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What path will you take?

Nobody grows up saying, “When I grow up, I’m going to be an addict.”

My grandfather was a dentist. As a child walking around town with Grandpa, people who knew him would say, “Hello, Dr. Anderson. Is this your grandson?” I was so proud! All I could think of at the time was, “Someday I want to be called Dr. Anderson.” Children have ideas and dreams about what their future might look like. Yet, for many of us, life took us down paths we were incapable of imagining at the time.

James grew up in a loving home playing hockey. Dad was an alcoholic. What started out as fun and experimentation turned into a 15-year IV heroin addiction. After his father died from alcohol poisoning, James lost all hope. After several suicide attempts he agreed to get help at Teen Challenge. God set him free and now he has now been sober for four years, is married and now a father.

Every day he visits jails and detox centers telling his story to others letting them know that they can be free from their addictions, just like him.

As a little girl, Jenny dreamed of being a police officer but at a party when she was 15 she started drinking and a friend convinced her to shoot up methamphetamine for the first time. That night she was hooked and for the next 13 years she spiraled out of control, daily sticking needles in her arm just to cope. Spending time in and out of jail, treatment programs and even prison became commonplace. Today she has been sober for more than seven years, has regained custody of her teenage daughter, purchased her first home, and is a wonderful employee, full of life.

September is National Recovery Month. “Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.”

Even if you’ve never struggled with addiction, all of us are touched by it in some way. Most have family members, neighbors, co-workers or friends who we suspect struggle with alcohol, drugs or some other addiction. Even if you don’t personally know anyone, a huge portion of your tax dollars are spent every year on the crimes that surround addiction.

The recovery community in our area is filled with wonderful people who at one time or another lost hope. Those dreams from childhood seemed impossible in the depths of their addiction, but with sobriety dreams are restored.

Not everyone in recovery trumpets their victory over drugs and alcohol, but if you know someone who is living out their recovery, take some time this month to congratulate them. If you know someone you think may be stuck and unable to find the strength to reach out for help, take the time to encourage them to get help. Remind them that they are loved, that God loves them and that their life does have purpose. Help them see that people can and do recover from lives ravaged by drugs and alcohol every day. Help restore those childhood dreams.

Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge is a state-wide faith-based treatment and recovery program ranging from outpatient to long-term residential. Their mission is to assist teens and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Here in Brainerd, they offer outpatient treatment for women and men as well as long-term residential recovery services for adult men.