Get busy living or get busy dying
For the first time in the façade that was his life, Chris Jeffries saw terror on another person's face. He saw his life of crime and drugs through another person's eyes.
He didn't want to see it ever again.
"I was begging him, 'I saw a gun in your room. You could shoot me and get away with it,' " Jeffries said.
That was in June when Jeffries woke up in a stranger's house after nine days of being high on meth. He was covered in blood, with no clue how he got there or why. It led to yet another incarceration - one of many the 37-year-old Alexandria resident had experienced since he was 18.
"I was close to hanging myself in the Douglas County Jail," he said. "It was either prison or living this life. I didn't want either one. They are both miserable."
He realized it was time to either "get busy living or get busy dying." That's when representatives from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MnATC) visited.
He chose to live.
IN SEARCH OF A MIRACLE
Jeffries' life of crime started at age 9 when an older crowd would take him along to sneak into small areas so they could burglarize homes. Over time, that crowd shaped up and moved on. But Jeffries was addicted - not to drugs or alcohol, but to crime. It was a "thrill."
By day he was a student and wrestler at Jefferson High School in Alexandria. By night he was a criminal.
"I put on these masks my whole life and appeased everyone. I was a chameleon," he said. "In the process I lost track of myself."
In 2000, after a long prison stint, someone introduced him to meth. He started using and selling. He could now add drug addict and alcoholic to his growing collection of masks.
"I was running from something. I didn't want to be me anymore," he said. "I was a walking, talking mess."
The addiction to drugs and the money he made from selling them fueled the fire of his need to commit crimes to support that lifestyle.
"That was my life. As sad as it sounds, I was good at it," he said. "I was content being in the hole that I dug."
But life turned ugly for him. Jail and prison were a constant, but when he got out he would go right back to drugs and crime. This vicious circle of drugs and crime led to that night when he saw the expression on his victim's face.
"It made me see what he was seeing. He was scared for his life," Jeffries said. "For the first time I wasn't proud."
All his life he had joked that it would take a miracle to make him change, and that only Jesus Christ could save him. Then he learned about MnATC.
"That miracle is happening right now," he said. "It saved my life. Not just the place, it's the power of God and Jesus Christ, hands down. This is hope right here."
After two months with MnATC, Jeffries has already learned that he wants more than to change - he wants to transform into a new person. And he plans to stick with it as long as it takes to make that happen.
"There's no other option for me," he concluded. "It's a lose-lose any other place I go but here."
ENOUGH MONEY FOR THE LIQUOR STORE
Alcohol was the substance of choice for Curtis Larson of Alexandria. Lots of it.
He started drinking as a teen just to have fun and party. In his 20s that started to downward spiral.
Soon he was drinking every day. He would drink instead of going to work. He would sneak drinks on his lunch hour. He would drink all night. He would drink and then drive around in his truck.
His marriage was destroyed. His two boys didn't have the dad they needed. He wasn't the son he should be to his parents. But that didn't stop him.
"As long as I could get to the liquor store and had money in my pocket, I was good," he said.
His destructive drinking and seeing how it had destroyed his life and his family brought on thoughts of suicide. He pushed everyone in his life away.
It all came to a halt last November when he was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). His employer gave him an ultimatum to get treatment. He also gave him an application for MnATC.
Larson threw it on his floor.
"I could figure out a way to get out of this," Larson said to himself.
Then he got drunk.
Eventually he did fill out the form but he couldn't bring himself to sign it because he couldn't fathom how he could be off work for a year. Then one of his sons pointed out that it had taken him years to get to this point, and it would be worth one more year so that he could have a relationship with his sons.
He knew he had to do it.
Two weeks after his DUI, Larson's parents and ex-wife arrived to take him to start his new life at MnATC. They had to pry a drink out of his hand. At 10 a.m.
More than three months later, Larson had his sentencing hearing. He was put in jail for two months. He was also ordered by the judge to return to MnATC for a minimum of 13 months.
Unlike Jeffries, Larson still feels the pull to return to his old ways. At times he wants to give up and walk away.
"At times it still has a grip on me," he said. "It's so strong. It pulls on you and you have to pull back."
But after wasting 20 years of his life, he also knows he has to stay and knows he is on the right track because of MnATC.
"I can't ever drink again," he said. "It will be another failure and what's the use? This is life or death."
Like Jeffries, he credits surrendering himself to Jesus Christ in helping him overcome his life of boozing.
"I couldn't run my own life. I thought I was doing it, but I couldn't," he concluded. "I'm designed by Him for a purpose. I didn't know what that purpose was but I have given Him everything that ever happened. I know that He is my savior."
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
MnATC is one of the largest faith-based residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs in the state. The program provides training and support for those struggling with chronic addiction.
Jeffries and Larson are part of the Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (formerly called Minnesota Teen Challenge) campus, located in Brainerd. The center there is for men older than 18.
There are centers in the Twin Cities for teen girls, women, teen boys and men.
The MnATC story, history and more can be found at www.mntc.org.
The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge banquet is set for Thursday, October 25 at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. A silent auction will begin at 6 p.m. with dinner and the program to follow at 7 p.m.
The event will feature guest speaker Sheila Raye Charles, the daughter of legendary musician Ray Charles.