Alcohol was Duluth man’s catalyst for trouble
Minnesota Teen Challenge helped Dean Norrell defeat alcoholism and put him on a spiritual path.
Graduating from Minnesota Teen Challenge’s Northland Campus, Dean Norrell is walking a new spiritual journey that gives him peace and satisfaction, a calmness that only Jesus Christ can give.
Bonnie Jordan / Living Stones News
Duluth native Dean Norrell graduated from Minnesota Teen Challenge’s Northland Campus in December 2010. Although he was raised, confirmed and baptized as a Lutheran, the weight of addiction kept him from God’s path. After beginning his struggle with alcoholism nine years ago, the Teen Challenge program challenged Norrell to find salvation from his former lifestyle.
Minnesota Teen Challenge’s mission is to assist teenagers and adults in gaining freedom from chemical addictions and other life-controlling problems by addressing their physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
“At some point along the way was this epiphany that my addiction was not necessarily alcohol; that was just a catalyst of trouble,” Norrell said. “Addictions were deep-seeded acceptance and performance issues.”
At the age 22, Norrell opened his first retail store. From there he had taken several management positions while consistently working 60 or more hours per week.
“In society’s eyes that is a good thing,” he said. “It says that I am hard working, but it is an extremely unbalanced life. It is unhealthy.”
Teen Challenge pushed Norrell to confront societal norms in the workplace.
“It just leads to a series of empty wells because nothing seems to satisfy. You are left always wanting more -- more prestige, more money, more things, more toys, more acceptance,” he said. “But when something bad happens and it falls apart you have nothing to fall back on.
“All my life I had built my house with a deck of cards. There was no substance to it.”
When addictions began controlling Norrell’s life, he lost his premarital relationship and was demoted from a managerial position. The weight of loss was too much to handle.
“At age 36, the addiction of alcohol had taken over my life,” he said.
For six years, Norrell tried everything to stay sober, but relapses made him feel miserable. Finally, a concerned aunt introduced him to the Teen Challenge program when other secular treatments didn’t work.
“I think part of the issue -- why nothing else was working -- was because I always had my own agenda on the side of trying to get myself help,” Norrell said. “Teen Challenge is a definitive commitment. It is not a 30- or 60-day program. It’s life care; it’s 13 months.
“It was an amazing release of the heaviness. I just saw everything through a different set of eyes from that point. A calm.”
Teen Challenge led Norrell to what he explains as his epiphany: Alcohol was a problem, but it was only making the real problem worse.
“My definition of success and reward is like on two different planets from what it was before Teen Challenge,” he said. “To see people light up and find Christ, to see students finding their way -- those are the gifts of life, not the new Jet Ski.”
Norrell now works for a trucking company and volunteers at a Teen Challenge program that prepares students who are nearing graduation. He also is a youth minister for Jesus Is Life Church in Duluth, Minn.
“That takes up some energy. … running around, chasing sixth- to 12th-graders,” Norrell said.
“Dean just loves those kids,” said Pastor Dan Stone from Jesus is Life Church. “He pours his heart out into them. That is why we knew he was a good fit for our church.”
Amidst his busy schedule, Norrell does his best not to fall into old habits.
“I found I still burn the candle a little bit, but I have definitely scaled it back,” Norrell said. “Instead of pouring all of that energy into just those fleshy things that I have had all my life, it is very clearly drawn out with my employer.”
Teen Challenge not only helped Norrell defeat his alcohol addiction, but it also directed him back to a spiritual path.
“Teen Challenge was absolutely a wonderful fit for Dean,” Stone said. “He knows he needed it; he admits that.”
“The things that made me up at the end of the day were really insignificant compared to Christ, as they should be,” Norrell said. “They are empty wells.”