The road to ‘wellbriety’

The life of a Native American woman is transformed from addict to supervisor.

 By Linda Jackson, Major

Krista Ness was born on the Flathead reservation, in northwest Montana, with two strikes against her already: Her family had a history of alcohol addiction and they lived a dysfunctional lifestyle.

She was an only child, raised by her grandparents. At age 6, Ness’ babysitters gave her a drink of alcohol to see how it would affect her. Molested as a child, she turned to drugs at age 11.

By 10th grade, her bad habits controlled her and her grades plummeted. She eventually dropped out of school.

Removed from her grandparents’ house, she entered the “system” and was placed in foster care. Ness joined various residential youth programs, earned her GED and received vocational training in the culinary arts.

She eventually married and had children, but her husband also had drug and alcohol addictions and the couple landed in prison. She transferred to Billings (Mont.) to serve her time and later participated in “Passages,” a prison release program where she became sober. She credits the Native American 12-step plan—her “Red Road to ‘wellbriety.’”

To earn community service hours, Ness was assigned to the Billings Corps and placed in the kitchen preparing meals for the homeless and poor outreach. With her good work ethic and product, she was offered permanent employment.

The food outreach expanded and soon required additional staff. In June 2011, Ness became the outreach services coordinator, overseeing the same program she completed.

Sober for four years, Ness continues treatment and attends local “Celebrate Recovery” meetings. She looks forward to the release of her husband—who also gave his life to Christ in prison. Ness said she lives her sobriety on a one-day-at-a-time basis.

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