2nd chance at life: Baxter couple shares story of drug addiction to empower others


They didn’t know what the decision was for however quickly realized it was one thing severe when a social employee met them and requested to step right into a convention room to speak.

An extended-term drug dependancy had gotten one of the best of Reilly’s mother and stepdad, who had simply misplaced custody of their different youngsters. Reilly, who’s queer and makes use of they/them pronouns, was dwelling with their organic father on the time however wanted to step in to assist discover non permanent properties for his or her 4 youthful siblings.

Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller look again on that day, seven years in the past, as one of many lowest factors of their lives. Andrews remembers law enforcement officials knocking on his doorways and home windows. Miller was pregnant on the time and had overdosed a pair weeks earlier.

Reilly had been gone for a couple of months.

“In an act of self-preservation, I left sooner or later and walked to my dad’s home with a duffel bag filled with my favourite clothes gadgets after which didn’t actually look again after that,” the College of Minnesota scholar recalled throughout a Zoom interview Could 20. “However I feel the toughest a part of all of that was leaving my siblings behind and feeling prefer it was my accountability to maintain them and to look at over them and be their rock, and I received to the purpose the place I couldn’t do it anymore.”

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A relationship with Reilly wasn’t the one factor the couple misplaced to their dependancy. As much as that time, they misplaced properties, jobs, associates and different relations. They’d been near loss of life at occasions, nevertheless it wasn’t till these two law enforcement officials got here to the home in March 2014 and in the end took their youngsters away that they knew one thing needed to change.

Andrews will always remember the sensation of seeing and listening to his 3-year-old son cry as he handed him over to youngster protecting companies.

“It’s locked into my thoughts. I bear in mind each a part of it, and I do know that what he was experiencing was due to my decisions,” he stated Could 6 whereas sitting behind a desk at work, an indication of how far he’s come.

A couple of days after the police confirmed up, the eviction discover got here.

the whole lot they might now need to do to get their youngsters again was daunting — going to therapy, staying clear, discovering a spot to reside. It felt like an excessive amount of.

And Reilly saved their distance, amid a whirlwind of feelings.

They felt responsible for leaving their siblings behind, a way of resentment towards their stepdad — extra so than their mother — but in addition empathy for what the couple was going by way of.

Reilly Miller smiles while talking about the pride they have for their mom Mandy Miller and stepdad Brian Andrews as the couple recovers from a years-long battle with drug addiction. Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Reilly Miller smiles whereas speaking concerning the pleasure they’ve for his or her mother Mandy Miller and stepdad Brian Andrews because the couple recovers from a years-long battle with drug dependancy. Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

They usually have at all times believed in second possibilities.

“If persons are given the chance to heal and the assist to heal, then I imagine in them, and I imagine that they’ll obtain what they need to obtain. And even from a extremely younger age I understood that dependancy is a illness,” Reilly stated. “It wasn’t my mother being like, ‘I hate my youngsters so I’m going to deal with them this fashion.’ It was, ‘I’m actually struggling proper now, emotionally and psychologically, and it is a results of that.’”

Andrews and Miller at all times thought so long as their payments have been paid or that they had custody of their youngsters, issues have been OK. However they shortly realized that was not the case.

Andrews’ bother with medication goes again to his teenage years. He was 15 when his dad died of a large coronary heart assault, the results of drug abuse, alcoholism and tobacco use. Andrews and his associates already drank at the moment however made a pact to not do medication.

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That didn’t final lengthy, although. Inside the subsequent yr, he discovered himself doing cocaine after which methamphetamine.

Then got here run-ins with regulation enforcement.

Andrews received to know Andy Galles, however not in a method both of them would have wished.

Galles, now a captain with the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Workplace, began as a narcotics investigator with the drug job drive. He first met Andrews in Crosby throughout a drug investigation that become a high-speed chase.

The 2 developed a contentious cops and robbers-type relationship that will finally evolve into one thing very totally different.

If issues have been ever going to enhance, they needed to begin someplace.

Miller ended up in therapy in Grand Rapids, whereas Andrews signed up for an outpatient program at Minnesota Grownup and Teen Problem. The youngsters — ages 3, 5, 11 and 14 — have been dwelling with prolonged household in the interim.

“However impulsively sooner or later I stated, ‘You understand what?’” Andrews stated. “I had this second of readability, and I sat there, and I stated, ‘You understand what? I may not get my youngsters again, however what I’m going to do is I’m going to place one foot in entrance of the opposite and begin strolling in that route.’”

The turning level for Miller was when she realized she was greater than her drug use.

“One thing simply clicked in my head, and I used to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not my story.’ I can share how horrible of an individual I used to be and all of the dangerous decisions I made and that I used to be a grimy junkie, however now I’m like, ‘However I’m not. That was then, and I’m not that particular person anymore,’” she stated. “And so long as I do not maintain on to that and imagine that, there’s nothing that I can’t do.”

Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller pose with their kids. Pictured, from left: Adrianna Andrews, Mandy Miller, Reilly Miller holding Zane Miller, Brian Andrews (back) holding Kael Andrews, Chance Miller and Isaiah Andrews. Submitted photo

Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller pose with their youngsters. Pictured, from left: Adrianna Andrews, Mandy Miller, Reilly Miller holding Zane Miller, Brian Andrews (again) holding Kael Andrews, Probability Miller and Isaiah Andrews. Submitted photograph

Even when they didn’t get there ultimately, they wished to have the ability to look again and know they fought as arduous as they might for his or her household

So that they did.

Miller completed her therapy and got here again to Brainerd for drug court docket. Andrews wasn’t accepted immediately and fearful he would face jail time as a substitute. The couple nonetheless didn’t have a home and have been staying on the ground in Miller’s mother’s one-bedroom residence. They utilized for 22 totally different leases and have been denied all of them. They’d sufficient cash for a down cost on a home however couldn’t discover anybody to promote to them.

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However nonetheless, they saved going.

A connection at Northern Pines Psychological Well being referred to as Andrews sooner or later with a possible rental for the couple. He toured the home and disclosed all of his historical past, not desirous to be dishonest. And to his shock, the owner agreed to lease to him.

“And that was the turning level,” he stated. “I received a second likelihood.”

The couple moved into their new residence with their youngsters, persevering with to go to conferences and work on their sobriety. However Andrews nonetheless had the chance of jail looming over him.


— Brian Andrews, Lakes Space Restorative Justice government director

Then in got here Kaye Wilson, a Crow Wing County probation agent who labored with these in drug court docket. She was already guiding Miller by way of the method when she got here to the home one night time to offer Andrews the information of the drug court docket staff’s resolution to just accept him into this system alongside Miller.

“It was emotional,” he stated. “It’s emotional for me now as a result of the whole lot shifted to such a unique diploma, and impulsively there was slightly little bit of hope on the finish of it.”

However with that hope got here strict guidelines.

“I used to be of their life mainly on a regular basis,” Wilson stated throughout an interview Could 26 at Coco Moon. “… We’d discuss something and the whole lot — from marital issues to medication to cravings to conferences to court docket dates.”

By going by way of this system collectively, Wilson stated Andrews and Miller have been in a position to name one another out on issues that weren’t going proper or name her to intervene.

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“Everybody has their struggles, and each relationship has its struggles. It’s even tougher the place they got here from and all of the work they needed to put into it to get their youngsters again, to remain sober, to work this system, to do all of the drug testing they needed to do for us, to be in court docket (recurrently),” Wilson stated.

However they saved going. They constructed up a community of individuals locally they might depend on, individuals who noticed them for who they really have been as a substitute of simply as addicts.

A kind of folks is Rob Masters, a peer restoration specialist at Northern Pines on the time assigned to work with Andrews. A recovering addict himself with 14 years of sobriety, Masters confused the significance of regularly setting targets.

Rob Masters, a friend of Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller, smiles after talking about his friends' struggle with drug addiction and journey to recovery June 3, 2021, at Caribou Coffee in Baxter. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Rob Masters, a buddy of Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller, smiles after speaking about his associates’ battle with drug dependancy and journey to restoration June 3, 2021, at Caribou Espresso in Baxter. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

“In case you’re not shifting ahead you’re shifting backwards,” Masters stated throughout an interview June 3 at Caribou Espresso in Baxter. “… Whenever you get near having your different aim completed, you finest have a aim that you simply’re already engaged on.”

Kevin Stanfield was one other supporter. He met Andrews round 2010 after ending a restoration program at Teen Problem himself. Stanfield satisfied him to come back to Heritage Church in Baxter, which Andrews attended for a time.

Even when Stanfield might inform Andrews and Miller have been falling off the wagon, he continued to take their youngsters to church. Andrews was good at hiding his struggles, Stanfield stated, however the associates stayed linked by way of the youngsters. Masters inspired Andrews to take part in a peer assist specialist coaching program. However as somebody who collected incapacity and hadn’t labored in years, Andrews didn’t actually see the purpose.

He agreed to take part, although, and whereas within the coaching began to get an excellent stronger sense of his worth and price. He realized he might truly contribute one thing to the group.

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Impulsively, Andrews had job gives from each Northern Pines and Teen Problem.

He took the job at Teen Problem and shortly realized how a lot he might assist others like himself. Quickly, he was requested to talk to seventh graders at Forestview Center College about making good and dangerous decisions concerning medication and alcohol.

In Galles’ eyes, Andrews’ testimony is far more highly effective than regulation enforcement officers merely telling youngsters to not do medication.

Andrews has since acquired letters of thanks from college students, certainly one of which stands out to him. The scholar stated he usually doesn’t take note of visitor audio system, however Andrews was totally different and was simply as a lot a hero as a health care provider or a firefighter.

“It simply actually hit me,” Andrews stated. “And impulsively I had this dream of working with the youth.”

Andrews and Miller have been collectively for nearly 21 years now and formally tied the knot December 12, 2016. Stanfield was their finest man.

Kevin Stanfield, a friend of Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller, talks about his friends' battle with drug addiction and their road to recovery May 18, 2021, at Caribou Coffee in northeast Brainerd. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Kevin Stanfield, a buddy of Brian Andrews and Mandy Miller, talks about his associates’ battle with drug dependancy and their highway to restoration Could 18, 2021, at Caribou Espresso in northeast Brainerd. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Additionally that month, they have been chosen for the Brainerd Warriors hockey staff’s Undertake a Household Christmas occasion, when the staff sponsors a household for the vacations.

Two years later they discovered themselves once more on the receiving finish of goodwill, once they have been chosen because the recipients of a model new Habitat for Humanity residence in Baxter.

The variety of folks prepared to put money into them made Miller notice she and her husband have been adequate and have been value one thing to the group.

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As we speak, Andrews is the manager director of Lakes Space Restorative Justice Challenge, a Brainerd-based nonprofit centered on juvenile offenders to restore the hurt they’ve triggered of their group by working with each them and the victims.

Miller lately moved from her job at Northern Pines to a place on the state’s Division of Human Providers.

The couple works with the Brainerd Lakes Space Drug Training, or BLADE, Coalition alongside Galles and different group leaders.

Reilly is in remedy, coping with the childhood trauma they skilled with their mother and stepdad’s drug use, and is pleased with the progress the couple has made.

“I don’t image a life the place they’ve relapsed one other time. It simply doesn’t cross my thoughts as a result of I really feel like they’re in such a greater area now than they have been earlier than,” Reilly stated. “They usually’re getting what they wanted all alongside, which was assist, remedy and actually good folks of their life. So it’s been actually unimaginable to see the place they’ve come and to see each my mother and Brian type of fill the roles that they’ve at all times wished for themselves.”

When Reilly got here out to their dad and mom as queer in early 2020, Andrews shortly grew to become their largest and most vocal supporter. It was refreshing to really feel the empathy that they had given for thus a few years reciprocated.

Phrases like “wonderful” and “unimaginable” don’t even start to explain the change Andrews’ and Miller’s family and friends see within the couple at this time.

“The distinction is like night time and day. That may be slightly cliche, however it’s,” Stanfield stated.

For Galles, it’s rewarding.

“For me, who used to chase Brian and Mandy and others round and arrest them … it’s enjoyable to see them truly contribute,” Galles stated. “They get the youngsters again, they get a home, they get employment. They usually’re truly feeling like energetic contributors to their group once more.”

For Aitkin County Decide David Hermerding, a Crow Wing County prosecuting lawyer on the time of Andrews’ and Miller’s final case, seeing the couple’s success — and others prefer it — retains him getting in what isn’t at all times a simple job.

“To see Brian and Mandy get into restoration, have their youngsters come again into their lives, after which for each Brian and Mandy to be giving again to the group, that’s actually what it’s all about, and that’s why we have now our therapy courts,” Hermerding stated. “… It’s these issues that make you get able to go on to a different week.”

And for Andrews and Miller?

“I’m grateful and grateful for the officers that got here to our home that day,” Andrews stated. “And I’m grateful and grateful for everybody that has tried alongside the best way as a result of we have now had totally different home windows the place we might have stepped out into a unique path and simply didn’t take the chance.”

Now, they and their associates in restoration are taking a unique alternative.

“There’s a hidden agenda beneath those that are recovering,” Masters stated, “and that’s to alter the world. And we do it one life at a time. We begin out with ourselves, after which we assist another person out.”

Andrews is simply starting to see that ripple impact in his life, too. As a result of others have helped them, he and Miller have been in a position to assist others, particularly by way of restorative justice work. And who is aware of who these youngsters will go on to assist?

“I imagine that these little second possibilities that we received at first are having impacts into the longer term that we’re not even going to be a part of,” he stated.

Mandy Miller and Brian Andrews celebrated seven years of sobriety May 21, after struggling with drug addiction for many years. Submitted Photo

Mandy Miller and Brian Andrews celebrated seven years of sobriety Could 21, after scuffling with drug dependancy for a few years. Submitted Picture

And it’s all as a result of the couple received one final likelihood and located the suitable assets to assist them on their highway to sobriety.

Discovering these assets, in spite of everything, is among the first, and maybe an important, steps for these scuffling with dependancy.

Galles advises reaching out to a assist group, a pastor and even somebody like Andrews with lived expertise. And since everybody’s restoration journey is totally different, Hermerding suggests discovering a therapy program that matches the person’s wants and to verify they maintain themselves first.

Stanfield recommends discovering at the least one particular person to depend on utterly — to name, to satisfy up with — when issues are getting powerful.

And Reilly has a message for youths who witness the powerful occasions for his or her dad and mom scuffling with dependancy.

“You might be beloved. You’ve gotten potential. You’ve gotten a lot to supply this world since you are experiencing this now. … And although you didn’t ask for it, and also you didn’t ask for this trauma, it’s going to indicate you a extremely distinctive approach to navigate the world that different folks could not have,” Reilly stated, including remedy is rarely a foul factor both.

Andrews has an identical message for these with addictions.

“A very powerful factor that I might inform them is that you simply’re an necessary particular person, that each quantity of effort that you simply put into your self or others put into you is since you are worthy of it,” he stated. “… And you’ve got your set of life experiences. Each good and dangerous factor that you’ve skilled goes to be the precise factor that somebody’s going to want to listen to sooner or later, and also you’re going to have the ability to share that with them, and it’s going to be the turning level for that particular person.”

For these scuffling with substance abuse, the next assets can be found within the lakes space:

Crow Wing County additionally gives help for these with chemical dependency. Go to crowwing.us/169/Chemical-Dependency for extra data.

For a listing of psychological well being assets within the space, go to crowwing.us/410/Mental-Health.

THERESA BOURKE could also be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Observe her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.





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