Every person working at True North Recovery Inc. in Wasilla has a story of a struggle with addiction.

"I was homeless, I was hungry, I was sleeping on a park bench and eating out of garbage cans," said Jody Dean, fighting back tears. "My kids were in foster care. That's where addiction took me."

Dean said she started using when she was just 13 years old and battled drugs and alcohol for two decades before getting clean.

Now with 15 years sober, she's a substance abuse counselor helping other addicts find their way out.

"I love the vision of having people side by side, shoulder to shoulder walking the new person through early sobriety. Because it's hard. It's the hardest thing we ever do and the one thing that's the most worth it," Dean said.

That was Karl Soderstrom's goal when he started the non-profit organization.

The work initially began in 2015 – the year Soderstrom got sober – through a program he started called Fiend to Clean. It was an online, grassroots effort with Facebook videos aimed at reducing the stigma of addiction.

"We wanted to talk about that. That we can be happy productive, contributing members of the community despite our substance abuse diagnosis," Soderstrom said.

True North gives people a starting point in their recovery and directs them to the treatment options that will work best for their needs. Soderstrom said an essential part of its peer-led model is to provide same-day access to care, which hasn't always been an option for addicts.

"It's few and far between when someone is at the bottom and say, 'I'm ready for help,'" he said. "And we tell them, 'Come to paperwork on Tuesday and we'll see you next month?' We're going to lose them. That's the healthcare system that's been in place in our state for the past 50 years."

The peer-support program also guides people beyond recovery to shape their new, substance-free life.

"It's about housing, education, employment, primary care, connections and relationships and support outside a treatment setting," Soderstrom said.

Recovering from addiction isn't easy, but True North staff know it's possible. They've been there and have come out on the other side leading better lives and helping others do the same.

Copyright 2019 KTVA. All rights reserved.

RELATED STORIES: