Profiles in Recovery

Terri Brown

Riding her Harley through America’s national parks, Brown feels a calmness that eluded her traumatic youth. “I love nature, it helps ground me,” says the prominent South Dakota recovery advocate.

Beaten and molested as a child, in a family where her adoptive mother was a binge drinker, Brown buried her pain with marijuana, cocaine and alcohol.

“The sexual trauma was never discussed, the beatings were never talked about,” she says. “The drinking and drugging was a result of my trauma. Today, I know that to be true.” Growing up as a young gay person in the 1960s and 70s, Brown says her sexuality played a role in her addiction also.

While incarcerated for multiple DUI convictions, Brown had a spiritual awakening that led to her recovery. She learned to embrace a new way of living and fill the hole in her heart with spirituality, serenity and peace. That was 19 years ago. Today, Brown is a recovery champion, serving on the Board of Addiction and Prevention Professionals, and helping others get well as Lead Recovery Coach for the nonprofit Face It Together in Sioux Falls, S.D.

At my worst, I was:
Lying, stealing, homeless. I had sex on a few occasions for a $20 rock of crack cocaine. That told me a lot about my addiction . . . In a four-year span, I managed to get seven DUI’s and went to prison twice.

What worked for me:
Spirituality was my saving grace. I found it in a sweat lodge in prison. I knew I was never going to use drugs and alcohol when I emerged from the sweat lodge. It was the most intimate, beautiful, enlightening, heartfelt experience I had ever known in my life. I had a spiritual awakening.

Advice to my younger self:
You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. The trauma you experienced as a child was not your fault.

Rules I live by:
Make peace with your past. The only person in charge of your happiness is you. You. If you don’t like something, change it.

Favorite recovery quote:
“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs” ~ American writer Joan Didion

On my schedule today:
I am a certified Recovery Coach with a full schedule of clients. I help people in either maintaining their recovery, or people walking in and are under the influence at that given time. Whatever I can do to help a person struggling.

Best advice for newbies:
This is not a race, it is not a marathon. Recovery requires giving up the instant gratification. Learn patience and tolerance of yourself and others.

Thoughts on relapse:
The thought will not disappear, it’s not going to for awhile – it was wired into the brain long ago. One cannot suppress it. The point is to observe it with conscious attention. It is no longer a need, only a dysfunctional thought.

What I value most in recovery:
I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin. That is priceless.

I get inspired by:
People who have had a trauma-filled life, who learn that they can come out on the other side with a sense of purpose.

On my bucket list:
I wrote a memoir about my life, “Sick as our Secrets.” The good, the bad and the ugly. I am trying to get it edited so I can get it published. I strongly feel as though it can help save some lives.

What I learned about myself:
I was not a bad person making bad choices, but a fundamentally good person who because of my unresolved pain, anger and insecurity acted destructively.

Proudest moment:
When I obtained a Governor’s Pardon for my three felonies. I knew that I had changed, but for the State of South Dakota to recognize that was – and is –
huge for me.

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