Brianna started drinking and smoking when she was 12. When she was 15, she was shooting up heroin.

“I was hanging out with all the wrong people because they were just as broken as I was,” she remembers. “I was hanging out with gang members, skateboarders, punk rockers, and anybody else who shared the same feeling of emptiness that I did.”

At age 14, Brianna moved out to live with her grandparents. But when with her friends, she used “meth, cocaine, and anything else you could think of.”

At 15, her mom brought her back home. Brianna waited until her mom fell asleep one night, then packed up her stuff and left. In downtown Bakersfield, she found friends who also struggled at home. She shot heroin a few times, but after watching several of her teenage friends become severely addicted, she walked away. At 18, Brianna quit drugs altogether and started working full-time, confident that she had overcome her early struggles. Then she moved back in with her mom—and started using meth again.

A new downward spiral led to a brief period of homelessness. A new relationship led to a pregnancy—and a fresh desire to get free of drugs. She and her boyfriend got clean after her son was born. Brianna worked a full-time, as well as a part-time, job and took classes to be an RN. But burning the candle at both ends led to depression—and to deal with that, she started taking opioids.

After a year and a half, she was up to 30 pills a day. Unable to hold everything together, she lost her full-time job. She took meth to help ease opioid withdrawals. But by the end of one week, she was completely addicted to meth again. And this time, she lost everything. She asked her son’s grandmother to watch him and “after that, the only thing that I had to turn to was the streets,” she remembers.

She couch-surfed and hung out at friends’ houses, then started dating a friend she’d known since high school. She started to use heroin again and before long, found herself addicted to both heroin and meth. Six months later, she found out she was pregnant. But despite her best efforts, this time she could not quit. The day she went into labor, she tested positive for meth. Child Protective Services offered her a two-month stay at a home for mothers and children. She went, but the day she left, she got high. 

For the next several months, Brianna and her baby boy lived with her mom. But when things there grew difficult, Brianna sent her son to live with his grandmother. Meanwhile, she and her boyfriend wandered the streets, homeless. As often as possible, they would go visit their son or his grandmother would bring him to see them. Meanwhile, Brianna sunk deeper and deeper into shame and guilt, not understanding why she couldn’t get clean this time, when it had been so easy before.

Then Brianna’s boyfriend shared Romans 7:14-15 with her. “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” And the seed of the gospel was sown in her heart. But then came another set-back. When Brianna found out her 33-year-old brother had died of a massive heart attack, she spent a $100 lottery ticket on drugs. “Four days later I woke up behind a dumpster and I cried out to God. I said, ‘God, if you’re real, please either take my life or give me a life, because I cannot do this anymore.’” She stumbled down the street and happened to come across her baby with his grandmother and her brother Justin, who urged her to come home.

He got her an appointment at Teen Challenge and she decided to take the opportunity to try and get clean. Very weak but off the streets and safe in a Teen Challenge bed, she could do nothing but sleep. The first day she could get out of bed, she went to chapel and gave her life to the Lord. Through hard work and perseverance, Brianna moved one step at a time toward a full recovery. After graduating, she completed an apprenticeship and then went to the Ministry Institute. In March 2018, she graduated valedictorian of her TCMI class and came to work at Kern County Teen Challenge.

Now she helps other women just coming into the program. Last December, she regained custody of her youngest son. “Now he lives with me in staff housing on campus and I get to share my victory. We get to show our students the miracles that God can do when we just give him a chance in our life,” she says.