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From downhill spiral to success story

Debra McKinney
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop views personalized flags nailed to an inspirational tree by program graduates when they left Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Client Wesley Brewington works on his assignments in a quiet room Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
The main building at Nugen's Ranch houses living quarters, offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
The main building features an extensive kitchen at the new Nugen's Ranch location Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A typical room houses two clients at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
The barn houses 10 pigs at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Managers hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
The barn houses 10 pigs at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Managers hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop, left, and executive director Karen Nugen-Logan visit with some of the 10 pigs currently housed in the barn at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. They hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop visits with Dozer, a hog that is among 10 pigs currently housed in the barn at Nugen's Ranch, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. They hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
One hallway displays dream catchers made by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A 100-ft. by 40-ft. greenhouse will be used this growing season to nurture tomatoes, cucumbers and squash as well as starts for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce plants to be grown outdoors at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Client Forest Bond inks some of his detailed artwork Thursday afternoon Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Creating artwork including ink drawings is a passion for client Forest Bond.
Erik Hill
Client Forest Bond grabs a few minutes of exercise at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Never Alone recovery key rings fill a grass bowl in a craft room at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Alaskan crafts are among activities available for clients at the facility.
Erik Hill
Two wings in the main building can house 17 men and nine women at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie. The building also houses offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
The ashes of late former foreman Vern Kjellsen are perched above the entrance to Vern's Wing, which houses male clients, at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Kjellsen died June 26, 2010, the day the former Nugen's Ranch property along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway was sold prior to the move to Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Former client Mike Foy, right, is now a certified counselor working at Nugen's Ranch while pursuing a master's degree. He was catching up with client Wesley Brewington Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in his office.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop, left, and executive director Karen Nugen-Logan stand outside the new Nugen's Ranch main building Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Alaska State Fair awards adorn a hallway of the new Nugen's Ranch building Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A self-portrait by a former client remains on a wall at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
In 1994 Karen Nugen-Logan became executive director of the treatment program established by her parents Leonard and Henrietta Nugen in 1981.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop keeps a display of mementoes left with her by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie
Erik Hill
An inspirational message rests among mementoes left with clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Former client Mike Foy, right, is now a certified counselor working at Nugen's Ranch while pursuing a master's degree. He was touching base with client Wesley Brewington Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in his office.
Erik Hill
The main building at Nugen's Ranch houses living quarters, offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
Victoria Gochenauer, who graduated from Nugen's Ranch in 2004, is now an Anchorage homeowner and works as a dental assistant.
Erik Hill
Nugen's Ranch graduate Victoria Gochenauer nuzzles her dog "Copper" while reflected in a mirror adjacent to mementoes from her time at the facility Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at her home in south Anchorage. Gochenauer graduated in September of 2004, and is now a dental assistant and homeowner.
Erik Hill
Victoria Gochenauer's client number appears on one of the personalized flags nailed to an inspirational tree by program graduates when they leave Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie. Gochenauer graduated Sept. 7, 2004.
Erik Hill
Nugen's Ranch was located along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway in this 2005 photo.
Evan R. Steinhauser
Karen Nugen-Logan holds one of the piglets raised at Nugen's Ranch, a drug and alcohol treatment facility on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, in June of 2002.
Bob Hallinen
Nugen's Ranch, a drug and alcohol treatment facility on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, as it appeared in 2002.
Bob Hallinen
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop views personalized flags nailed to an inspirational tree by program graduates when they left Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Client Wesley Brewington works on his assignments in a quiet room Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
The main building at Nugen's Ranch houses living quarters, offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
The main building features an extensive kitchen at the new Nugen's Ranch location Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A typical room houses two clients at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
The barn houses 10 pigs at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Managers hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
The barn houses 10 pigs at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Managers hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop, left, and executive director Karen Nugen-Logan visit with some of the 10 pigs currently housed in the barn at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. They hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop visits with Dozer, a hog that is among 10 pigs currently housed in the barn at Nugen's Ranch, Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. They hope to increase the pig population to around 25 for clients to care for.
Erik Hill
One hallway displays dream catchers made by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A 100-ft. by 40-ft. greenhouse will be used this growing season to nurture tomatoes, cucumbers and squash as well as starts for cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce plants to be grown outdoors at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Client Forest Bond inks some of his detailed artwork Thursday afternoon Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Creating artwork including ink drawings is a passion for client Forest Bond.
Erik Hill
Client Forest Bond grabs a few minutes of exercise at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Never Alone recovery key rings fill a grass bowl in a craft room at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Alaskan crafts are among activities available for clients at the facility.
Erik Hill
Two wings in the main building can house 17 men and nine women at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie. The building also houses offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
The ashes of late former foreman Vern Kjellsen are perched above the entrance to Vern's Wing, which houses male clients, at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie. Kjellsen died June 26, 2010, the day the former Nugen's Ranch property along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway was sold prior to the move to Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Former client Mike Foy, right, is now a certified counselor working at Nugen's Ranch while pursuing a master's degree. He was catching up with client Wesley Brewington Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in his office.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop, left, and executive director Karen Nugen-Logan stand outside the new Nugen's Ranch main building Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Alaska State Fair awards adorn a hallway of the new Nugen's Ranch building Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
A self-portrait by a former client remains on a wall at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
In 1994 Karen Nugen-Logan became executive director of the treatment program established by her parents Leonard and Henrietta Nugen in 1981.
Erik Hill
Clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop keeps a display of mementoes left with her by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie
Erik Hill
An inspirational message rests among mementoes left with clinical supervisor Cathy Bishop by former clients at Nugen's Ranch Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Pt. MacKenzie.
Erik Hill
Former client Mike Foy, right, is now a certified counselor working at Nugen's Ranch while pursuing a master's degree. He was touching base with client Wesley Brewington Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 in his office.
Erik Hill
The main building at Nugen's Ranch houses living quarters, offices, meeting rooms, work areas, an exercise room, laundry facilities and the dining area. Nugen's Ranch moved in June of 2011 to its new 116-acre site located at the corner of W. Pt. MacKenzie Rd. and Holstein Rd.
Erik Hill
Victoria Gochenauer, who graduated from Nugen's Ranch in 2004, is now an Anchorage homeowner and works as a dental assistant.
Erik Hill
Nugen's Ranch graduate Victoria Gochenauer nuzzles her dog "Copper" while reflected in a mirror adjacent to mementoes from her time at the facility Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at her home in south Anchorage. Gochenauer graduated in September of 2004, and is now a dental assistant and homeowner.
Erik Hill
Victoria Gochenauer's client number appears on one of the personalized flags nailed to an inspirational tree by program graduates when they leave Thursday Feb. 28, 2013 at Nugen's Ranch in Pt. MacKenzie. Gochenauer graduated Sept. 7, 2004.
Erik Hill
Nugen's Ranch was located along the Palmer-Wasilla Highway in this 2005 photo.
Evan R. Steinhauser
Karen Nugen-Logan holds one of the piglets raised at Nugen's Ranch, a drug and alcohol treatment facility on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, in June of 2002.
Bob Hallinen
Nugen's Ranch, a drug and alcohol treatment facility on the Palmer-Wasilla Highway, as it appeared in 2002.
Bob Hallinen

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."


By DEBRA McKINNEY
Special to the Daily News