With Pardon Secured, Sober Man Closer To Getting Dream Job

By Kelly Burch 12/28/18

A felony conviction for making meth kept him away from his dream job but now he's getting a second chance to attain it.

Sober nurse excited for getting chance to get dream job

Derek Rygh hit rock bottom nearly 14 years ago. That’s when his Minnesota home — where he was allowing people to cook meth — caught on fire. When the police arrived, Rygh admitted what was going on. 

“This was the night where I finally gave in,” Rygh told Twin Cities Pioneer Press. “I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I called the cops and said there is a house fire and it is in my home. I walked down the street, and sat down and it was at that point where I gave my life to God. . . . That was my rock bottom.”

However, like anyone who has been lucky enough to get into long-term recovery, that rock bottom, and his subsequent conviction for manufacturing meth, was a new beginning for Rygh.

Today, Rygh is married with two children, but his felony conviction kept him from becoming a nurse, which was his dream job. However, on Dec. 13 the Minnesota Department of Corrections’ Board of Pardons, which is made up of Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, Attorney General Lori Swanson and Gov. Mark Dayton, granted a pardon for Rygh, clearing the way for him to apply for a new career. 

“I want to become a nurse, but you can’t if you are a felon,” Rygh said. “I have had a lot of hardships in my life that I have survived and a lot of that had to do with nurses and doctors who I am grateful for.”

Rygh’s conviction wasn’t a surprise, since he had been using meth for years. 

“When I turned 16, meth was introduced to me and I thought it was something I had waited my whole life for,” he said. “It didn’t take long for the meth to take control of everything in my life and it changed who I was as a person. I began to not care for people anymore. Everyone I loved, I pushed away. It tore me down and I began to feel really depressed. I couldn’t live without it and I did things — I did what I had to do to get it. Meth was my life.”

Yet, after his conviction Rygh learned to live sober with the help of a faith-based treatment program, Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge. Rygh had started using drugs when he was just 12, so this was the first time in his life that he felt as if he could cope without abusing substances. 

“I was happy for once and not so depressed,” he said. “I felt like a complete person and I feel so grateful. Meth had really hindered me.”

After completing the program, Rygh began helping others get sober, eventually working for the program that helped him get clean. Now he hopes to help more people in the future through nursing. Although his life is different today than it was 14 years ago, he says he couldn’t have accomplished what he has without the challenges of addiction. “I know that without what I went through with the drugs, I never would have never had this family,” he said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.