Woman shares story of addiction, recovery with AHS students

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Alina Branscombe shares her story about being in recovery from an addiction to drugs and alcohol to Alpena High School students on Friday.

ALPENA — On Friday, students at Alpena High School were able to listen to Alina Branscombe, who is currently recovering after an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Branscombe shared her story about how she went to eight long-term residential treatment centers and went through a long battle with heroin. She told the students about her struggles during her recovery, and where she is in her life today.

Six years ago, Branscombe, 36, came to Sunrise Centre in Alpena from her hometown of Grand Ledge, given the option of making the move or going to prison. She came to Alpena with the mindset that she was going to go into recovery, stay in recovery and not relapse like she had done in the past. After 90 days, Branscombe left Sunrise Centre to start a new life and has been sober from drugs and alcohol ever since.

While using drugs and alcohol, Branscombe had two sons, ages 12 and 15. She lost custody of her oldest son while using drugs and alcohol, but regained custody of him during her recovery. Her youngest son lives in Canada with his father and comes to visit Branscombe regularly since she is not able to go to Canada.

Branscombe came to AHS Friday to talk to students because high school is where her addiction to drugs and alcohol started.

“Maybe if I had the opportunity to hear someone else share their story, it may have altered some of my choices,” she said. “I also have a passion for helping people.”

Branscombe told the students to be the best version of themselves, which is something that Branscombe has followed during her recovery.

“For me, being the best version of myself meant that I accepted who I love and what I love and that I was able to take that information and be able to help other people,” she said. ‘I think that’s important, even in high school and even as an adult, but to be able to love who I am and love who they are and not be jaded by some of the outside media. Those are the types of things that could be influential for their future.”

While at Sunrise Centre, Branscombe met Geneva French, who is a substance abuse therapist. Branscombe and French stayed in touch after Branscombe left Sunrise Centre.

“I thought her presentation was amazing,” French said. “This was the first time I watched her presentation and it really helped me connect with her during her high school and early years.”

French said Branscombe is a walking miracle and there are many like her. French hopes the students take what Branscombe told them to heart.

“The ultimate hope is that they never start, but the reality of it is that they understand that there is a very fine line between abuse and dependence and crossing that line is dangerous,” she said. “When we had a couple students stop after the presentation to talk to us, that always is hopeful for us because there is always hope.”

French has enjoyed watching Branscombe grow as a person ever since she arrived at Sunrise Centre six years ago.

“It’s really remarkable. She’s a remarkable human being because recovery has not been particularly easy for her,” French said. “To watch her growth and to be a part of that has been just a privilege and that’s why I love my job.”

Most of the time Sunrise Centre doesn’t know what happens to its clients after they leave, but Branscombe is one of the clients who stayed in French’s life after she left, which French is grateful for.

“You hold onto that,” French said. “She will never say that she’s made it, but she’s had a wonderful journey and has done a great job.”

After leaving Sunrise Centre, Branscombe stayed in Alpena and received her bachelor’s degree. French said the center doesn’t recommend clients stay in Alpena, but it was good for Branscombe to stay.

“The recovery community in Alpena is very big and welcoming, and she truly found herself here,” French said. “She really did not need to go back into the environment she was from because she was not strong enough at that time to go back. She was also very careful about going to visit down there.”

Branscombe now works in the substance abuse field as a case manager in Lansing. She is a year away from receiving her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

“She’s done beautifully in school. She’s embraced education and she’s done a lot in educating other people too,” French said. “The remarkable thing about her is that her recovery is only part of who she is, it doesn’t define her. She’s a wonderful mother and student, and a great friend.”

French said one Branscombe’s goals is to come back and live in Alpena after her son graduates from high school.

“It’s been a blessing really to be able to give back to other people,” Branscombe said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.