Client Success Story


Chemical Health Graduate

John grew up on a farm in northern Minnesota. He describes himself as a shy kid with a normal childhood. When he was 12 years old, he began drinking beer with his older brother. He enjoyed drinking and partying throughout high school and college. After college, John got married and he began working on his farm.

“I didn’t drink at bars,” he said. “I drank when I was working on the farm. I was working in the fields, all by myself, and nobody knew what I was doing. I would drink a pint of whiskey while I worked all day, then come home and pass out.”

John’s drinking became an issue between him and his wife. In 1990, he agreed to enter outpatient substance abuse treatment. He successfully stayed sober for the next seven years.

“One day I decided that I wanted to drink again, so that’s what I did. I can’t say there was any event that caused me to start drinking again. I don’t blame my drinking on anyone or anything.”

In 1997, John underwent major surgery to remove his colon and large intestine. He was prescribed narcotics to help him deal with the pain during his recovery, and John quickly began abusing his medications.

“The prescriptions were great because there was no alcohol on my breath.”

John continued to abuse prescription medications and alcohol over the next several years.

In April of 2006, he suffered a massive stroke. His stroke was caused by a blood clot in the right-side of his brain, and the resulting brain damage caused paralysis on the left-side of his body. John was diagnosed with thrombophilia, a blood clotting disorder. He was prescribed blood thinner medication to help prevent a future stroke.

John’s physical recovery after the stroke was slow. He spent the summer of 2006 in the hospital while undergoing physical therapy. His doctor told him he might spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair or a nursing home.

Taking the blood thinner medication meant that John could no longer drink. He knew he needed help to stay sober, so he entered treatment in Vinland’s Residential Chemical Health Program in the fall of 2006.

When John arrived at Vinland, his left leg was in a brace and his was walking with a cane. He was dedicated to the therapeutic exercise portion of his treatment program. By the time he left Vinland, John’s leg was out of the brace and he was able to walk without the cane.

“If you had told me five years ago that I would enjoy treatment, I would have said you were nuts. But I had a great time!”

After completing his treatment program, John moved into a LivingWorks Ventures’ lodge. LivingWorks, in partnership with Vinland, provides permanent supportive housing to adults with disabilities in recovery from substance abuse. John lived in the lodge for one year, and then he moved back home to northern Minnesota.

John continues to exercise on a regular basis. “I still can’t use my left hand, so I’m not able to work. In a way, I’ve turned exercise into my full-time job.”

In 2010, John began taking taekwondo lessons to help improve his balance. Today, he has earned his white belt and he has participated in two tournaments.

For someone who was told he might spend the rest of his life in a nursing home, John has truly made a remarkable recovery!

Please note: Images are stock photos. Former clients provided Vinland with permission to share their stories.