God delivers a mother and son out of addictive drug lifestyles through Teen Challenge
Life is different now for Vicki Zaitz and her son, Jeff, both of Hibbing, Minn. For Vicki, a 45-year-old mother of two, finding Jesus Christ meant she turned away from a life of drugs. Jeff, 27, is still working through that process, but he is well on his way to freedom from the same self-destructive lifestyle.
Jeff ZaitzPhoto by Paul Walsh
Though Vicki had a relatively peaceful childhood, she was sexually abused by a person she considered family when she was 13. By 17, she was pregnant. Having grown up attending church sporadically, Zaitz chose to marry the father of her child. Life was not easy, so to make ends meet, Zaitz worked at a radio station while attending college for a real estate license. Zaitz’s husband began drinking heavily and eventually the couple divorced.
“I never felt true love from him (after he began getting drunk),” Vicki said. “His drinking always came first, and I was very lonely.”
The couple got back together when her ex-husband tried to change his ways, but the relationship didn’t last. During that time, Vicki changed jobs and opened a consignment store.
Vicki said she believed in God all her life but had no relationship with Him.
“I just never realized how much I could lean on Him. I didn’t truly understand,” she said.
In 2000, Zaitz and her husband tried methamphetamine.
“I remember the first time I got high and how wrong it was, but I was using it after that to get things done – that’s how I justified it,” she said.
In 2005, the couple separated for the last time. Their previous introduction to meth had turned into an addiction that superseded work, their marriage and their kids.
“My life was so out of control that I was no longer the same person,” Vicki said. “I closed the business. I had a lot of health problems, and during my addiction, I never took care of myself.
“My kids suffered during those years and I’m still trying to make amends. But through the grace of God, in His amazing way, He has brought us back together again.”
Vicki’s son, Jeff, got involved in drugs as well. He was using drugs long before his parents knew about it. At age 14, he was drinking and soon after began smoking marijuana. After his graduation from high school, his family celebrated by using meth.
“At first it was kind of awkward doing drugs with my parents,” Jeff said. “But when you’re high, you don’t care. Eventually, it seemed kind of normal.”
But things worsened as Vicki got deeper into drugs.
“I got a DUI in 2007 driving under the influence of meth,” she said. “I slowed up (on using drugs) but still continued using until 2009 when I got arrested for sales and possession of meth.”
That was a turning point in Zaitz’s life. When she was sent to the Challenge Incarcerated Program in Togo, Minn., she was taught more critical thinking skills, did hard, physical work and got chemical dependency treatment.
The graduation speech Zaitz gave at the CIP boot camp on May 14 explains how she began her walk with Christ: “Since my arrest, I no longer live my life for only Vicki. I live my life today for Jesus Christ. I have taken a journey toward the restoration and release of the woman I have always longed to be.”
But this transformation occurred while serving jail time and going through boot camp.
“It has been an amazing journey,” Vicki said. “I went to treatment after my arrest, but it was while I was in the county jail that I surrendered and asked for God’s amazing forgiveness. The sense of freedom I felt that day is indescribable -- I was in jail, but spiritually I was free!”
Jeff used meth for six years until he was caught for some burglaries in 2007.
“That’s when things started to spiral downhill,” Jeff said. “I tried to quit meth. I’ve got two kids, and I’m in and out of prison. I kept saying I would quit, saying I would be there for my kids. This time I realize I haven’t been the dad I want to be.”
Jeff has been at Minnesota Teen Challenge’s Northland Campus in Duluth since December and hopes to graduate in January. For now, he does maintenance at Teen Challenge and sings and shares his testimony as part of the Minnesota Teen Challenge choir. At first, Jeff was not interested in telling people what his life was like before, but once he began sharing, he realized it touched people.
“People always come up to me and thank me because my testimony helped them. That’s neat,” he said.
Jeff is excited to have opportunities to visit with his kids, and he said their mother is taking great care of them. He is looking for a church to attend when he graduates and would like to have a home of his own. Jeff is taking life one day at a time as he tries to become the man God wants him to be.
Both Jeff and Vicki consider Matthew 6:34 useful encouragement from the Lord. The verse says, “‘So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’”
Vicki’s mother, Dorothy Hofferbert, has seen a wonderful transformation in her daughter and grandson.
“There’s been a big change in both of them. They have really turned to God and that has really helped them with their outlook on life,” Hofferbert said. “It’s a good change. They are very close to one another because they understand what each other is going through.”
She is excited to watch their continued growth as they work on following the Lord.
A song by the group Third Day is what Vicki considers to be her recovery song. Part of the chorus of the song “Born Again” resounds with the changes in Vicki’s life since she gave control to God:
“Feels like I’m born again.
Feels like I’m living
for the very first time,
living for the first time
in my life.”
That newness is what excites Vicki as she strives to live for Christ every day. Jeff, too, continues to work on something God has been teaching him -- forgiveness. Although he found it hard to forgive in the past, he understands now that “God always forgives -- as long as I repent and look to Him.”
Life has changed, and Vicki is trying new things with her new faith. In addition to helping out at Teen Challenge Duluth by walking to raise money, Vicki has volunteered with the Forget Me Not Foundation and the Guardian Angels Nursing Home. But the thing she is most enthusiastic about is that “life today is so wonderful, and all the praise goes to God because I could not have done this on my own. The greatest thing is how Jeff and I have both grown so close to the Lord together! God is truly an amazing God!”