Facing one’s demons takes incredible courage, especially when their grip is tight.
“I turned a 12-week rehab program into a year-long program,”said Karlyn Walker of Omaha.
She grew up on the north side of the city surrounded by addiction. The negativity eventually overpowered her, leading to a decade-long struggle with her own alcohol and meth habits. About three years ago, her piercing wake-up call arrived – a drug charge while she was in the midst of raising her daughter and attending nursing school.
“I was months away from completing the nursing program,” she said.
From rock bottom, Karlyn began to claw her way back. She completed treatment and learned, from her counselor, about Wellbriety Family Nights. Sponsored in part by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, Wellbriety falls under the umbrella of the Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition and its Soaring Over Meth and Suicide (SOMS) program. A woman of Native American descent, Karlyn has been attending loyally with her 13-year-old daughter, Adrionna, for more than two years now.
“It opened my eyes to things that I had shut out a long time ago,” Karlyn said.
During twice-monthly meetings, Wellbriety focuses on community and cultural connectedness. It brings recovering parents and children together to strengthen the bonds between them, steeping them in Native American culture and tradition through singing, dancing and crafts, whether it’s making medicine pouches or a pair of moccasins.
“It’s bringing them back to learning their ways,” Karlyn explained, “because that’s something that we’re losing.”
In addition to influencing youth, Wellbriety encourages adults to go beyond their sobriety and recovery, commit to a life of wellness, and realize that they can be role models.
“It’s my hope that our community members are not only equipped with the skills needed to live healthy and productive lives but to also have a feeling of belonging and self-worth,” says Nicole Tamayo, SOMS program director. “If we can positively reach even one youth or family in our community to work toward a better tomorrow, then our dedication and hard work is worth it.”
With Adrionna starting high school this fall, Karlyn wants her to know “that there is a healthy life out there – and she can have it.”
She credits the Wellbriety program and its staff and volunteers for giving them another way to relate to each other. Forging that bond, in the wake of her struggles, is helping Karlyn keep a promise made long ago.
“I remember my father telling me to be a good mom – to be the best mom. I’ve got a promise to keep,” she said.
As hopeful as ever, Karlyn recently started a job as a research interviewer with MSR Group.
She and Adrionna enjoy going to the library together and seeing movies. Mom is thrilled with the young woman her daughter is becoming.
“That’s indescribable. It’s awesome. It makes my heart feel really good,” she said.
Knowing that she is overpowering her demons – that feels good, too.
“I think the biggest thing in terms of recovering was going back to day-to-day life, not knowing how to be sober, function day-to-day and do things as a normal family,” she said. “Now, I feel like I can approach society again, not feel out of place and not feel like people are whispering behind my back.”
To others who are facing struggles, her advice is straightforward: “You’ve got to close your eyes, hold your breath and take that step. You can’t ever give up.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.