Local survivors of drug addiction, suicide help others in need

PORTSMOUTH, Va - Walking down the corridors of hospitals and psych wards is never easy. Now, there’s a brave group making sure you’re not walking the halls alone.

“A lot of the times when you meet a physician or a therapist or a doctor you’re like how does this person really know what I’m going through. But, peer recovery specialists we do. That’s in our name. We’re peers. We’ve been exactly where you’re at and we’re going to meet you exactly where you’re at," says Lauren Hope, Portsmouth Department of Behavioral Health.

Peer Recovery Specialists have fought and survived addiction, suicide and mental illness. They say the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach have all received grant funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration to have peers help fight the opioid epidemic.

By meeting their patients exactly where they are at hospitals, homeless shelters and even psych wards, they’re connecting people to different resources, housing and of course treatment.

The Peer Recovery Specialists say they’re on call almost every single day at Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center. They say it’s all to provide hope for others going through the same thing the peers themselves just survived.

Ali Brady - a Peer Recovery Specialist - says her life took a turn when she was in her late twenties. She became absolutely dependent on any drug she could get her hands on – even if it cost her, her family.

“My children went from being absolutely proud of their mom to not wanting to speak to me – embarrassed – which perpetuated this cycle of guilt, shame and remorse," says Brady.

But Brady says today is a brand new day. She’s been clean for three years. Now her children are undeniably proud of their mom and how she overcame. She says the feeling of helping others walk the same route she once took also, is helping in her recovery.

“Whether they’re in the hospital bed wanting to die or they’re just searching for their next fix. I know exactly where they have been before. I get to see a relief, a sign of hope for the people I speak to," says Brady.

These peers say they know where those struggling have been – and firmly believe with the right help - they too will make it out.