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Iowa community leader celebrates 25 years of sobriety

Andrew Allen now leads YSS, the Iowa organization he credits for saving his life.

AMES, Iowa — Even before Andrew Allen became a teenager, he was getting into serious trouble.

"I was in a pretty desperate spot without a lot of hope, without a lot of direction, in a ton of trouble," said Allen.  

Today he is president and CEO of an Iowa organization called YSS. It's the same organization that set him on a new path in March of 1995 after a arrest for drunk driving nearly sent him to jail.

"I probably should have gone to detention, but my dad fought to get me treatment," Allen recalls.

Allen didn't join YSS quietly.

"I fought it tooth and nail for six weeks.  I couldn’t stand authority; I couldn’t stand being told what to do," he said.

Then Allen had a breakthrough.  After stealing a cigarette and smoking it, he felt the guilt of what he had done set in.

"Over the course of about 30 minutes, it was in my chest and I had a hard time breathing; it was in my neck and I could hardly swallow. I found myself in the bathroom of 712 Burnette on my knees crying like a baby thinking, 'I can't keep living like this anymore,'" Allen said.

Allen was sober until December 31, 1995.  On New Year's Eve, he relapsed, so the next day, he started his sobriety all over again.

"I am lucky not to be in prison…or dead," he said.

Over the ensuing years, Allen carved out a successful career with a Fortune 500 company.  Allen recalls, however, something was still missing. 

"I had this itch that I couldn't scratch," he said.

That's when Allen made his way back to YSS.  In 2015, he was selected to be the president and CEO of the organization.  It's when he finally found what he had been searching a lifetime for.

"I know today that my purpose is to serve God by sharing my experience in a way that it creates hope and opportunities," Allen said.