MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A unique Minneapolis choir preparing for a holiday concert is a chorale unlike any other in the Twin Cities.

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge choir is comprised of men and women currently in the early stages of recovery from substance abuse and addiction. The choir was formed 30 years ago as a central part of the recovery program, but choir director Crystal Kveton came up with the idea of an annual Christmas concert 11 years ago as another way to provide healing.

“This is their story. They get to express themselves in a way they may never do on their own, and that’s what I call to them a lot, listen to the words you are singing, if it’s true for you, sing it like it’s true,” said Kveton.

Sarah Carlson, 22, of St. Paul stands front and center, singing “Silent Night” but marveling how she’s found her voice after struggling in silence for years.

“I came to Teen Challenge 15 months ago because I was ready for something different and I was ready for something different. I was really ready this time, I found myself in a dark, unfinished basement, seeing things that weren’t really there, hallucinating, I just remember, crying out to the Lord and saying save me,” said Carlson. “I knew the only place I could go was up, because I was so far down.”

Carlson described her upbringing as a two-parent household, raised with Christian values. She was involved in cross country, Girl Scouts, and piano lessons in high school, with a high GPA, she even took college courses.

“I was 15 years old, hadn’t touched a drug in my life, started hanging out with an older crowd because I was waitressing. I was exposed to a whole different lifestyle I never experienced before,” she said.

Carlson said she first only experimented with marijuana and the medication Adderall.

“It was all just deception, by the time I was 17, when I couldn’t find Adderall, I turned to meth, the one drug I said I’d never do. In the beginning I would use to feel better, and in the end, I would use to feel normal,” said Carlson.

Carlson said she began injecting heroin and meth by age 19, before four failed treatment programs led her to Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. She will graduate from the yearlong recovery program in January, with plans to become a faith-based counselor for other young teens and adults facing addiction. She knows sobriety isn’t meant to be a solo act, but instead, she’s found a chorus, for every season.

“I have the hope inside my heart and inside my soul. I know what I have what I am meant to do, my higher purpose,” said Carlson. “If I could say one thing, to someone listening, I never thought I would be able to get to the point where I am today, that I have a relationship with my family the way I do, and I never thought it was possible to get out of my addiction. It’s a miracle, really.”

The Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge 11th annual Christmas concert will be held at Grace Church in Eden Prairie on December 15, at 3pm and 7pm. Learn more and purchase tickets here.