This holiday season, WCCO’s Trees of Hope campaign is partnering with organizations that help make lives brighter all year long. This week, WCCO is highlighting the Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge, a Christian based rehab and recovery center.

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge offers several programs to help people struggling with addiction. Some programs are faith based, others are not; but all of the programs aim to restore life for those addicted to drugs and alcohol.

It is a place that for thousands represents a whole lot of hope. And for Sean and Tammy Serie, represents a rebirth of their love for one another.

WCCO’s Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield asked Sean and Tammy to use a word to describe each other.

“Compassion,” Sean said.

“Godly,” Tammy said.

The chemistry is clear, but for a long time they were a volatile combination.

“Things would get said that were very hurtful, and we would do thing that were dangerous and sad,” Tammy said.

When they met in 2000 at an apartment swimming pool the single parents each had sordid pasts.

“Meth, alcohol, pot…you name it.  Anything other than needles or heroin,” Tammy said. “I would do anything”

“Previous to meeting her, I think I had been in 9 [or] 10 treatments. So, I struggled with alcohol, was my main drug of choice,” Sean said.

Two years into their courtship, the physical abuse started. The landlord and police were regular visitors.

Tammy would stay up for six days straight, fueled by meth. Sean relied on shot after shot of vodka, starting at 6 am.

For years they managed to hide it from their employers and their kids, who never even saw them take a drink. Until one day it became too obvious.

“We had been together for 13 years and done all of our dope and drinking and everything together. Then our daughter came to us and said, ‘Can you guys please stop. I need some help with my kids,'” Tammy said.

Homeless, broke and desperate they entered Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge’s 13 month male and female programs.

“I literally was at the point where I said, ‘I just don’t care. I don’t care if we’re together. I don’t care about any of this. I don’t care if I die.’ There was just no hope, none,” Sean said.

“When I say hopelessness, it was the epitome of hopelessness for us,” Tammy said.

Over the next year, that changed.

“Just the love and the compassion they showed us that we didn’t deserve,” Sean said.

The couple took time apart to heal themselves, growing in their Christian faith and learning how to make sober life stick.

“That’s one thing that is unique about Minnesota Adult and Teen challenge, is we don’t just say ‘OK, you’ve spent a year here, you’re free to go.’ We have some expectations for them in order to graduate – a support group, a mentor, a job, a safe place to live,” Adam Pederson from the Minnesota Adult & Teen Challenge said.

They found all of those things.

Now, they are both staff members. They help coaching men and women in the program they adore.

“I don’t know that I’ll ever stop working there. I love this ministry with all my heart. I’m on the front lines with these women. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Tammy said.

But, she didn’t just get a job upon graduation, she also got a ring.

Sean and Tammy tied the knot, a union they credit a certain group for.

“It helped me. It saved my life. It saved his life. We changed our life and now we’ve changed our children’s life and we change our grandchildren’s life,” Tammy said.

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge has an usually high success rate: 85 percent of the graduates of the 13 month program keep jobs once they are out.

To donate to the Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, call 1-800-542-9226 or visit wcco.com/accomplishmn.

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