Interview with Terri Brown

This week Liv spoke to Terri Brown, a Lead Coach with Face It TOGETHER in Sioux Falls. Terri has an incredible story, featuring a difficult and traumatic childhood, addiction, and prison time. Terri found recovery and has completely transformed her life. She now helps others find recovery, and has a special interest in helping clients with childhood trauma, criminal justice involvement, and as those in the LGBTQ community.

In her spare Terri travels around the Country on her Harley, and has discovered a love for Assemblage Art. She hopes to have her manuscript, "Sick As Our Secrets," professionally edited. She is married to her wife, Christine, and they have been together for six years.

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Liv: Your addiction started as young as 11 years old. What role did drugs play in your life?

Unfortunately I was surrounded with childhood trauma inside and outside of my home. I grew up in Oakland, CA. A very toxic environment. The abuse was sexual, verbal, and physical as well as feelings of being abandoned. The Sexual abuse started when I was about 7 years old. I started smoking weed when I was about 11 years old. I was able to escape from my environment.

Liv: You found recovery at age 37. How did prison influence your decision to find recovery?  

It was my 7th DUI. Sitting in prison, I told myself that I could no longer accept being in prison for my addictions. It was the 2nd time I was in prison and my last time in prison. I had a spiritual awakening in a sweat lodge on the prison grounds. I finally got connected! The opposite of addiction is connection. I learned to humble myself when I was released from prison, I vowed to myself to build a strong foundation to build my personal house of recovery on.

Liv: How did you recover? Did you use a specific pathway?

I used the 12 steps in the beginning. I needed the structure to keep me moving ahead. I am not a religious person, but I am spiritual.

Liv: Professionally, you volunteered for five years with Face It TOGETHER before becoming a paid peer coach for four years. You’re now a lead coach. Tell me what brings you the most joy in your role?

“The purpose of life is a life with purpose”. I actually tattooed that on my left forearm. My purpose in life is helping other’s find theirs. I get a paycheck for doing something I love.

Liv: I love the description of Face It TOGETHER, which describes itself as “a team of social entrepreneurs who reject the status quo and bring a revolutionary, meaningful and sustainable solution to our nation’s top public health crisis.” What is revolutionary and meaningful about your approach to substance use disorder?

It’s the “peer to peer” aspect. Honestly, when I can sit across the room with that one individual just one on one and tell them “I get it” and they can see the genuine empathy I have towards them, it’s huge. When I can share my childhood trauma with them I can see a break through.

Liv: Part of your specialty is the LGBTQ+ community. What unique challenges does this community face both in terms of addiction and recovery?

The drug and alcohol scene play a huge roll in the LGBTQ community. South Dakota has come a long way since I first moved here from San Francisco in 1993. Acceptance of one’s sexuality is a hurdle in the Gay community, more people are talking about their sexuality and learning to be more comfortable in their own skin.

Liv: You work in the criminal justice system and serve as part of the Drug Court Team in Sioux Falls. How do you influence those involved in the CJS finding recovery?

Once again this is where they lived experience comes in. I understand their mindset, their survival skills verses life skills. A large number of people in the CJS are victims of childhood trauma, some of the stories I hear are heart breaking. We can’t keep locking people up for addiction, it’s not working.

Liv: You serve as a member of the South Dakota Board of Preventative Professionals too. How do you see that we can locally and nationally prevent the crisis that we are currently experiencing?

Getting informed, talking about the drug epidemic, talking about it helps erase the stigma attached, everyone has a back story as to how they ended up where they are today. Listen.

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Liv: Last, what are your top five recovery tools?

1) Communication.

2) Teamwork

3) Self- awareness

4) Resilience

5) Art Therapy.


Olivia Pennelle