‘Being Sick Is Not Your Only Option’: Bryanna’s Story of Recovery

Beginning at age 15, Bryanna Thomas struggled with alcohol and other drugs. But today, she’s thriving in recovery. Bryanna sat down with her cousin, Shatterproof Ambassador Taylor McCaughey, to talk about the challenges of addiction, and finding the strength and support to move past it.

Taylor and Bryanna, in white dresses, posing for a photo

Thanks for sitting down with me, Bryanna. Can you tell me about your history with addiction? How did it begin?

My addiction began around the age of 15. I started experimenting with drinking and smoking weed but by the time I got to age 19, I started using cocaine. I would drink heavily after having arguments with loved ones and it would make me feel better. I also was bullied and made fun of a majority of my teen years which contributed to my using and spiraling out of control. Using was a “white light” experience for me, a way not to think of the bad things in my life. It put my mind at ease, and allowed me to shut it all out.

How did your addiction affect your life? Your family? Relationships?

Addiction affected my whole entire life. It affected my family because I was so concerned with getting high and drinking, that I would constantly be out partying and rarely be at home. I made getting high my first priority over my family and relationships. I was not present and I wasn’t able to do what I wanted to do because I was high. I was somehow managing to get myself to work on most days, where I was around kids, and to this day I am thankful nothing happened to those kids while they were under my care.

How did your recovery journey begin?

My recovery journey began the day I lost my job. I was so sick and I couldn’t get high because I didn’t have any money left. I was coming down from my high while looking in the mirror and I just saw someone who wasn’t me. I was so tired of arguing with my family, I couldn’t pay my bills, and was doing a number of things that were not me. I finally reached my breaking point and knew I had a problem and that I was not okay. I reached out to my mom for help. She called a local hospital, and they referred us to a number of treatment centers. I wasn’t willing to get the help but I knew I needed it.

What are the most important things you do to sustain your recovery?

The most important things for me is having a sponsor and being 100% open and honest with her and everyone in my life. I call it the “WE” program because I am letting others in. I learned that my own thoughts and control led me down the wrong path and in order for me to have a different outlook in life, I need to reach out to others. I do not feel afraid to reach out anymore if I am having a bad day or moment. Going to meetings also assists with sustaining my recovery, but I am more of an action taker. I’ll attend the meetings but always participate by communicating with others and building relationships.

What’s the most challenging part of recovery? What’s the most important?

The most challenging part of this whole journey for me was when I had to go to treatment and therapy and had to recognize the underlying factors of why I am the person I am, and doing the work to figure out what made me this way. The most important thing for me is being open and honest with myself and others and also not judging myself for my past. Another challenging part is maintaining my mental health. I am bipolar, and I know my extremes if I do not take my medication. It is important for me to take things one day at a time, and to focus on being healthy all the way around.

If you could say one thing to others in recovery, what would it be?

I would tell others in recovery to not be afraid to reach out and to not go through this alone. There are so many people going through the exact same thing and you are—if you reach out, you will never be alone. There are so many resources to get help and recover. Being sick is not your only option.

What would you say to others who are unsure of leaving their environment or familiar surroundings for long-term treatment?

Leaving home is scary and not easy. It is very uncomfortable but in order to get better, sometimes you need to leave. For me, staying somewhere where I used constantly would have made my recovery a lot harder. Building a new foundation is a fresh start, and if you do so, you will have fewer triggers and bad memories.

What do you want your family and supportive loved ones to know about what they’ve meant to you during this last year?

I am so grateful to have my family and friends in my life after all the things I’ve done to them. Thank you for staying by my side while continuing to love me and be here for me. You make me stronger than ever just knowing you loved me when I couldn’t even love myself.