From a young age, Brianne knew drugs and alcohol all too well. Having grown up on the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, her mom struggled with alcohol to the point that Brianne had to be removed from her home when she was 5 years old. Eventually her mom went to rehab and managed to get Brianne back in her custody, but it wasn’t long before she was using again.
Addiction, Alcoholism and Abuse
Brianne then turned to drinking and substance use when she was 16. “My stepdad also started using and pretty soon my whole house was on [drugs].” Soon after, Brianne became involved in the judicial system. “My first time in jail was at age 16 due to drug-related charges, but I had been in and out of juvenile hall since I was in seventh grade.”
For the next 15 years Brianne moved to and from Phoenix, Tuba City, Page and Pueblo, Colorado. Brianne’s alcohol use turned to full addiction as she began drinking heavily to cope with her tumultuous life.
“On the reservation, there isn’t anything to do and there are no behavioral health resources. Even if there is, no one uses it because everyone is an alcoholic. Most of the friends I grew up with are gone. They’ve died from alcohol use,” Brianne said.
When she was in her early 20s, Brianne entered an abusive relationship. It was a downward spiral from there as Brianne endured one violent relationship after another, leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
When abuse led her to flee once again, Brianne began drinking so much that she was passing out on street corners. She racked up a few disorderly conduct charges and was eventually put in jail. For the next several months, Brianne was in and out of jail and placed on probation. Unable to attend her pretrial, there was soon a warrant out for her arrest.
Brianne Finds Sobriety
Brianne continued to drink as the depths of alcoholism consumed her. She was put in jail for the last time in June of 2021. “I ended up in the system on June 19, 2021 and that’s my sobriety date. I’ve been sober ever since then,” said Brianne.
Brianne then moved into a shelter while attending recovery court, a specialized program for meeting recovery goals that is offered to chemically dependent individuals who are involved in criminal court. For 16 months, she completed numerous classes and attended multiple Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings a week. Brianne graduated recovery court in December 2022.
Juniper House Provides Hope
Catholic Charities’ Juniper House has proved lifechanging for Brianne. She learned about the Juniper House prior to graduating from recovery court and was soon connected to a Catholic Charities housing case manager. “[My case manager] has taken care of me ever since.”
Juniper House, one of Catholic Charities’ Community Re-Entry program provides safe, affordable, temporary group housing for those who have had justice involvement and need help getting back on their feet. Each resident contributes to house chores while they strive to improve their situation by finding employment, attending substance use support groups, and checking in with their probation officers.
At first Brianne was hesitant to go to Juniper House because in other group houses she felt isolated and ostracized. She decided she couldn’t take any more chances and moved into the house last November.
“I really feel like it’s an easy environment to be able to have opportunities for yourself and allows enough time to do what you need to do for yourself,” said Brianne, “The weekly meetings are helpful and make the house feel like a whole. I needed to be in an environment where the people are on the same level as me in sobriety. At Juniper House, people feel more supportive.”
Coming Full Circle
Brianne is now giving back to those who are in need of support like she was just a few short years ago. Working as a coordinator at a local shelter, she ensures that shelter residents are safe and assists clients by providing access to medicine, food and other resources. “I make sure that they feel safe. And make sure they feel human,” Brianne says.
Brianne also stays active in her recovery and recently got certified in forensic peer support, a person-centered, strength-based support system offered to individuals with mental health and/or co-occurring challenges who have been involved in the criminal justice system.
Brianne hopes to continue to have an active role helping others overcome the obstacles that she has. “Because I’ve experienced the substance use and I’ve lived it, that makes me more qualified to help,” Brianne said, “I always wanted to give back to the community. I feel like I can help.”
Learn more about Catholic Charities Re-entry homes and how you can help people like Brianne.