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Second chances: ‘I’m not the same person’

Candy Kylochko is grateful for her 25th chance at life.

Candy Kylochko in pink hooded sweatshirt
Brainerd woman Candy Kylochko has been sober for nearly six years and wants to share her story of recovering from drug addition in the hopes of helping others do the same.
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BRAINERD — Candy Kylochko didn’t plan on ending up in Brainerd, but now that she’s back in her hometown, she wants those who knew her way back when to see how far she’s come.

“This is where I grew up. This is where a lot of my troubles have been, so I want people to be able to see my face in recovery versus in custody,” she said.

Kylochko was booked in Crow Wing County Jail 24 times. Addiction was all she knew.

Until recently. Until her 25th chance.

After growing up in a dysfunctional home around alcoholism and addiction, Kylochko bounced around foster homes and group homes from the age of 12. That was also the age she started drinking alcohol and using marijuana.

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Methamphetamine came at age 15 and the first arrest at 18.

Kylochko has two kids but lost custody of both of them.

“I never really thought that there was the possibility of even having a good life,” she said. “I didn’t know anything other than dysfunction and addiction.”

But after her last stint in jail, the case’s prosecuting attorney David Hermerding — now a 9th Judicial District judge — took a chance on her, offering the opportunity to go into treatment at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge in Minneapolis.

Baxter's Joe Derosier works at Mattson Lumber and volunteers at Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project after getting a second chance at life.
Nisswa resident Dawn Powell-Bowman shares her story of addiction, recovery and hope.

Thirteen months of in-patient treatment, followed by Teen Challenge’s ministry school program gave Kylochko the new life she never thought she could have.

June will mark six years of sobriety. She’s married, owns a house and works at a mental health clinic. She has taken steps to restore the relationship with her son and hopes and prays she will one day be able to do the same with her daughter.

“If it wasn’t for someone taking a chance on me, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. I‘d be sitting in prison or — who knows? There’s been so many addicts losing their lives,” she said. “... And a lot of times, the people who do take those second chances, they don’t ever really get to know what happens to you.”

But now those who helped Kylochko can now see the person they helped is trying to do the same for others.

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She wants to use her second — or 25th — chance to create a culture of second chances so others have the opportunity to better their lives just as she did.

“Even after you’re done serving your time, you’re never really done serving your time because a lot of places don’t take those second chances when it comes to housing and employment,” she said. “And just in general, there’s a lot of closed doors due to my addiction and the choices that I’ve made and the mistakes that have happened.”

Kylochko does her part by volunteering with Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project and the Brainerd Lakes Drug Education Coalition. Her husband, who she met while in recovery, works for Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, a facility for which Kylochko is grateful, along with the court system that got her there.

Zanna Gray is the office manager Lakes Area Restorative Justice Project and uses her work and her history of addiction to help impact others.
Jesse Jones tells his story of second chances and hope when all seems lost.

Other resources for those struggling with addiction in the lakes area are plentiful, Kylochko said, and the recovery community is strong.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are supportive. And that’s really what it’s about is having that recovery community,” she said. “And also my faith is a huge part. If I wouldn’t have come to know the Lord and faith, then I wouldn’t be here at all.”

Kylochko isn’t the same person she was before and wants others to know that if she can walk the path to sobriety and come out clean, then others can, too.

“Don’t give up. Keep trying,” she said. “Even if you fall, you can pick yourself up and dust yourself off and move forward.”

Asking for help is key, and the results could be transformative.

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“My thought process for someone who has been booked 24 times,” Kylochko said, “is that maybe that 25th chance is that chance that changes their life.”

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.

More by Theresa Bourke
Gabe Johnson is running for a third term on the Brainerd City Council against challengers Emily LeClaire and Johnathan Miller.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

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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