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 lived a dysfunctional lifestyle.

She was an only child raised by her grandparents. Her babysitters introduced her to her first drink, at age 6, by giving her a swig to see how it would affect her. Molested as a child, she turned to drugs at ages 11-12. It seemed her only option as she had no family support.

Throughout elementary school and a tribal-run high school, Ness enjoyed the education experience and excelled at her studies. But by the time she reached the 10th grade, her bad habits were beginning to control her. She began to struggle with her schoolwork and her grades began to drop. She dropped out of school.

She was removed from her grandparents’ house and placed in foster care. While a ward of the state she joined various residential youth programs. She earned her GED and received vocational training in the culinary arts. The skills she learned would become the key that opened the door to her interaction with The Salvation Army.

A series of difficult situations and failed relationships dragged Ness down even further. She eventually married and had children. Her husband also had addictions to drugs and alcohol. At one point they found themselves in prison because of their abusive lives.

The prison transferred her to Billings (Mont.) to serve her time. She spent most of her time in a prison release program called “Passages.” During her time at Passages she became sober, giving credit to the Native American 12-step plan, “The Red Road to Wellbriety.” She also believes this program started her on her journey of wholeness, sobriety, reconciliation with her family whole bringing her closer to God. She looks forward to the day when her husband is released—he also came to know the Lord in prison—and their family is united again.

Ness has been sober for four years. She continues her treatment and attends local “Celebrate Recovery” meetings.

Ness came to the Billings Corps where she was assigned to serve 33 community service hours a week. The corps assigned her to preparing meals for their homeless and poor outreach.

Kitchen work! That’s where her cooking classes came into play. She did such a good job that in November 2010 she received an offer for permanent employment.

The meal program expanded and required service coordinator and additional staff. In June 2011 she was offered the job of Outreach Services Coordinator over the same program where just a year ago she performed her mandated duties in exchange for her public assistance benefits.

Ness lives her sobriety on a day-to-day—each and every day—on a day-to-day basis.


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