Experience, Strenght and Hope

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Jason R., **
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I don’t want to come here and glorify or horrify you with too many details about my addictions and afflictions. My story isn't too unique. Let's say that I would never have expected to be sharing a story of how I got clean OR how the Holy Spirit has moved in my life. I thought I was a lifer in the game, and I never knew God. I do, however, have to give you some background about who I am, and qualify myself to be standing here today. So let me begin with some history first before I get into the qualifications. 

I grew up in a single-mother household. My mother and father split up when I wasn’t even one year old. My mom, as early as I can remember, was a drinker and a pot smoker. I only remember because of the smell of weed in the apartment and the slurring of her words. I'm sure she did other drugs.

 

When I was 5 years old, my mom Tammie was in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. She was a passenger on the bike, and they got rear-ended at a stop sign. She flew 150 feet through the air, landing directly on her chin and slid an additional 150 ft on her face. She dislocated her jaw entirely on both sides and was in a coma with TBI for 3 months. Three more months of intensive care and recovery followed. My 5-year-old world turned upside down. Her head was the size of a watermelon from what I hear. I never did get to visit as I was too young and would have been even more traumatized. It was the worst head injury in recorded history in the state of Minnesota at the time in 1985.

 

I went to live with my aunt, uncle and 2 cousins while mom was in the hospital. My aunt and uncle worked very long hours. And my cousins were 6 and 16 years old. Nikki(6) went to school during the day, and Alan (16) didn't go to a regular school, so he was my babysitter. Alan would do things to me and make me do things to him. He molested me almost every day for 3 months. One day he caught me in the bathroom, but I was ready for him. I bit him ‘you know where’ when he put it in my mouth; I pushed him with all my might, and he fell in the bathtub. I had tied a jump rope to my Aunt and Uncle’s doorknob across the hall so I could lock him in the bathroom. I tied it to the doorknob, and I ran outside naked. We lived in the country northwest of the Twin Cities, so I had to run a while down the road for help. I rang the doorbell, and when a woman came to the door, I told her, “My cousin made me suck his pee-pee and stuck his finger in my butt.” She gasped, grabbed me, and called 911. From there, I went to live with another Aunt and Uncle and, as small children do, I suppressed the memory for some years. I did go to some therapy for it, but I remember not remembering much. We would mostly play games, and I didn’t talk much.

 

Fast forward a few months. My Mom survived, and this version of her was different than before. I only really recollect her from after the accident. This was the only mom I remember. She sued the person who hit her and received a sizable settlement from the case. She built us a house in Coon Rapids, MN. She was fun most of the time, but she had a temper. She drank a lot in those next few years. Met a man and he quickly moved in. Their relationship was volatile. I remember not getting much sleep some nights from parties. Domestics were a regular occurrence. I hated drinking and cigarettes and swore I would never do it. I remember flushing her cigarettes and dumping out her Windsor. Go figure! When I was 8, my brother was born, followed by my sister when I was 10 years old. I took care of them most of the time until I turned 13. I cooked, cleaned, changed diapers, played, read stories, etc. All while Mom was at work, the bars and her friend’s houses. The father of my brother and sister was like a stalker for a while. He would be watching the house in his car, circling the bars, it was scary! I remember always having weapons in case he would try to break in.

I started having recurring nightmares of a faceless man and a faceless boy when I was 12. These dreams were aggressively sexual, and I became very disturbed and kept it secret for months before I told my Mom. I remember wondering if I was the kid or the man. Was I some sort of sicko? It was all very confusing, and when I told Mom, she told me what happened when I was little. I distinctly remember having total recall of my childhood trauma, and I didn’t know how to handle it! I tried more therapy for awhile. I got really into keeping a journal, music, and writing poetry from the therapy. I found escape and peace from the drugs and alcohol now. My Mom eventually got in some trouble and, as I now understand it, started going to AA. I didn't find that out until I was a year clean. I was pretty resentful by this point, and when mom started being a MOM again, I took full advantage. I rebelled in school and at home. Developed a reputation as a troublemaker and started cutting class, sneaking out and hooked up with the troubled youth at my school. We connected! I started smoking cigarettes, drinking, and smoking weed as often as I could. My friend's mom in the trailer park behind my house let us drink and smoke over there. Her theory was it’s better if we are there and not out getting into trouble! I practically lived there. I ran away from home one time and hopped a train. I ended up meeting a guy in the cities who took me to his house, and I tried shooting heroin. I overdosed soon after and stopped. I met a girl in choir class, my first long term girlfriend, and started selling weed at 15. I sold coke, crank, ecstasy, and acid at 16. I also started shooting up again at this time. My girl and I were in love, and I lost my virginity at 17. She got pregnant right away! I wasn’t ready to grow up, not for another 20 years. We were off and on for the duration of our relationship. Sex wasn't a hard thing for me, but intimacy was. I had to be on something, and there couldn’t be any static between her and me, or I just couldn’t perform. We had a miscarriage that first pregnancy. Then I got her pregnant right away again. We had our son when we were 18 and our daughter when I was 20. The relationship fell apart when I was 21, and I ran away AGAIN. I became very self-destructive in the years to come. I lost my identity and alienated myself from my two children and my first love. Battled with many addictions, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, and the list goes on. I have had too many times where I started over from scratch with nothing to my name, nowhere to go, living on the streets. I would build it back up, lose control, burn bridges, and lose everything again. I have had 2 failed marriages. I failed at college. I failed at my career running kitchens. I’ve had so many jobs I can’t even count them. I Went to treatment in 2008 to quit shooting up. I learned a lot, and I was serious. When I returned home, I let go of the people, places and things for a while. I never replaced them with healthier ones. I didn’t embrace the program or the people in it. I didn’t think I was powerless yet, but I knew my life was unmanageable. I had a hard time finding a job and it wasn’t long before I started drinking and smoking weed again... and hanging with old friends. But I always thought I was doing so good when I wasn’t shooting up. This was my problem! Met my second Wife at my new job and she gave me my son Wyatt. I was so happy when she got pregnant. I thought it was my chance to do it right this time. I was 32, and I hadn’t touched hard drugs in 4 years at this point. I asked her to marry me right away because I wanted to do the right thing. Eventually, my drinking got out of control, and she got sick of my crap. I ended up getting myself kicked out, until I stopped drinking, which I stubbornly refused to do. I moved in with my Mom at 33 years old and started over again. I had visitation with my son every weekend. I started working at another kitchen, and things were getting better until I relapsed on meth in 2014. What ensued was a whirlwind. I ended up selling meth for the Cartel through a guy I worked with for the last couple years. It led me back to the needle and spiritual death. I honestly had an illusion of control. I ended up getting set up by one of my best customers, and I got popped with a lot of drugs! But not before I had pretty much been written off by my entire family, and all my friends, who had all tried to call me out on my bullshit well before my arrest. So now I lost my visitation with my son, and I was facing 111 months in prison for my crimes. They released me on my own recognizance and staked out my house for months. I wouldn’t sell anymore, despite my Connection's best efforts to convince me to do so. I was at my bottom, and I couldn’t break free from my demons. I tried to overdose and went through meth-induced psychosis. I attempted to kill myself because I was sure there was no hope for me. I didn’t think I would ever see my son again, just like my older 2 kids who I hadn’t seen for 15 years at this time. It took an inpatient stay, Outpatient, relapsing 3 times after a fellow friend in recovery died of an overdose. I told on myself and got ejected from the program. I set up therapy, anger management, parenting classes, and eventually, another inpatient stay. I opted for extended care for 4 and a half months and finally dove into the steps. For me to get and stay clean, I had to be desperate enough to really want to learn something new. 

So that's plenty of history, trauma, and I trust you think I qualified as an Addict and an Alcoholic. Now for the good stuff. Recovery. Personal growth. Self . Forgiveness. Freedom. Grace. Love.

About the first 5 and a half months of truly working at a program, I felt on fire! I was really digging in. I was following suggestions. I studied hard with others and at home. But I had a secret. I was having a beer at bedtime. Sometimes I wouldn't even finish it. May sound dumb, but this is a reservation. It is an old behavior. It's not enough to learn these things in recovery; we have to apply them as well. 

You know I can hardly believe I was so trapped in my behavior patterns my whole life. The further I get into recovery, the more it boggles my mind. I was studying my butt off to learn all I could from NA, AA, and CMA. I had a beer most nights before bed while I would study in my bed, highlighting and taking notes. Thinking I was clean because I wasn't catching a buzz. When I got called on it, I had a decision to make...follow suggestions and stop the secret beers; or stop the program. It came down to 2 simple questions for me after a couple of weeks of being pissed off in secret. But first I planned on drinking it up for my birthday weekend. I drank and smoked a little bit of weed the night before my actual birthday, and just like they told me in the rooms... "Nothing is worse than a belly full of booze and a head full of AA." I didn't enjoy it, and I finally asked myself...

 

Do I want to work the steps and see if they can really change me? Yup

 

Do I want to work with Mike? Does he have what I want? Yup!

 

I finally let go of control and surrendered fully! "No more beers bro!" I told my sponsor. I was so upset because I really didn't think it was a big deal. But when I reset my clean time at all my meetings, the weight that I felt lifted off of me said otherwise. I stood at my turning point.

People even approached me and said things like, "I'm SO PROUD OF YOU!" and "You're like the strongest person I know in recovery!"

I was shocked that they didn't think I was a lying P.O.S. and they didn't hate me.

 

Nothing on this journey makes sense at first. We have to learn that the right thing is usually uncomfortable to do. 

I started diving into the Steps. I went through the Recovery Coach Academy at Minnesota Recovery Connection. I volunteered doing telephone recovery support calls regularly there and even got to be an interviewer for the next round of the Academy, reviewing the applications and grading them, I couldn't wait to meet all these amazing people I had been reading about. And I was coming up on sentencing fast. I asked at some meetings of anyone would be willing to write a letter on my behalf. I had 4 by the time I went to my court date. When I stood in front of the judge, she came out 20 minutes late with tears in her eyes and began to speak. She was talking about these moving letters, and she had a lot more than 4 in her hand. It was 13 actually…

She spoke of my service commitments and quoted some parts from some letters. She said, "Mr. Rudeen, there's no way I'm going to lock you up with all the good you are doing for the community." I can't get through one of those without crying. I'm grateful for those angels in my life.

 

I was floored! She gave me a downward departure in lieu of 98 months of prison. 20 years of probation and one violation would break the deal, and I do the whole stretch. I burst into tears. She then asked me if I would be willing to speak with her to high school kids in Anoka county. Of course, I said yes! I was on constant monitoring with a sweat patch for almost a year and a half. I met every condition of my sentence within 9 months. I'm currently at the lowest level of supervision, and I keep in touch with all those who were involved with my case — even the DA! So my felony will become a gross misdemeanor whenever my probation is completed! Miracles!!

 I found God a year into my program, and It was unexpected! The principles of the 12 Steps had already begun to change me. I didn't know they are Biblically based, or that they are universal spiritual truths. I was in extended care at the time. I had to return to treatment and complete all phases and all the recommendations for the judge in my case. I was about 3 ½ months into my 4 ½ months stay in that residential program. I was hitting a rough patch. Sunday's were visiting day, so nobody was ever at the apartments. They were at visits or out on a 12-hour pass. I would have a hard time on Sundays and get in a dark place mentally and emotionally. Some friends of mine from CMA and NA, Jim, Tracy and Tim, would pick up guys for church every week. I decided one week to go with them. I didn't want to be alone. Went to be with friends, and get free coffee and donuts. I didn't expect to have a spiritual awakening. The thing is that when you work the steps and really applied the principles of the program to your daily life, it changes you from your insides out. It cleans out the conduit between you and God. So that's how we start to develop a spiritual life, which is also known as God-consciousness. I had a profound experience of this for over a year before I ever found Christ. 

The message that day was made just for me. It was all about what my relationship to the Lord should look like, and that it should be like that of a child to his father. The pastor's son was 4 years old, and he used him to help illustrate his point, he had his son come up on the stage, and the kid just wanted him to pick him up, and then he kept his face buried in his neck through his message because he was shy. My son was also 4 at this time and I hadn't seen him for 9 months. The pastor talked about mishaps and failings as a parent, which all hit me to my core, then said no matter what our needs are, we should always have arms wide open looking to the Father. I was moved!! He then did the first and only Alter Call I've ever seen at that church after almost 3 years of attending, he welcomed anyone who wanted to come up and ask Jesus to enter their life. I felt hesitation immediately, and I recognized that as a moment where I needed to step through fear, thanks to my recovery, and I went up there, and I prayed with him. I remember the band was playing 'O' come to the altar,' and that song's lyrics hit me right to my core I couldn't stop crying after that for like an hour or more. I looked at my friend Jim, and I said, "What's wrong with me, dude?" and he simply put his hand on my shoulder and said, "That's the Holy Spirit, brother." I believed him, and it hasn't left me since.

This happened in October of 2016, and on Easter Sunday 2017, I was baptized. I joined a small group Bible study through my church. I also have since trained to be a Steven Minister, which is 1 on 1 Christian care. I'm the caregiver; God is the cure giver! I lead the baptism team at Grace Fellowship now once a month and help others make this paramount step in their life. I also sponsor guys; I keep in touch with my sponsor(I actually live at his house currently). I am the Co-host of a recovery podcast called the 'Way Out Podcast.' I have made so many friends that are leaders in the recovery advocacy movement; these people inspire me they lift me up, they push me to be a better version of myself every day. They give me hope for a brighter future and hope for the ability to sustain a life in recovery being a father to my son and a good brother, uncle, son, friend, partner, etc.…

I got certified as a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist as well. My life has a trajectory today. I only need to listen to the Holy Spirit, stay rooted in the Word, and follow His direction for my life. There are always moments of uncomfortability that lead to the best results in my life. I even got to baptize my Mom and one of my sponsee's Tim on this journey! I want to tell you today that anyone can recover if you let someone else who has done it lead the way. Don't let fear stop you from what you deserve. You won't understand it at first, but more will be revealed as you trudge the road of happy destiny. Take the leap, and surrender!! You're worth it! Thank you!

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Randell Sam Sr, **
 

I’m Randell and I’m in recovery. I have been in recovery for over 2 ½ years. I am a recovering
alcoholic/addict who lives on the Mille Lacs Reservation. I was an active alcoholic/addict for
33 years. Through the support of fellow members in recovery I have been able to turn my life
around, even while dealing with many health issues due in large part to my alcoholism and
addiction. I have found through recovery groups and 12 step programs that there is a better
way of life. One thing that I have learned is that meeting makers make it. Prior to Covid I was
an active member in local support groups and meetings here on the Mille Lacs reservation
and surrounding areas. It was through the support of others in recovery that I was able to
maintain my sobriety during these trying times of quarantine and Covid-19.
Due to COVID-19, the substance abuse recovery community recognized that their sobriety
was at risk. Relapse was up 30% and this meant an increase in overdoses. Community
buildings were closed and everyone was scared. Not only were they dealing with the drug
epidemic, they now were presented with a pandemic that presented further challenges. Not
being able to attend sobriety meetings infringed on one of the most important aspects of
recovery; fellowship and support.
What I have learned is that recovery measures are defying the odds. People think they can’t
get sober in the environment you got sick in, but in reality it makes you stronger. I have
discovered that Native Americans, who are walking the Red Road, turn their attention and
focus into supporting one another and helping their community recover. Due to the state
shutting down mandates, I began holding a Social Distance Campfire meeting at my home
around the fire and built from there. Meetings needed to continue. We were careful to
practice precautionary measures following the CDC safety guidelines. Even though anyone
in recovery is at risk of relapse, people in the early stages of recovery are at highest risk, and
that support is paramount.
Around March 2020, I decided to start an online support group for people in recovery.
The online Zoom meeting happens every night, at 8pm CST, and is open to everyone.
Although we honor a 12-step program and guidelines, we like to keep it more spiritually and
all recovery focused. Everyone is welcome. It is up to you to find your own path to recovery,
and a higher power of your understanding that will guide you. The average meeting has about
15-20 participants with a public speaker each Friday night. Participants take turns each night
guiding the meeting which allows for me to take some time for self-care and attend and
support other recovery functions. Everyone in the group has a say on how meetings are run
and they also have a voice in any decisions that affect the greater group, which is how we
came up with the name Zooming Towards Recovery. I could not have done this without the
support of everyone in the group. Meetings are confidential and honor everyone’s road to
recovery.
Through the Zoom Meetings, people find peer support, sponsors, spiritual connections and
fellowship that helps them through the loneliness of isolation during this Covid-19 pandemic.
Addicts are facing an opiate epidemic within this pandemic, Peer Support Specialists like
myself, link people to support and resources which includes linkage to mental health, relapse
prevention, transportation to and from treatment, crisis intervention and harm reduction
measures. I do not accept donations as this is not a non-profit or for-profit entity and
everyone

chips in to contribute to the monthly $16 fee to keep it going. However, I do accept donations
of key tags and mementos so we can celebrate everyone’s milestones in recovery through
these challenging times. It is important for people to celebrate every victory through recovery
and it is important that we recognize we can only keep what we have if we give it away. I
have even mailed recovery tokens to group members who are in areas that are more hard hit
by isolation and lack of support.
“As a single mother in recovery and returning home, I rely on Zoom support meetings
held by my fellow brothers and sisters during this pandemic. This is important to me because
I need others to continue learning and evolving.” - Lyndsay Mitchell, Mille Lacs Band Member.
I found a greater need than just daily meetings, which led me to begin an online social
meeting page on Facebook called “Zooming Toward Recovery.” This is a chat room that
provides added support and networking for individuals in recovery. The online support group
has grown to approximately 340 members from all over the world and is still growing.
Someone is always listening (reading) 24 hours a day.
When in person meetings and clubs began to slowly reopen, there was and is still a fear of
Covid-19. A group vote was taken and it was decided that it was imperative that Zooming
Towards Recovery online meetings would continue. Technology has offered us a solution
and a way to continue to carry the message of recovery in spite of these trying times.
With Zooming Towards Recovery we are able to provide support to people all over the state,
the US and even the world, who might not otherwise have this resource. We have a core
group that includes members from treatment centers, halfway houses and reservations all
over the country. Even though our meeting is open to everyone, it is about 90% Native
Americans, and we are a spiritually focused group that has become a family. Through this
group I have made new friendships and widened my recovery support circle beyond what I
could have ever imagined. I have witnessed people in recovery grow right in front of my eyes.
As long as I am able, and with the help of the other members, I will ensure that this meeting
will continue to grow and be there to welcome all alcoholics and addicts with a desire to
recover. And with that I will take another 24.