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Recovery to leader: David Hunter II takes the helm at Rochester's Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge

David Hunter has been chosen to be the next Center Director for the national recovery center's Rochester campus. He begins in his new role in May 2022.

Asked and Answered - David Hunter II - Mn Adult & Teen Challenge
David Hunter II, center director with Mn Adult & Teen Challenge, in Rochester on Tuesday, March 22, 2022.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — When David Hunter II first entered the Adult & Teen Challenge in Minneapolis, he planned only to stay for a short-term program to get himself together and go back out in the world.

Now, approximately five years after graduating the 13-month program, Hunter has been chosen to be the next Center Director for the national recovery center's Rochester campus as Tom Truszinki was named CEO of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. Hunter begins his new role in May.

In March, Hunter sat down with the Post Bulletin talked about his path to Teen Challenge both as a client and as a staff members, the role faith plays in his life and his passion for fishing.

Can you tell me a little bit about what brought you to Team Challenge?

It was the same as a lot of the stories of the clients who come here. My biological father was absent due to his own addiction and history of abuse. And so my mom left him (when I was) 2 years old after he had come home in a drunken rage, was physically abusive to her.

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But there was that 'father wound,' growing up without my biological father. I was blessed to have this stepfather in the picture but it still didn't fill the gap of not having an actual dad there. And so 13, I started smoking weed. Around 16 started getting worse, skipping class, hanging out, dropped out of football.

But I just got interested in the wrong things and wrong people and so I dropped out of that. Fast forward, through 20s, it was in and out of jail, homelessness, unhealthy relationships. I was in a failed marriage in my early 30s, and I was living up North and eventually just came to the point where I knew I needed help. So I came down and I went to another program and found some success.

I'd say it was sobriety. But it wasn't freedom, which for me is a huge difference.

I met my who's now my wife. And we got married. We dated for six months, got engaged. Six months later we were married and we're pregnant the honeymoon night and had our son Isaiah 9 months later.

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But in that, the stresses of just being a new husband, kid on the way and so eventually I went back to drinking. My wife was in recovery and she was not having it. She was not interested in being with someone who was in active addiction.

I got a couple of DWIs ... I totaled three vehicles. Eventually I just knew I needed help. And so I came to Teen Challenge on April 23, 2016.

Why this role? What made you decide that this is something you want to do with your life?

Actually, I didn't decide. It was it was an interesting journey. I came on to Teen Challenge as a chaplain, dream come true. I'm actually a chaplain in the Hudson House, which is the house that I was a resident in for a year.

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And then my wife is a chaplain a block away for me at the women's facility, so it was perfect. But then I was approached by leadership at one point last year, and I was asked, 'Had I ever thought about being a center director, or being in a leadership position?' And, of course, I'm like, 'Is this is a trick question?' But they're like, 'We see you as a potential leader for the future.'

So they put me on a kind of a fast track development to go shadow, different campuses throughout the state and leadership and development and marketing.

My wife and I talked about it we just really feel like this was God opening up the door for something new. This was certainly never on my radar when I came into the doors of Teen Challenge 2016.

Talk to me a little bit about the role that faith plays in your life.

It is the core of of my life. It is everything. I've tried to do it on my own. I've given up everything from my addictions. I have a 21-year-old son, who I can't say I was the most consistent father to, because I was more concerned with my myself.

One thing about addiction I've discovered is, no matter how hard I try, it still has a still has a grip on me. And that's what so many clients who end up in Teen Challenge find themselves in that situation. And some people will say, 'Well, why don't you just stop?' It's not that easy. If it was that easy, everybody would do it and we wouldn't have the epidemic of addiction and overdoses and death that we do now.

How do you plan on talking to your kids when they're older about addiction and the role it may have in their life? Or how do you how do you talk to parents going through it?

I think honesty is the best policy. The world doesn't hold back its messages. The world is very quick to tell our kids that they need outside things, influences, chemicals, money, power, material things to be a better person, to find fulfillment and satisfaction.

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I think when I wasn't healed, I think that it would have been something shameful to talk about. But since going through the process and being on this side of it, I'm not scared to talk to my kids about it. I think they deserve to know. Addiction is a family disease in a lot of ways. And in a lot of ways, it's a generational thing.

There are a lot of clients who come here, they had a mom who was addicted, a father who was addicted, grandfather, uncles.

And so I think it's important and a role of a parent to have those tough discussions and say, 'Hey, look, at some point, you may get tempted to try something. But let me tell you the full story because it sounds good on the front end. But when it's all said and done, you don't realize what you're signing up for in the hurt and the pain and destruction that can actually cause.

I mean, when I smoked weed when I was 13, I had no idea what I'm signing up for.

What's something you're passionate about outside of work?

I love fishing. So I go up north to Leech Lake twice a year. Twice. I'll go for a couple of f days and I'll just get a cabin and I'll spend some alone time and just go fishing and try to catch as many walleyes as possible. I love fishing.

What's your favorite fishing story?

My favorite one is when I was trying to make a decision to come back to Team Challenge. I had been offered the chaplain role but I was a campus pastor and I felt like God led me to this campus pastor role. And so I didn't want to move out of it if it wasn't what he wanted me to do.

And so I was out fishing, and I was on the shore and it was probably 10 or 11 o'clock at night. I didn't catch anything all day. The stars were out, the moon was out.

Now all of a sudden I just started catching fish, like walleyes one after another. I'm on the rocks right next to a waterfall, moon, stars. I just kept catching fish.

And then I heard God say, 'If you opened up your arms as wide as you could, you'd never be able to contain all the blessings I have for you.' And then it kind of released me. If I stay, God's gonna bless me. If I go, God's gonna bless me. So it opened up the ability to just do what my heart wanted to do and that was to go back to Teen Challenge.

Asked & Answered is a weekly question-and-answer column featuring people of southeastern Minnesota. Is there somebody you'd like to see featured? Send suggestions to news@postbulletin.com .

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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