PART ONE: Life in recovery

Posted on January 28, 2021 | Success Stories

BREWER, Maine (WABI) – Active addiction is a crisis in our communities. But, from countless stories of destruction are remarkable stories of redemption.

Now, a new grant is helping workforce teams in Maine bridge the gap between employers and those eager to get their lives back.

Recovery of any kind is a road which takes unbelievable strength, dedication and hard work.

But, there’s proof all around us that it’s possible to come back even better than before.

”Honesty is huge in recovery.”

For Kayty Jalbert it began with telling herself the truth and believing.

“You have to really get real with yourself and be honest with yourself,” she says.

A discovery found in a dark place: overdosing.

“I had my child with me and she saved my life. If she wasn’t there I would not be here today. That’s overdose is what kind of shook me. I say it scared me straight.”

Straight into the recovery network here in Maine – a long way from where she lived in Connecticut but it’s that network that got her in the position she currently holds as a peer specialist at Aroostook Mental Health Center.

“I owe my career to it now, my future career.”

She takes her experiences to help others find their way, too.

“I was a heroin user intravenously for five years. I had a not great work history. I worked as an exotic dancer and I did a lot of theft in my addiction and just to go with that. I’ve overdosed four times. Narcan has saved me on four occasions. Thank God for that stuff.”

Now, she’s making a difference in her life, her kids lives and of the lives of others in her community.

“All that struggle has led me to where I am and being able to be a voice for this community.”

It’s something she’s taking even further thanks to a multi-million dollar federal grant being facilitated by workforce development boards throughout the state to help those in recovery find successful opportunities.

“I have issues with financial aide so through this program I was able to get funding to go to school.”

Through the grant she’s learning to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor.

“Having my job and being able to be part of my community, I’m on a bunch of boards now and all these things go to making me have more self-esteem, making me feel better about myself, and in doing that, not only am I good and better for my family, but I can also be an example for other people,” says Jalbert.

“Often times employers get two for one because when an individual is in recovery they’re hungry to go back to work. They want to go back to work,” says Joanna Russell.

Paving a road of redemption through recovery is something Joanna Russell has seen over and over as executive director of the Northern Workforce Development Board.

“I can tell you there are hundreds of individuals that have gotten associates degrees and bachelors degrees.”

For years now she’s worked with teams around the state to help anyone find work, including those in recovery. This new grant is taking it even further.

“It’s 6.2 million dollars has been allocated to the state of Maine and in our local area.”

Peer connectors like Katie McKay are there every step of the way.

She can also help because she’s been there, too.

“I have struggled opioids for much of my life and it got me into some legal trouble which in turn put me into drug court. Right before I graduated, this position was offered to me and I was so grateful. I am enrolled in this grant as well. So everything that anybody goes through, registration, the whole process, I go through that as well.”

Getting her life back is something she wants others to know can be a reality for them, too.

“I cry some days because I’m so grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to show them that they can do it, too,” says McKay.


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