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Local men shed who they were, regain second chance

For two Alexandria men, having their photos in the local newspaper hasn’t been a particularly proud moment in their lives… until today.

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Jamie Johnson and Troy Jacobs are former meth addicts with extensive criminal records, but this time, the local spotlight is focused on their recovery.

They’re recovering from drug addiction.

They’re restoring their families.

They’re regaining something lost — a relationship with God.

Johnson and Jacobs are in Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge (MATC) – it’s a faith-based recovery program.

On Thursday, October 24, Alexandria will host a banquet fundraiser for MATC — the program that’s giving Johnson and Jacobs hope, clarity and new direction in life.

The men have stepped forward to share their personal stories in their hometown newspaper to garner support for MATC.


Jamie Johnson is 41 years old and has been in the MATC program for three months.

Jamie Johnson, when arrestedJamie Johnson, today“I grew up in an addicted family life… I just fit right into that addiction lifestyle.

“I’ve been in a lot of trouble in Alexandria – it started off with a lot of crime stuff,” he said.

In his teens he used pot and in his mid-20s, he started using meth.

“Since the first time I tried it, it’s pretty much been my whole life. It consumed every second of every day of my life.”

Johnson has served several prison sentences for drug convictions. In 2005, he went to prison for 68 months on a meth-related conviction. “I got out in 2009, stayed clean for eight months and started doing it again,” he said.

“I don’t know why I went back to it; I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop until I was back in jail or dead. Within a year, I was back to no job and using meth to live. I was putting it before my kids and I ended up moving back to Alexandria in 2010 and I spent a lot of time going back and forth [to the Twin Cities] selling meth to support my habit.”

In 2011, Johnson recalled, “I wanted to stop and I didn’t know how to stop. I knew inside my heart that I was somebody else. I’ve always conformed to what people see me as, you know – a troublemaker in Alexandria. I became a meth junkie. I was like, man, I’m so much better than this, my kids deserve better than this.”

Johnson has four daughters, ages 1, 2, and two are 9 years old.

“I missed the first four years of my oldest daughters’ lives because I was in prison,” he said. “I haven’t been able to be the dad I know I am.”

One night earlier this year, Johnson said he woke up to his 2-year-old with her hands on his face saying, “Daddy!”

“I looked in her eyes and the tears just started pouring out of me. I thought, oh man, these kids think that I’m their hero… but behind the scenes they have no clue of what I’m doing. The pain was tremendous.

“I need to get this right for them, for myself. That’s a huge part of why I went [to MATC],” Johnson said.

Being at MATC is hard and there are no shortcuts, he said.

“If you really mean it and you have any part of your heart that wants to change at all and you go there, you’re going to feel change – that’s a promise. God takes care of the rest.

“In the three months I’ve been there, I’m a completely different person – I feel it and I show it. I’m starting to feel pretty good about myself. By no means do I have it all figured out. My mind is open, my heart is open.

“I believe in Jesus Christ and becoming a Christian and walking that faith out is what works. People can label me what they want – ‘Jesus Freak’ – I’m OK with that, I’ll take that label any day over ‘Addict.’

“I’ve been hurtin’ long enough and done enough damage to the community and put so many people at risk by driving down the streets high, tearing around town like crazy, selling meth to them and them and them… I don’t want to be like that anymore. I don’t.

“I never in a million years thought I’d be doing what I’m doing now. Let alone singing in the church choir every Sunday and talking in front of people.

“A lot of people who see this [article] are going to be like, ‘What? No way.’ But I don’t care. What I do care about is maybe they’ll see this and see that there is hope and maybe think, ‘If he can do this, maybe I can try.’ It’s worth it.”

TROY JACOBS Troy Jacobs is 28 years old and has been in the MATC program for six months.

Troy Jacobs, when arrestedTroy Jacobs,today“I grew up playing football, basketball, baseball – I was really good at sports and I was pretty much a straight A student.

“My addiction started around 13 or 14 years old with alcohol. The first time I got drunk it was with a group of buddies. I was drunk and I made everybody laugh. I remember it was an awesome time. Everybody was laughing and everyone thought I was so funny. It made me feel accepted, it made me feel cool, everybody looked up to me; I was the life of the party. I kept that role my whole life.”

A knee injury ended his participation in sports and alcohol led to pot, which eventually led to his meth addiction.

“Drugs took me down a path that my parents never would have imagined, that I never would have imagined,” Jacobs said.

After time in a detention center, he overdosed.

“I was in a coma for a while and [my family] was told if I ever came out of it, I would be a vegetable. My liver and kidneys had shut down and it was a downward spiral from there.”

Right out of high school, Jacobs went to prison for three years for selling meth.

“I sort of accepted that would be my lifestyle the rest of my life. I got out of prison twice and went back [to meth] – the first time within five months and the second time within 30 days.

From age 17 to 22, he had been through eight treatment programs.

“My first treatment I was 17 years old and the older guys were telling me I needed to stop now or I’d end up in prison… I didn’t think I had an addiction. I thought it was a phase in my life and when I wanted to come out of it, I could have. I proved all of them right: Prison three times, jail more times than I can count.

“Meth has ruined everything good that has happened in my life. Meth took over my life,” he said.

“Still, to this day, it’s hard to figure out why I’d go back to it knowing what it does. I guess the way I look at it is I’ve always been fighting this feeling inside and trying to control it even when I’ve been doing good in my life. That emptiness inside was never filled with God; that emptiness was filled with material things.”

Six months ago, Jacobs entered the MATC program.

Then, two months into the program, Jacobs faced 58 months in prison on a probation violation. His probation agent and the prosecutor both recommended he serve the time instead of being sent back to finish his 13 month-program at MATC.

Jacobs said, “They told me I could go to MATC after prison if I wanted to go so badly.”

Jacobs said he told Judge Ann Carrott that he wanted to finish the program.

The judge said she respected the opinions of the prosecutor and probation agent, but she would permit Jacobs to return and finish the MATC program.

“She gave me a break,” Jacobs said. “Hope has been restored in my life.”

Jacobs said MATC has given him the opportunity to seek God without the distractions of the world. Plus, he’s becoming more confident, but there’s still shame and regret.

“Teen Challenge makes you face God and God makes you face yourself and there’s no way you’re going to go through 13 months of that program without being transformed into a different person,” he said.

Jacobs has two daughters, ages 3 and 5.

“My relationship with my oldest daughter is being restored. MATC has given me a different purpose in my life. I can honestly say the six months I’ve been in MATC have changed my life forever.”

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133