From downhill spiral to success story

Special to the Daily NewsMarch 9, 2013 

A lot of people gave up on Victoria Gochenauer. Maybe not at first, but she gave them plenty of opportunity. Her second drunken driving charge. Her fourth. Her sixth.

She'd had treatment.

"Lots, lots. Good lord. I call them spin cycles. They were short, just long enough to dry out. I was doing it for the court, for the judge, to get my kids back."

All the time she was thinking: I'm going to have a drink when I finish this damn place.

Then came the day her probation officer picked her up from Hiland Mountain Correctional Center and dropped her off at Nugen's Ranch, a treatment center where people can stay six months, a year, even two if that's what it takes. She wasn't court-ordered this time. She asked a judge's permission to go.

"For the first time in my life I was doing it for myself instead of for the court," said the now-42-year-old mother of three.

Gochenauer's growing-up years were rough, to say the least. She had her first son at 19, her second at 20. The boys' father's name was Kevin.

"I met him when I was 15, we got together at 16, and stayed together until he died. I was 20 when Kevin died. He hung himself. That's when my drinking career started."

It got really bad, to the point she called child protective services on herself.

"I couldn't take care of them," she said of her first two sons, an infant and toddler at the time. "I wasn't feeding them very well. Their diapers were soaked. And I was drunk."

Lost parental rights, six drunken driving charges and a bunch of jail time later, she'd had it. Others may have given up on her but she never gave up on herself.

"I've got nine years sober from Nugen's Ranch."

With the help of grants, she went to school to become a dental assistant, graduating from the University of Alaska in 2008. She was on public assistance for a year and a half but since she got a job, she's been on her own. A year and a half ago, she bought a three-bedroom house with a pantry, a garage and a yard she's making over. She lives there with her youngest son, a cat and a dog.

"I do not hide or lie. I am a felon because of my drinking. But I've been lucky. There are really good people out there who don't judge.

"I work in the real world now. I'm part of my community. I like my nice, quiet life. My home. I'm very proud to be here for my son. I have a lot of gratitude."

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