Rebuilding a Life: Brandy's Story
"They helped rebuild me as a whole.”
“I had about 13 years clean when my family went through a tragic event. I spent many days crying on the floor not able to function.”
Recovery is challenging, especially when there are underlying issues. Brandy grew up with parents who struggled with substance use disorder. She started using drugs consistently at age 14 but wanted to do something different with her life. At 22, she went to her fifth treatment center and finally entered recovery, which lasted for 15 years. She settled in Alaska, married, had four children and studied to be a graphic designer.
Yet even though Brandy was drug-free and seemed settled, she was struggling. “I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I tried various medications, but I didn't have any support at the time. My husband didn't believe in medication so I hid my meds. Eventually I just went off them altogether.” Brandy found it extremely difficult to live without drugs and self-medication. “I didn't know what to do with all the ups and downs.”
Then came the awful day when an unspeakable tragedy left Brandy and her family in shambles. “There were so many days I would just cry and cry. I didn’t know what was wrong with me and it was too much to handle. I was suicidal at times.” Victims of Violent Crimes moved Brandy and her family from Alaska to Oregon, but it didn’t help. “I was so depressed,” Brandy recalls, “I had no support and didn’t know where to get it. I was alone with my four kids and new to the state, so I went to my family for support. That is when I tried heroin for the first time.”
“It scares me to think what would have happened to me if they hadn’t taken me to those needed appointments and gotten me stable enough so I could start making better decisions for my life."
Brandy’s life quickly spiraled out of control. She was using every day, and fortunately her ex-husband moved to Oregon to take care of the children. Her health deteriorated and she was hospitalized five times in one year. “That’s when I got my break and met the Project IMPACT team (Improving Addiction Care Team) at OHSU. They specialize in addiction and all that goes with it.”
OHSU sent Brandy from the hospital to Central City Concern’s (CCC’s) Recuperative Care Program (RCP) where she was able to get better in a safe, supported place. RCP is a unique program that gives people who are homeless a place to go when discharged from the hospital instead of returning directly to the street. The patient gets a room, intensive case management and access to primary care at CCC’s Old Town Clinic. In 2017, RCP served 292 people discharged from the hospital with nowhere else to go.
The RCP staff made sure Brandy got to every single medical appointment, including mental health counseling and enrollment in medication supported recovery treatment for her opioid addiction. “It scares me to think what would have happened to me if they hadn’t taken me to those needed appointments and gotten me stable enough so I could start making better decisions for my life,” Brandy says.
In 2017, RCP patients completed 2,271 appointments with the help of RCP staff. During that time, Brandy discovered she was living with bipolar disorder. Learning that diagnosis and understanding what it means offered Brandy much needed clarity. “Knowing what to expect helps me recognize when I need support.”
CCC moved Brandy to a supported recovery housing program in the Richard Harris building where she lived for seven months while becoming stable. “It took a long time,” she says, “but I was really far down.” The Richard Harris supportive recovery housing program served about 279 participants in 2017. Brandy saw two mental health providers, got acupuncture and went to a Seeking Safety group for women with post-traumatic stress disorder. She participated in everything she could, including cooking classes and a bike building program. “They helped rebuild me as a whole.” Brandy is still in close contact with her Project IMPACT mentor, who she says is a huge support in her life.
“My life is so promising now,” Brandy says. “I have nearly two years clean and sober, a great fulltime job, a wonderful relationship with all four of my kids and a new apartment in CCC housing.” Brandy also just received a $17,000 scholarship to learn computer programming. “Today I have the support I need to do anything I want.” Through CCC, Brandy received nurturing wraparound services that helped her find hope, strength and meaning in her life.