Second chances: ‘I found where I fit in’

Michael Kylochko has been sober for over seven years and now helps other in recovery through his work at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

Michael Kylochko
Michael Kylochko is the aftercare coordinator at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Brainerd and boasts more than seven years of sobriety.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — If Michael Kylochko had given up after his first attempt at sobriety, he might not be here today.

It took a few attempts at treatment — 15 to be exact — and a little compassion from others.

“There’s been people along the way who took a chance on me and allowed me to start to live life normally,” Kylochko said during an interview Thursday, April 6, at Loco Espress in Brainerd.

That normal life is over seven years of sobriety from alcohol, methamphetamine and other substances.

It was his last trip to treatment — a trip to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge — that made the big difference.


“For them to even just take another chance and say, ‘Well come on in,’ that was a huge step for me, too,” he said.

Spending much of his life in the Iron Range area south of Hibbing and later in Monticello before coming to Brainerd, Kylochko struggled with addiction for about 20 years.

“I didn’t set out wanting to be an addict,” he said, noting he was around alcohol a lot in his early life.

He enjoyed feeling like he was the life of the party when he drank and found it hard to stop. But it was when his oldest daughter was born 20 years ago and he realized that just simply wanting to be sober for her wasn’t doing the trick that he began his long journey to sobriety.

But it wasn’t easy.

While in the throes of addiction, Kylochko wracked up drunk driving offenses and eventually found himself in prison for burglary, which proved to be a turning point.

“It was an eye-opener when I got busted and sobered up, like, ‘Man, is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?’” he said. “At the time I wasn’t super grateful, but I’m grateful now for the time I had in prison because it gave me a chance to reflect on the direction I was going in life. It’s where I first started to read the Bible, too, and look at doing something different with my life.”

A lack of support and structure after prison led to another relapse, but Kylochko still didn’t give up.


“That led me to Teen Challenge, which ultimately God used to give me stability in my life,” he said.

Kylochko opted for the Teen Challenge program in Brainerd to be closer to his two youngest children, who lived in Crosby at the time. After his treatment, he entered the ministry program at Teen Challenge, through which he met his wife, Candy , who is also in recovery.

Teen Challenge leaders took another chance on him by extending the offer of an internship, despite his lack of a driver’s license and with his criminal background.

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Now he has worked there for over five years and serves as the aftercare coordinator, working with men who are finishing the program to make sure they have the support and resources they need when they leave.

A little over a year ago, Kylochko and his wife were able to buy their first home together in Brainerd, though that path wasn’t simple either. Finding an apartment to rent when they were just starting out as a couple was tricky.

“I’m very grateful for the spot that we had; it wasn’t the best place, but it gave us a couple years of stability to where we were eventually able to buy a house,” he said. “But there are a lot of obstacles. There’s only a few landlords in the area that will rent to felons, and they a lot of times have waiting lists. And some won’t even look at it or won’t hear the story or don’t care that you’re in recovery. And they’ve been burned a lot too, so I get both sides of it, but there’s a struggle there.”

Fortunately, though, Kylochko feels the message that recovery is possible and people can change seems to be getting out there.

“I think people are starting to see the benefit of taking a chance,” he said. “I don’t think there’s too many people that can say, ‘I don’t know anybody (with addiction). I don’t have a family member that’s in addiction or a close friend that’s in addiction.’ So people are starting to be more aware that it’s not just the junkie down the street. It might be my mom or it might be my cousin or it might be my son or my daughter. So their eyes are maybe being opened to the possibility that there’s some hurting people that really need help.”


That help can be as simple as seeing the potential in someone, especially when that person is trying to do something difficult.

Luckily, Kylochko has encountered people who saw his potential, and he was able to find God, the church and the recovery community, all of which welcomed him with open arms after he spent so long searching for a place to belong.

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“I found where I fit in, where I had purpose.”

He and his wife have both repaired relationships with their families and their children

And others can do that, too.

Kylochko said he knows that first phone call is hard to make for those who are struggling with addiction, but there are organizations like Teen Challenge and many others in the Brainerd lakes community that are there to help.

He offered his phone number for anyone who needs somewhere to turn: 763-310-4543.

But his message is a simple one: “Don’t give up.”


April is Second Chance Month

April is known as Second Chance Month , both nationally and in Minnesota, reaffirming the importance of helping those with criminal backgrounds re-enter society and have a second chance at a better life after paying their debts.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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