FREDONIA, N.Y. — A Fredonia woman is taking her own journey with addiction and recovery and using it to educate others.
Brianna Jaynes also lost her sister, Whitney, to addiction in 2018.
"So her and I had this, like, bond that you don't share with anyone else," explained Brianna Jaynes.
Brianna and her younger sister, Whitney, both grew up with drug addiction issues as teenagers. Brianna says Whitney started using when she was 13 or 14 and passed away in 2018.
"After having a year of clean time, and she had gone through a lot of treatment programs prior to that. She had suffered with heroin addiction, opiate addiction, really anything to, like, escape her mind," Brianna said.
Both sisters went into treatment programs, and because of her age, Whitney went to Kids Escaping Drugs.
"Kids Escaping Drugs did a lot for her, but after she left there, now she wasn't in an institution. Now she had to rely on herself. So she started to feel lonely. She started to feel isolated. Started to fall back into those same patterns," Brianna said.
But at the same time, Whitney was also speaking on panels for KED.
"She really wanted to help people and felt like she was doing something in this world, like she had found her path, and I remember her saying, 'I don't think I'm going to live long.' She had made this comment multiple times in our lives, and I thought she was out of her mind, and she kept saying, 'I just don't think I'm going to be here forever, but at least I'm impacting these kids because I don't want them to go through what I went through,'" Brianna said.
Brianna says Whitney was honest about her struggles with mental health and it all inspired Brianna to join the panels, too. Whitney had a setback and returned to KED, but continued doing the panels after she left the second time.
"She went to drug court, and they were going to drop everything because she had had a YO, which is like a youth offender coverage, but at the same time, they ended up dropping all her probation, and taking everything off her record, and when she went in front of the judge, she said, you saved my life, thank you for saving my life, and at this time she had been struggling a little bit more and a couple of hours later, I couldn't get a hold of her," Brianna said.
Brianna would soon find out her sister had passed away from a drug overdose in a parking lot. That same day, Brianna found out she got her nursing license, and while she helps people heal every day at work, she says her passion is speaking about Whitney and her own recovery.
"I feel like part of her passing away helped save my life. I mean, we were both addicted to Fentanyl, and it's now been seven years for me, so obviously that scared the, you know, out of me, so at this point I just think that this story needs to be told," Brianna said.
"When you share those experiences with somebody else, it gives them hope even when they feel like they don't have any because as an addict, when you are in the middle of being a substance abuser, you don't have hope. Hope is the last thing you have," Brianna said.