using again and we continued to fight. I decided it was time to leave so I packed up my daughter and went to South Dakota where his family was because I sure wasn’t going to go home to my abusers. I moved in with his sister and she took care of my daughter while I went back to my old ways of partying, sleeping around, and shooting dope.

He came to South Dakota and we tried again and this time the abuse got out of hand and he beat me up bad. I had a black eye, a bloody nose; choke marks on my neck and a lot of bumps, scrapes and scratches. I left his sisters and moved into my own place. The relationship ended and he went back to Alaska. I was a single parent and that was fine with me.

I stayed in South Dakota and I met another man in a bar and I married him 2 years later. He was an alcoholic but I was going to “fix” him. Our relationship was rocky and it was physically abusive right from the start, I became pregnant and sobered up for 9 months except for pot and an occasional beer, as the doctor said it was good for the baby to have one a day so I did. I gave birth to another girl she weighed 6lbs 2 oz. and she was healthy.

I was using as soon as I could except I didn’t sleep around as I was married and I honored that vow. The physical abuse along with verbal and emotional abuse and numerous times being beaten and raped by him became so bad it put me in the hospital with bruised ribs, black eyes, a near miscarriage (2nd daughter), internal damage, bald spots on my head from hair being ripped out, bruises, scrapes, cuts and permanent facial damage. The doctor, who was a friend, told me to leave him before he killed me, but I was married for life in my eyes. He said if I didn’t leave he would get social services involved and start proceedings to take my kids away. 

On the home front, my parents had left the Twin Cities of Minnesota and moved to Duluth and my brothers and sister all had their own homes. I felt it was safe for me to go home and I called my parents and they welcomed me home. I left my husband in the middle of the night while he was at work and I took my kids and the clothes on our backs and went home to Minnesota. I moved in with my parents for a short time until I got my own place.

As soon as I got settled I was using hard again and my parents were more than happy to watch the kids on the weekends. I was full blown using, smoking pot, shooting dope, drinking and sleeping around. My husband showed up in Minnesota and promised me things would be different and I let him come back. Within 2 weeks he was beating and raping me again, after a night of getting beat up by him, I decided I was going to kill him when he passed out, which he always did after a night of hard drinking and drugging.

I went to the closet, grabbed his pistol, placed the barrel near his head and began to squeeze the trigger knowing that the abuse would be over forever in a few short seconds. I heard my youngest daughter cry from her room for me. I instantly “came too” put the gun down, my hands shaking uncontrollably, and went to her room to see what she wanted.

I got her back to bed and called the police and they came and removed him from my home and I went to my parents with the girls, for the remainder of the night.  I divorced him shortly after that. I went into hiding as he was threatening my life.

I met yet another man that needed a nanny as he was a single dad with custody of his kids.  I jumped at the chance as he lived in an old farm-house out in the country where I knew my “ex” would never find me. I stayed there for 1 ½ years and was in full blown using mode again – smoking pot, using drugs, shooting dope but I didn’t sleep around as I needed the job and I was sleeping with him. I now had 4 kids, two were his, and two were mine and I was high all the time. The relationship wasn’t physically abusive, or verbally abusive. He was a nice guy that just wanted someone to love him and take care of his kids. It was peaceful for that 1½ years and I could use and do whatever I wanted. And I did.

I met a woman about 6 months into my stay there and we became friends because our kids played together. She would often talk about Jesus and I listened, but I said, “Jesus gave up on me a long time ago.”

To make a long story short she brought me to Jesus and I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I still used but I was curious about this Jesus. So one day, July 14th 1992, it was my youngest daughter’s birthday, a girl I used with and I were going to take our kids to the beach and celebrate my baby’s birthday. We got pretty high before we left and I had to shoot up at least one more time before we left. We got to the beach and had a great day. But the night before I had had an argument with God telling Him if He was real to show up and change my life. Well… He showed up that day! 

The day at the beach was a blast and we decided it was time to go home. So my using friend and I went in the van I was driving and smoked up – I did another shoot up session and we rounded up the kids and headed home.

On the way home the dope had kicked in and I was feeling good when all of a sudden we came to the train tracks and I forgot how to drive the van. I was stuck on the tracks while the train was coming! My arms were both down and I was in the middle of the tracks. I tried to back up and I broke the arm but I couldn’t go back far enough to get off the tracks. I tried to go forward but I couldn’t seem to get the gears right my friend was screaming at me as she knew we were going to get hit by the train but I couldn’t hear her voice.

Everything was in slow motion. I saw people getting out of their cars as they knew I was going to get hit, and all of a sudden I “came too” and I broke through the front arm and drove off the tracks! I looked in my rearview mirror and the train went by blowing its horn like crazy.

As I sat in my van stunned, shocked and trying to catch my breath, a man with the most amazing eyes I had ever seen came up to my van, looked me in the eyes and said “bad brakes huh?” and then he was gone.

My friend got out of the van she was screaming at me now and I heard every word. She said some pretty awful things to me and ended our friendship right then and there. The kids were crying and shook up in the back of the van and I was doing my best to calm everybody down while still in shock myself. I realized I was instantly sober and I drove home about 5 miles per hour trying to figure out what had just happened.  I got home and called my Jesus friend and told her what happened. We prayed together and I have not had a drop or a drug since that day – July 14th 1992.

Now you may be wondering what happened to me…

I married my Jesus friend’s brother. He was a Christian man but the relationship didn’t last as I still had issues to work through from my past that affected the marriage so we divorced. We were married 5 years. The good thing was that he introduced me to Alcoholics Anonymous and for the first time in my life I felt “at home” and safe.

I met a man in A.A and I married him in 2003 and we have been together ever since and though the road is bumpy at times I can honestly say I am happily married. God is very much a part of our lives. My husband and I are both Pastors. We are affiliated with The Crossing Church where we lead a recovery group. We are seeing lives get changed through the 12 Mile Markers and the love of Jesus Christ and His Grace. We are also helping and teaching other churches that want to start recovery groups how to do that.

I am a full time student and am working towards a BS in Psychology and counseling. I have a heart for broken abused women and I am in the process of starting my own non-profit business so I can help more women that suffer from addictions, abuse, incest, rape, and other issues, so they can come to know Jesus and His unconditional love and He can heal their wounds and make them whole again, just like He did with me.

This is my life verse that I say daily – I even have it tattooed on my arm so I always remember where I came from and it’s a great conversation piece: Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord plans to prosper you not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.

Jesus changed my life and the miracles that have happened since I met Him are just that: miracles. I should have been dead many times over but He had other plans for me. I let Him in and He changed my life for the better, forever. All the Glory goes to Him. My Jesus, my Lord, my Savior.

"I don’t want to quit. But you should. You have a problem." Faces Of Recovery: Bruce Rauma

In tenth grade history class a friend of mine leaned over during a lecture and asked me if I wanted to buy a joint. 

Having never seen marijuana before and brought up in an athletic focused family, I hesitated to answer him.  But then he said some magic words.  He said “I’ll sell you two for five bucks.”  Because that was exactly how much I had in my pocket for lunch money that week, I thought I’d try spending it on something other than the typical cafeteria food and work my way around lunch that week.  Later that day, I skipped track practice and went in the back of the parking lot behind school and smoked my marijuana with some other friends for the very first time.  Honestly, it did nothing for me.  My friends told me that it always took one good time to get in the system and then from there it would be awesome. 

The next day I went to see my friend in history class again.  I asked if he still had the bargain two for five deal going and he said “of course!”  He said that if I ever wanted any more than just the special deal I could get as much as I wanted.  The second time around was the first experience I’d had being “high” and that was the front door into what I now label as “the life.”

After tenth grade and several special days behind school I developed a new set of friends.  People who didn’t run track or play hockey, but they were people who were always known as the outcasts.  The kind of people that on the playing field I’d look at and deem a burnout/scrub/loser.  I had become one of them, and I loved it.  As long as someone had some marijuana they were my friend.  This new set of friends raised my popularity with so many people in school.  I had the jocks and pretty girls as friends and now I had this whole new group that were interested in more than excelling.  I had become one of the most popular people in school.  That lasted until the day I threw my cap and tassels in the air on graduation day.

Marijuana became my life.  As long as I could get high, I was having a good day.  I was smoking at least three times a day.  The more I could get high the better.  And if I could find it for free, that was better yet.  I went to obscure places to find marijuana.  Parks, people’s basements, long trips out of town, anywhere that marijuana could be found, I was there buying and smoking more.  Pot made my voice scratchy and intense!  It lead to three years of a garage rock band where I lead the vocals and played keys at backyard parties.  Booze, drugs, fist fights and women went with this life and it was good.  As long as we had a show, we were getting high and drinking and fighting for all kinds of new relationships with girls.

Along with the lifestyle marijuana offered, other drugs came with it.  LSD, cocaine, crank, speed, hash all became part of my life because as any good marijuana smoker knows, you can’t always find marijuana, so you take what you can get.   The good news was that I had turned 21 so I could legally go to bars and drink to fill the void when absolutely no drugs were available.

Pretty soon, drugs became too much work.  Making sneaky appointments to go to a basement to buy something that really didn’t do what it did the first time around was exhausting.  One night a friend asked if I’d come over and have a few beers and smoke some pot I took about ten hits of pot when my heart started skipping beats.  It freaked me out so badly that I actually ran to my parent’s home just a few blocks away.  I can only imagine what they thought when they opened the door to see my blood shot eyes, wreaking of smoke.  We all sat in their living room with my feet elevated watching “The sound of music.”  That was the last time I used drugs.

Alcohol was my focus.  It was the one thing that didn’t freak me out, I could find it easily and there were so many choices.  I could buy it at a store and drink at my home, go to a club and drink while checking out the ladies, even get as many beers as I wanted at a ball game.  I drank daily, even at lunch break during work.  In fact, on my lunch break I would race to a liquor store and buy a six pack of beer, slam the beers in the parking lot of a fast food taco shop, get four soft shells and pound them down, smoke a cigarette and throw some eye drops in my eyes and I was good to go for the second half of my shift. 

In any of this story did I explain the ramifications that went with the life?  Maybe it’s because I don’t really want to remember the pain.  To sum up: 3 DWI’s, a head-on collision, multiple oak trees eaten by the front end of my cars, no real authentic relationships to speak of, no money, repossessions of vehicles, loneliness, waking up in every imaginable place on earth, all to end up without hope and meaning in life.  Suicide actively crossed the path of my life, but I never had courage to end it all.

After the third DWI and a minimal amount of sobriety, I went deer hunting with some friends.  My friends said they were going to sit in their tree stands and encouraged me to come in after a while and try to mill about in the woods in hopes I’d kick up something for them to shoot.  They left and before I left the cabin I poured a 64 oz. cup with gin.  I put a splash of tonic water and an ice cube on the top and slammed it down.  Then I went for a walk.  I had a rifle and a cigar.  I did not have the essentials:  compass, rope, knife, more bullets, flash light.  9:00 that evening they found me meandering around the woods in a t-shirt and sweat pants in 10 degree weather.  This was it!  I was done.

When I got home I went to treatment.  The very first night of treatment I planned accordingly, just like I had every evening before, and I had a case of beer and a bottle waiting for me in case the treatment thing didn’t work out. 

Treatment ended and I slammed 8 beers before even pulling into the driveway at my house.  I don’t remember my last beer but I remember this last time being drunk.  As I sat in the kitchen of my townhome in a pool of vomit, I looked at my roommate and told him I had to quit.  He said, “You know Bruce, I don’t want to quit.  But you should.  You have a problem.  And if you want to quit, look in the mirror tomorrow and tell yourself you’re a good man.  That you’re worthy of a good life.  That just for today, you won’t have a drink.”  I didn’t realize it then, but I do now that those were the wisest words I could hear.  I’ve been telling myself those words every day for over 15 years.

Recovery has been the foundation of who I am.  I attend meetings regularly.  I started speaking at meetings and leading new groups.  As I attended and lead, I realized God was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself.  Jesus had knocked on the door of my heart for years and I blew him off.  I invited him in on a set of railroad tracks one day having been challenged to give my life to him.  He took over my heart and told me that if I live a life for him, he’d show me the best high I’d always searched for.  He was right!  Eventually, He made me a pastor at a church.

 After 14 months of sobriety, I met my beautiful wife.  She had children and I fell in love with all of them.  I’ve adopted my girls and the most beautiful part of our story is that my kids have never had to see me drunk.  They’ve never dealt with mom and dad fighting over who drank the last of the whiskey in the liquor cabinet. 

Today, I lead a recovery group.  People of all shapes and sizes and addictions walk in every week and I’m so blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus to all of them.  We get together as a family and as I commit to live a life for them and Jesus, I know that at anytime they are always there for me.  My life today is dedicated to helping others and I do it all for Jesus and he was right, it is the best high a person could ever have.

"My highest hopes were that I would be dead by now…" Faces Of Recovery: Jenni Rolow

I was born into my family the third and last child, the only daughter. My parents owned a 24 hour a day business which was always number one over family obligations or anything else. The business was in the service industry and my father went out and worked and my mom answered phones and did paperwork from the house.

As I got older the business got larger and eventually moved out of the home. My family was dysfunctional in a way that my dad was a rage-aholic and extremely abusive and my mother was not allowed to think for herself when he was around. He had to control everything and he had unrealistic expectations of all of us. Nothing was ever good enough for him.

People outside of our family loved my father. He was a good talker and could sell ice to Eskimos, so to speak. He was not exactly honest, though, and he was always trying to come up with something, sort of like a con artist, but more just working those around him to see what he could get out of them.

I went to a Christian school for the first five years of my school-years and I always felt different from everyone else – like I didn’t belong there.  I never found God there. As a child I was extremely sensitive and had no skills at learning how to cope with that.

I also remember being very lonely. We had a liquor cabinet next to our refrigerator in our home. When I was 8 or 9 and home alone in the summer, I would sometimes go to that liquor cabinet and pull out whatever hard alcohol was in front and mix it with orange juice and drink it. It was like I was in tune with the fact that alcohol was my escape – even though I never remember getting drunk from it.

Because of my hypersensitivity, my feelings were hurt very easily, and I actually remember making the conscience decision to turn it all off. I was 12 and my father had hurt my feelings due to a B on my report card. As I was crying and he sat explaining why I could do better, I tuned him out and I made a pact with myself that this would never happen to me again. I would never care what others thought or let them affect me in this manner. I would be fully self-reliant. It was all about me now and I could only depend on myself. Not surprisingly, that same year, I started drinking more with my friends and smoking weed eventually followed.

I spent the rest of my teen years looking for trouble and looking for the party. I looked for people who knew how to not care – because that’s who I was, or at least who I wanted to be. Nothing was ever enough for me – friends could be friendly enough; no one could ever love me enough.

Inside I strived for that unconditional love that never failed and some type of meaning or purpose for life. My parents separated when I was 15 and although I portrayed that I did not care, I felt abandoned when my father moved to Florida that same year.

I kept drinking and partying to fill that lonely and hollow feeling I had inside. I somehow graduated high school with honors. I went to college for one semester but quit because it interfered with my partying. I switched groups of friends every couple years, always looking for people more lost than me, or who were doing worse things than me. I hung out with people who sold drugs and committed crimes, but I was more just an accessory at that time.

Soon after I turned 21 I was introduced to meth. Up to this point I had never really done hard core drugs, but I was very intrigued with the idea of them. They say it only takes one time and you either love it or hate it – I loved it. It filled me – it completed me. I was alive with no cares in the world – no regard for others or mankind.

Of course I did have “friends” – those with a similar agenda – but those come and go in the meth world. I held a job most of my meth career. It was part of the lie to myself that meth had not taken over and that I wasn’t one of “those people” – the ones who had no control and had sold their soul to the drug. By the time I realized that meth ruled me and I was indeed one of “those people," I no longer cared. I had alienated my family and real friends – anyone who really cared about me.

I started dealing drugs, mainly because I was sick of all the dealers out there. They were all small time and ripping off their clients. So I took what I knew about business and I sold drugs and I made money.

Eventually the task force kicked in my door. I went to jail and got released on bail. I was empty. I was soul-less. I used my words to play people and manipulated to get what I wanted. I could talk my way into and out of everything and anything. I could argue things I didn’t even believe in, just for the sake of winning that argument. I didn’t believe in God but I did believe in the devil as I knew I was living in his world and doing his work. I remember right before I accepted my plea bargain I had a moment of complete surrender.

I was sitting outside smoking a cigarette and I looked down at myself and realized it was done – meth had won. I pinched myself hard – with everything I had – and I couldn’t even feel it. In that moment I realized I was dying, and that was okay. This was all I had to look forward to and that was all right. I surrendered to my bondage. I would let myself die this way. It was all the hope I had.

Just a few weeks later I was ready to go to jail for my first charge. My lawyer had gotten me a pretty good deal which included 3 days of jail time and then I would be furloughed to treatment. I had four years of prison time hanging over my head and I was immediately put on probation. I had no intention of changing my life. I actually had my “breakdown” for treatment all planned out. I knew exactly how I was going to play them and when, making sure I gave them enough time to notice how well I was doing before I left the program.

I never made it to turn myself in to jail. Just hours before I was supposed to turn myself in, I got arrested on a new drug charge. I was given $100,000 bail but I was also put on a probation hold because I violated my probation from the first charge by getting a new charge. I had finally gotten myself into a situation I could not talk or manipulate my way out of. Honestly, I exhaled and breathed a sigh of relief. I felt as if I had been given a second chance at life. Today, I see the circumstances of my arrest as a divine intervention on my behalf.

So there I was, alone and broken, sitting in Hennepin County Jail, fighting my charge.  I was not fighting it on the premise that I was not guilty – I was fighting the evidence against me and the way it was obtained. I was in a 12 bed dorm and a woman (Lynn) came up to me and started talking to me about Jesus.

For the first time in my life my heart was open and I listened. We started reading Psalms and Proverbs together each night. All the other ladies started joining in. As a unit, we prayed together. We broke bread together – sharing candy bars and potato chips – that’s all we had. Miracles were happening and people were going home that probably shouldn’t have and families were being re-united.

One night I bowed a knee and asked Christ into my heart – to be my leader and to forgive my sins. But what does that really mean to someone like me? My friend left and I was moved to a different unit. I didn’t know how to follow God. I asked around hoping someone could give me some guidance. A lady in my new unit told me that the Bible is full of God’s words – so if you repeat His words back to Him – He will answer you. Ok – I could do that - that made sense to me.

I was sitting in jail fighting my charge and I wanted to win, so I picked a bunch of scripture that spoke of victory and protection from your enemies – and I read it faithfully every day. Over and over I prayed and read for months. I did not win my case and I assumed it was because I was in fact guilty and God didn’t love me enough to totally wipe my slate clean. How could He – look at my past and where I came from. I was sentenced to 70 months in prison and transferred to Shakopee Prison.

One day in my room I was reading a daily meditation about freedom from bondage and I would say this was my first spiritual awakening. I realized that my enemies were not the cops testifying against me or the judge or prosecutor. My enemies were my bondage – my addictions and bad behaviors that kept me sick. God had indeed answered my prayers and given me victory through Jesus. I was physically incarcerated but this time locked up was the freest I had been in my life up to that point. My slate had without a doubt been wiped clean. I started to feel that love that I always sought my whole life – and then I really started to love myself.

I ended up only serving two years as I went through a prison boot camp style program. This program changed my life and gave me so much confidence in myself as a person. I am so grateful for the CIP program. Upon release I immediately started going to a church and got involved with AA. I also got baptized. I am very grateful for AA and the solid understanding of recovery I got from it.

Working through the program and being honest with myself helped me realize and release my fears, my resentments and my defects that made up that sick person I used to be. Yet, it always seemed as if something was missing. That missing piece was Jesus. Being in AA and trying to sponsor with a “higher power” was difficult. I did not know what to call this hypothetical higher power.

The church I was attending was not overly friendly and didn’t reach out to new people or share the gospel and grow. I remember sitting there at times and wanting to serve just out of gratitude for this new life, but the only place for women was the nursery, which is an area I am not skilled in. It just seemed like there should be more – like going to church should feel like you are going to be with family.

One of my friends brought me to the Crossing Church – which changed my life. Being there I am somewhere I belong and I am with family. I have learned so much about who Jesus is and what that means in my life. I started to volunteer and serve Jesus there. I love being a part of seeing other people’s lives change. I believe that my life now has purpose and meaning because of Jesus – I can share my story and help people move towards knowing the Lord.

I became a part of Crossing Recovery because I thought it would be cool to be involved in a 12 step recovery program where I could talk about Jesus openly. It’s actually beyond cool. I leave each meeting overflowing with gratitude that I get to be part of something so awesome and life-changing. 

I had to quit AA because I couldn’t go backwards. I can’t not talk about Jesus and put Him in a “higher power” box.  I am so grateful that I get to share my story with others. God has restored and recovered my relationships with my family members. I even got to make amends, build a relationship, and talk about God to my father before he passed away.

If you would have told me back in 2005 that this is what my life would look like today – that I would call myself a Jesus follower and live a life without drugs – I would have laughed in your face.

Thank God that His plan for our lives is so much better that we could ever imagine or hope for. My highest hopes were that I would be dead by now. Praise the Lord!!!

"I never said, 'I want to be an addict when I grow up.'" Faces Of Recovery: Brent Seals

I’m Brent – I am an addict redeemed by Jesus. I never said, “I want to be an addict when I grow up.” But it happened. Here’s how I got there.

I had a typical childhood. I had a mom, dad, brother and sister. I played various sports and was a happy kid. When I was around 7 my family began to unravel. My dad had an affair that led to my parents’ divorce. The result was a dirty secret that later fueled my addiction throughout my using life.

I drank for the first time at 13, smoked marijuana at 14. By 15 I was looking for the party and the next party and so on. My using progressed to LSD, cocaine, crack and methamphetamine as the years wore on. There came a point when drinking and drugs no longer were a choice but a daily necessity. Lying cheating and stealing while burning bridges and buying my new friends became my way of life. I spent all my physical energy, money and time worshipping a god of my own invention, running from what I knew in my heart was right.

When I was at my lowest point, homeless & jobless with kids in foster homes, I saw a sign for The Crossing Church right down the street from my dad’s apartment. I told my wife to get ready, we were going to church. She was like, “What?” I said we’ve tried everything else, let’s give Christ a try. So off we went.

I suddenly came to the realization that I was giving away little pieces of my soul and spirit in my active addiction over the years and that Jesus was catching them and saving them for me to reclaim – and with this realization, a great sense of undeniable hope came over me. So I gave my life to Jesus to do in me what I couldn’t do, or even figure out for myself. I then was baptized soon after.

During that time I was attending recovery meetings regularly. I went to every single one I could possibly get to. It was at these meetings I began to truly experience the joy and freedom I so deeply needed in order to truly live in Christ Jesus. I discovered the twelve mile markers, born of the word of God, which literally took hold of me and shook the chains off of not only my heart, but also my soul and spirit. This enabled me to forgive myself and all the others that have hurt me in the past. The experience changed my whole life! It will be a moment I will remember for eternity.

So if you are reading this and thinking you can’t do it, it would be too hard, I'll tell you this – it was not long ago I was just like you. And you don’t have to die an addict, an alcoholic, a rageaholic, gambler, bulimic, or anything else. We are all human and everyone struggles with something. But people who understand are out here waiting. We not only want to help, we need to help.

You don’t have to live or die like this. We were made by God for so much more than a life so deceived, disconnected and shackled to darkness. Jesus freed me and showed me the truth. He’s waiting to show you too. So put your hands up in surrender and Jesus will free you of your burden. Best of all, you don’t have to put your hands behind your back at the end.

I’m Brent. I never said, “I want to be an addict when I grow up.”

"I am a daughter of the King…" Faces Of Recovery: Amanda Seals

My name is Amanda and I am the daughter of the King.

My life started rough.

I started out knowing only evil, seeing things and experiencing things that nobody, especially a child, should go through. As far back as I can remember I only knew what I thought was “normal” – an addicted mother and absent father, an abusive uncle, and a very distant and sad childhood. I was sexually abused and there was no one to save me but me. At age 4 I spoke up against my molester and turned him into the authorities. I remember this quite well because he was hurting other children and I had to go speak to “big” people in suits in a big building. Later I would recognize this as a courthouse.

After he went to prison, my mother would move from one town to another, from one abusive man to another; still using drugs and alcohol, still neglecting me emotionally and spiritually.

Growing up like this, I swore up and down I would never end up like my mom. I would never turn to alcohol as an escape – a way to abandon my feelings and cover up my hurt and loneliness. And I was right! I didn’t turn to alcohol.

At 15, I went to a party. I was new in town and wanted to fit in. I wanted to feel accepted for the first time in my life - to feel loved and not forgotten. I sat in the circle around a bonfire and I looked to my left as a pot pipe was handed to me.

Without hesitation, I put it to my lips while my “friend” lit it for me. That was the beginning. I started that night going to a party where I felt like I was intruding, to ending the night feeling like it was my party and look how special I was that all these people came to it! I felt loved, accepted, pretty, 10 feet tall, and bullet proof.

I quickly realized my mom and I had something in common, something we could connect on some level with, no matter how morbid or immoral it was. Maybe now my mom would love and accept me enough to slow down and be a mom. I figured if I can’t beat her, I might as well join her.

I went on like this for many years until I ended up pregnant and alone at 20. I stopped everything. I was going to be a better mom than my mom was, or so I thought.

When I was 24 and my son was 4, I met a man that would later introduce me to the hustling game. I call it evil, others call it meth. That was also the same year that one of my mom’s boyfriends killed her. She would never know the freedom from her addiction. She would die in pain and suffering. I quickly fell for this man. I think it felt safe because that is all I knew my whole life. It was normal for me. I started smoking weed again and putting all my time and energy into a man that was incapable of loving me or my son.

On Easter 2000, while we were lying in bed, our door got kicked in by DEA & FBI. My son and I both woke up with a gun to our heads. I didn’t know what to think or do or what was happening. I would find out later that my boyfriend got arrested for conspiring to manufacture meth. I got let go because I had no knowledge.

After he was bailed out, he was using heavily and started ignoring me. I just wanted him to love and accept me; I didn’t want another person to abandon me. So I met up with him and asked him to teach me about it. I was addicted right away. He went to prison and I was still addicted and started selling to support my habit. In 2003, I found out that my step-dad, the only dad I had, was dying of cancer and I started spiraling out of control.

After he died, I put myself in treatment. After graduating treatment and a halfway house in St Cloud, I started my own NA meeting. Narcotics Anonymous was a huge part of my life for many years. In 2005, I met my husband Brent. We got married in 2008 and had two more children. After our wedding, we both got complacent in our program. There was always something missing. I didn’t know what it was; there was still that hole in my heart that never got filled. We ended up relapsing together. We spent a couple years using.

In 2012 my world came crashing down. My husband and I separated and I had just got arrested on my first drug charge. While I was in jail, my kids went to foster care. I lost my house and everything in it to thieves and it felt like my soul was being torn from my body. 

Then one night I was awakened by God. He told me that he had always been here. I was never alone and I need to surrender to him and submit to him. He would show me the way. Up until then I was staying in bed. I wouldn’t eat, drink, or talk. I just laid there and cried. That day I got up and went to a program that was offered by a Pastor that came in to jails to help people. I broke down to her and she handed me her card and told me to call her when I was released.

The very day I was released, I did just that and drove out to her house. My husband had met me there and she had talked to both of us. I decided to go to Elk River with him.

I was hurting and longing for my children. I felt like the worst mother alive! I had turned into my mother! I was in such a deep depression all I could do was cry.

One night, my husband Brent told me to get up and get dressed, we were going to church. I thought to myself, “No way! I’m too depressed. I don’t deserve to go anywhere.” But I reluctantly went. We walked into this huge church where people were hugging and they seemed to be happy. But I just kept thinking, these people are fake – they aren’t really that happy. I sat on an outside row towards the back of the church, an easy escape!

As the Pastor was preaching, I got up and hightailed it out the back door and ran to my car, not knowing I was being chased by the security and welcome team. It was pouring down rain and these “crazy” people were coming after me! For what?

Suddenly there was a knock at my window and my passenger door was opened. I have never seen such a kind and caring face. She asked me if she could pray for me. I didn’t know what to think. Why would this person care? What does she want? With tears in my eyes, I said yes. I proceeded to tell her my story and she kept praying.

An hour and a half later, I walked back in with her and she introduced me to Pastor Bruce, the Crossing Church recovery pastor. He told me about Crossing Recovery and invited me to come. So the following Thursday we went to Crossing Recovery, my very first faith based recovery meeting. I was in the first step meeting and I was angry and hurt. But I quickly realized that something was different. She didn’t look down on me. She smiled and treated me with grace. I wanted what she had. But how? After the meeting was over, I asked her to be my sponsor. She graciously accepted.

I worked hard and worked my steps. I started to get plugged into service work. That hole in my heart started to fill up. I know what I was missing. It was Jesus. I realized that my burdens weren’t mine to carry. I didn’t have to hold on to them anymore. I could let go of that control. I realized that all these years I said I worshipped God, I really didn’t. I was worshipping the pain and hurt that was engulfing my whole being. I was happy for the first time. I didn’t feel alone. I was never alone. Jesus has always been by my side, holding my hand, no matter how hard I pushed Him away. He was the one constant being in my life.

In my life I had changed my addiction, friends, and location, but I never changed me. I never let go so God could heal my hurts, habits and hang-ups. Jesus already died for my sins so in God’s eyes, I have always been the perfect daughter.

Working step 12 I have realized four things: 1) my story is important because it led me to Jesus 2) my story is important because it led me to Crossing Recovery 3) my story is important because I use it to help other people 4) God took the evil out of my life and helped me to turn it to good to help others. I will use my story to bring Him glory!

My name is Amanda and I am the daughter of the King!

Faces Of Recovery Blog Launch!

Between 2012 and 2013 I had the incredible opportunity to help lead a recovery group in Pine City, MN. Nearly every Tuesday night for over a year, I was blown away by the stories I’d hear of what people have been through and how they’re finding hope and healing in their lives today.

The people I met as a part of this program come from a wide variety of backgrounds – everything from soccer moms to members of the Mexican Mafia – and they were struggling with a wide variety of hurts, habits and hang-ups. In the course of the time I spent with them, I came to deeply admire and respect their courage, bravery and perseverance.

I love hearing stories of how people have turned their lives around. By listening and being present with these people in the middle of their stories, in some small way I got to be a part of them, and that was a deeply humbling honor.

But the more stories I heard and the more people I talked to, the photographer in me began to notice that these people have faces that tell their stories all by themselves. The way they hold their eyes and body. The lines on their often weathered faces. The looks that hold both joy and hurt, intensity and surrender, pain and healing all at the same time.

I found myself drawn toward trying to document these expressions with my camera in a portrait series that's raw, honest and real. It was a simple set up for a simple idea: 1-2 lights. Monotone images. No retouching and minimal post-processing. Let the faces tell the stories.

These are stories worth telling, listening to and learning from, and as a result, I decided to become an advocate for them by producing a short film and portrait series about people that have been sober, abstinent or in recovery for 6 consecutive months.

My goal with these portraits is not only to promote recovery from addiction, but also raise awareness as to just how prevalent and pervasive of an issue this really is in our society. I asked each subject to write their story in their own words and then posted the portraits and their stories in a blog, which you can find here: http://sethhinrichsphotography.com/faces-of-recovery-blog/

These are the faces of those who have overcome and are overcoming. Their faces tell the story of where they've been and what's possible from where they were. Their words and their stories are their own, and I hope they are as inspirational to you as they are to me. 

 If you have been sober, abstinent or in recovery from your hurt, habit or hang-up for 6 consecutive months and want to be a part of this series, message me about how you can get involved! The series is growing and evolving every day and I’m excited by the possibilities.