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Crack addict says Minnesota Teen Challenge saved her life

Nikol Foss

ALEXANDRIA -- It's not too often that someone is grateful for being arrested. Nikol Foss was.

If the police hadn't pulled her over, searched her car and arrested her, she would probably be dead. That one fateful evening was the beginning of the end of a lifetime of drug addiction.

Starting early

When Foss was 7 years old, her babysitter got her stoned for the first time. By age 12 she had it in her head that she didn't matter. She didn't fit in and she knew she "wasn't the same as everybody else." So she started making bad decisions - like smoking cigarettes and "reefer."

"By the time I was 13 I was a full-blown addict," said Foss, a Carlos resident.

Foss graduated from Jefferson High School in Alexandria but took off as soon as she could for the Twin Cities. She hung out with the wrong people, worked one dead end job after another, and progressed from marijuana and drinking to cocaine.

By age 19 she was a crack cocaine addict. From snorting cocaine she progressed to snorting meth. The snorting caused her nose to bleed at the slightest touch, so she ate the meth instead. When she felt it eating away at her stomach she smoked it. Breathing became difficult and she started "coughing up black stuff" so she started injecting it into her veins.

"I progressed from one way to another," she recalled. "I was doing it every day all day. I knew I was out of control. The sick part about it is you think you are OK to a point. You really believe 'I'm not as bad as so-and-so.' But you get to be 'so-and-so.' "

All her money was going toward drugs instead of food. She would go three or four days without food. She had blisters in her mouth and her jaw couldn't even move to chew.

"It became consuming and kept getting worse and worse," she said.

For about four years, thoughts of suicide were never far from her mind. After almost 15 years of addiction she decided to quit.

It lasted two months - the longest she had been clean since she was 12 years old. With her new resolve to stay clean, her drug-addict friends disappeared and she was alone. Thinking that a life of drugs was better than a life of loneliness, she soon fell right back into her old habits.

I'm going to the bar

Even after years of blatant drug use, Foss had never been caught. That changed on August 21, 2004.

She was on her way to a bar with a friend who had a warrant out for his arrest. A police officer pulled her over - and there were drugs in the car.

"I dropped them on the floor between my feet," she recalled. "I was putting on my mascara, because he's going to jail, I'm not. I'm going to the bar!"

Because of the warrant, the officers informed Foss that they were going to search her car.

"They asked me if they were going to find anything," Foss said. "I told them yes."

Although she was "messed up," Foss knew that this was the moment she had been waiting for. She knew it could be her chance to finally escape her sordid life of drugs. It was a relief when the officer told her she was going to jail.

"I was desperate for help," she said. "When he said I was going to jail, I said thank you to the cop."

Foss pleaded guilty and was given two years of probation but no jail time. She was also ordered to undergo treatment. Even while on probation, she continued her drug use.

"I would go to probation meetings high," she said, knowing her drug use would soon come to an end in treatment. "I had two months and I did my best to do every drug I could get my hands on."

The truth

When Foss began her search for a treatment program, her probation officer suggested Minnesota Teen Challenge (MnTC), a faith-based residential drug and alcohol program that serves teens and adults from all ethnic, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. But she wanted nothing to do with God so she refused.

Finding a program was not an easy task. She had no health insurance and she resided in a county that would only pay for outpatient treatment.

At a meeting with county officials, she lifted up her sleeves and started sobbing.

"The tracks were here and here and here," she said as she pointed to where she used to inject drugs. "I'm dying and you are going to give me outpatient treatment?"

They relented and so did she. Foss agreed, skeptically, to go to MnTC.

When she arrived on November 2, 2004 for her year-long treatment, she was in rough shape. Her 5'10" frame carried only 115 pounds. Every bone in her body protruded. She picked at her face, arms, hands and fingers. She was terrified that she couldn't live without drugs. She was cynical and suspicious.

"I was going to be tough," she said. "I wasn't going to let Jesus into my life, but I'd take the treatment."

That mindset lasted 10 days.

"I decided that if I accepted Jesus, it was going to be better, so I accepted Jesus," she said. "I was happy immediately."

Foss complied with the rules of the program and her life began to turn around. She attended Bible study and listened only to Christian radio. She cut ties with all the bad influences in her former life. And she thrived on what the program provided - affirmation.

"They make you feel like you matter and that you are worth something," she said. "If anybody believes they don't matter, that's a lie. They have to know that. Teen Challenge is a pivotal part of my life. It gave me hope, it told me the truth."

A life she never imagined

Foss left MnTC in November 2005 a changed person. She moved in with her grandmother in Long Prairie and got a job. She took a keyboarding course at Alexandria Technical College (ATC). She attended Bible study and talked to God on a frequent basis.

And then she met her future husband, Mark, at a coffee shop - a place he had never been before and a place where she usually only went to the drive through. She insists that on that day, God told her to go in.

They married 10 months later.

Foss attended the finance and credit management program at ATC and graduated June 2008 with straight As. She now has a part-time job at Neighborhood National Bank in Alexandria. She goes to church and Bible study. She is a volunteer at Miracle Horse Riders.

It's a life she never would imagine she would be living - drug-free and filled with hope. She credits MnTC with saving her life.

"Without Teen Challenge I would have died. If not from an overdose, I would have killed myself," she concluded. "I thank God every day. I have a house in the country. I'm canning fruits and vegetables. I have good friends. I volunteer my time.

"It's the best life I could ever have hoped for."

Minnesota Teen Challenge Banquet

The Minnesota Teen Challenge Alexandria banquet is set for Saturday, September 26 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. Tables of 10 are $400; individual tickets are $40 each. To RSVP by September 16, call Jean Ferguson at (320) 808-7538 or e-mail