Pinpointing the initial force that led someone down a destructive path can be impossible. The circumstances surrounding Bryanna’s addiction combined in a whirlwind of chaos that ultimately led to a perfect storm she knew she had to escape.
The events of Bryanna’s childhood contributed to self-destructive behavior at a young age. She was continuously molested as a very small child. As a result, she said, “I didn’t understand the ramifications of my unhealthy behavior. It lessens your sense of self-worth as a female.” In a series of damaging relationships as she looked for acceptance from the opposite sex, her teenage years were fraught with irrational actions and the beginnings of her chemical dependence. She was pregnant at the age of 19 and married at 21, but the young couple split when she found out she was expecting their second child.
Bryanna said, “I was looking for this type of love because I hadn’t learned that you have to love yourself. There will be turmoil and things that will surface in life. That’s why it’s so important to love yourself first.”
She started drinking more and spending more time in bars in her twenties. As a mother, she said, “This erratic behavior was not something my kids should have had to endure.”
What finally sent her overboard was the volatile relationship she had with the man she met four years after her divorce. He was abusive and compulsive in a way that Bryanna regretfully allowed at a time in her life when she frequently self-medicated. Her drinking got progressively worse, and together they began to occasionally use drugs as well. For a time, she was able to maintain a job even though she was often drinking before and during work. She and her then boyfriend would go out and behave irresponsibly; then he would get violent.
When she found out she was pregnant with her youngest son, Bryanna stopped drinking completely. She stayed sober until he was about three months old. That’s when she had to place a restraining order on his father and move on a regular basis to evade him. She said, “He would get extremely possessive.”
Eventually, he crept back into her life, and their drinking habits resumed. Bryanna found herself fighting her demons again. When she’d reflect on the time spent tolerating his abuse and not being present for her sons, she became angry with herself and would self-soothe with alcohol. She got to a point where she was drunk all the time and said, “It was just a big storm. Total destruction.”
After being kicked out of her house, Bryanna attempted rehab at different facilities seven times without much success. When she showed up to pick up her kids one day and was obviously drunk, her oldest son refused to go with her and called the police. With no where else to turn once she was released, she called her brother. He brought her to Cedar House.
Bryanna felt strongly about keeping her youngest son with her during her residential treatment, so together they moved into Maple House (Cedar House’s program for women with children) as soon as she completed withdrawal management. She opted not to tell his father where she was in hopes that she’d find success in her rehabilitation this time. He issued a court order while she was there and gained custody when she didn’t show up. This was the final straw that made her realize she had to complete her treatment and change her life.
She attributes much of her success at Maple House to the other women there with her at the time. She related well with her roommate and some of the other clients who were going through similar situations. She said, “They inspired me. We could talk each other through it. We convinced each other that we needed to give the program the time that it needed and see what tools we might gain.”
At Maple House, Bryanna learned the valuable lesson to “play the tape all the way through” and still weighs out all the possible outcomes before making a decision.
Once she finished the program, she moved into a sober living home with her youngest son and got a job with Sempra shortly after. She had an associates degree and the ability to learn quickly, so getting accustomed to her work in data entry came easily to her. She attended AA meetings regularly and continued to work on her relationship with her sons. She said, “They still love me and want to be in my life. I’m so thankful. Not everyone gets that reconciliation with their children.”
After nine months in sober living, she moved into her own place with all three of her children. Sempra hired her full time, and she has since been promoted to Corporate Account Analyst after assisting with the launch of a new department within SoCalGas. She also started her own business that helps small start-ups analyze and implement technology solutions. Later this year, she will graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree.
One of the most important lessons Bryanna learned on her path to recovery is the value of hope. She believes that we are all put here for a purpose, and it’s essential for people to find hope in their struggles. She said, “Like when steel is shaped from fire, I feel like that’s what I’ve been through. We have to always learn from what we experience to find our purpose.” Thanks to compassionate care and undeniable determination, Bryanna has weathered the storm and come through stronger than ever.