We are happy to share that we have received one of our first “Thank you” letters from a sunrise fund recipient. Kayla Brancaleone, of Gloucester, sent us a thank you for helping fund her treatment and would like to share her story. This month she will be 5 months clean and sober. Recovery is possible!
I was born and raised in Gloucester and have lived there my entire life. I was raised in a great home with parents who loved me and showed up for me the way that parents should. They gave my brother and I all the tools that we needed to succeed in life. I went to Catholic school for elementary school. My mom was always driving us from one sporting event to the other. I got As and Bs all throughout school. I always struggled with anxiety, people pleasing and feeling like I didn't fit in. I was always searching for something to fill the void I had inside. I experimented with drugs and alcohol in high school but it wasn't anything that got out of control and that most kids my age weren't doing as well. I still played varsity sports, maintained good grade and got into college.
When I was 19 and in college, I had a surgery and was given prescription opiates for the pain. I liked the way that they made me feel and they filled that hole inside that was begging to be filled. I became addicted to the pills and when the prescriptions ran out, I started buying them illegally. Eventually someone suggested to try heroin because it was cheaper and had a more potent effect. Like most people, I always said this was something I would never do but a lot of people I knew was doing it. One day I couldn't find any pills and I tried it. All of a sudden I was 19 years old and a heroin addict. Nobody grows up wanting to be a heroin addict but here I was. I was a full time employee, a full time college student and a full time heroin addict. I hung out with people who got in trouble and bad really poor choices.
For a long time I didn't face any consequences to my actions. I did terrible things for drugs and hurt a lot of people, especially my family. I tried a lot of different ways to get clean for a lot of years. I went to detoxes but never stayed clean for long afterwards. I tried therapy and outpatient programs. I tried methadone and Suboxone and different psychiatric medications and those worked for awhile but inevitably I would always find myself with a needle in my arm. Somehow I was able to graduate with honors from college with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. I felt like a hypocrite because I was doing drugs which made me a criminal. I could make my life look good on the outside by holding down a job but on the inside I was becoming more and more hopeless. I was filled with guilt and shame and I was completely incapable of telling the truth.
Eventually my life fell apart and I finally started facing consequences for my actions. I got arrested and placed on probation, I got fired from my job of 2 and 1/2 years, my family was disgusted with me. I couldn't stay clean. I needed help and I was too ashamed to ask for it. I ended up violating probation by failing a drug test for fentanyl and cocaine. The judge ordered me to the women's detox program at the Essex County Correctional facility in Middleton where I had to withdraw from 125 milligrams of methadone, cold turkey, as well as 1600 milligrams of Neurontin. Those were the most painful 44 days of my life. I had never tried long term treatment after a detox and everyone was suggesting, actually demanding, that I go to long term treatment. I was terrified by the idea but I had done things my way for a long time and proven to myself over and over again that my way doesn't work.
Soon after, I heard about the Sunrise Fund. I remember as a younger softball player, idolizing Jill when she was on the varsity softball team. I was so sad when I heard she passed away. I knew Christian as he graduated high school the same year as my older brother. I knew he had gotten his life back and had many years of sobriety. I called my Dad from the detox in Middleton and told him that I needed to find a place to go after I was released. He suggested that we reach out to Christian. I was desperate and willing to do whatever it took to get my life back. Christian made a phone call to a woman he knew named Sheila who owns a sober house in Dorchester called the H.O.W. House, which stands for honesty, open-mindedness and willingness. They had a bed available and after some back and forth with the courts, the Judge agreed to let me go there and I have been there ever since.
The Sunrise Fund paid for my first three months at the H.O.W. House. I now have a job again and can afford to pay rent on my own and am learning how to be independent. I have a sponsor who has brought me through the 12 steps. I am now the assistant house manager and next week I will have 5 months clean and sober. I am so grateful to the Sunrise Fund for giving me this opportunity and I will be forever indebted to them for what they have done for me. Thank you Christian, Jackie and everyone at the Sunrise Fund for saving my life! I could not have come this far without you. I know my family thanks you as well as they now have their daughter back. If anyone reads this and is struggling with addiction, please know that your not alone and please reach out for help!!!
* full permission was given by Kayla to use her name and picture with her story. Sunrise fund will not give out information unless written consent is given by recipient.