Michael Arellano grew up in a dysfunctional home. He was abused and felt like he was not loved. His mother was an addict and an exotic dancer, who had many boyfriends, and they moved from state to state in the first decade of Arellano’s life.
Arellano said his father, who was an alcoholic, was not in the picture until 1998, when he moved in with him in Little Falls after extensive arguing with his mother.
Arellano, a 2003 Little Falls Community High School graduate, said he started to have friends, something he never had in his life before, and he become popular. That is when his life continued to go down a dark path.
“I started using meth when I was 16 with my father and my aunt who was living with us,” he said. “That really opened up a dark door to a long jail time.”
Arellano said starting at age 18 he was in and out of jail for years.
“More times than I can count on my fingers and toes,” he said. He did six years in prison for using and selling controlled substances and another time he was in jail for domestic violence, to name a few.
Through the years, Arellano went from doing drugs and getting in trouble to wanting to get his life straight. He entered into a few different treatment centers over the years, but he was never successful. Until now.
Arellano was staying at a halfway house in Otter Tail County when James Madigan, a community outreach representative from Central Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, approached him about the program.
“I was at the point I was ready to give my whole self to this,” Arellano said. “My wife was gone, my kids were gone and I had nothing anymore. It was either kill myself or do something I normally wouldn’t do.
“I was accepted into Teen Challenge by the grace of God. … The judge in Otter Tail County gave me another chance. I bailed on him the first time.”
Arellano started Teen Challenge in March 18, 2014. He graduated Thursday. “I have learned so much, especially about God,” Arellano said about the program. “I have someone who cares about me and loves me. I don’t have to seek love and attention from women and other people. I can just do it from God.
“I’ve learned a lot about marriage, respect and loving her no matter what and loving myself. Before coming here I did not love myself, not at all because I kept messing up. Everybody I had in my life I pushed away. It was very hard looking at all the stuff I’ve done. I’ve had guns to my head before and I shouldn’t even be alive because of the stuff I’ve done.” Arellano said Teen Challenge has given him a new life. “I don’t have a hole anymore. It is filled with God,” he said.