Women Share Their Recovery Journeys and Celebrate Sisterhood at a Women’s Recovery Court Celebration

A group of women shared their journeys of recovery and celebrated their sisterhood in the struggle against substance abuse at a recentWomen’s Recovery Court Session. The Recovery Court event was held at Recovery on the Harbor in East Boston where a conference room was dedicated in the memory of Valerie Brennan, a Community Coordinator at Recovery on the Harbor, a resource center for individuals in recovery operated by North Suffolk Mental Health Association (NSMHA). Ms. Brennan, a Malden resident, passed away November 6, 2021, following an illness.

The Women’s Recovery Court event, held May 2, was hosted by NSMHA and the Malden District Court Probation Department. More than 50 women attended the celebration and dedication.

Jenny Celata, NSMHA Recovery coach, kicked off the event with an introduction of a plaque featuring Ms. Brennan’s picture and her favorite saying, “If you don’t leave your past in the past, it will destroy your future. Live for what today has to offer, not for what yesterday has taken away.”

“This is about Valerie Brennan. Many of you knew her. Valerie suffered. She was a woman in long-term recovery, struggled for a long time, and had a lot of losses,” said Ms. Celata. “There are three words that every time when I think of Val, I think of these words: Perseverance, acceptance, and hope….She persevered and had acceptance for so many things that others would have dropped. She kept going and then she had this hope, this hope she instilled upon everyone else.” Ms. Celata added, “Hopefully, when people come here, they can see the perseverance, the hope, and acceptance because it is key in recovery today.”

Lynn District Court Judge Ina Rae Howard-Hogan served as the keynote speaker and told the audience, “I’m going to speak from the heart. Look at this room. Sisterhood….I am loving it. And, what we’ve all been through these past couple of years and still you rise. You see people like Valerie and you say ‘oh, the battle was lost.’ No, the battle wasn’t lost because you know why. That example that she set for the rest of us is to give you that step to go further. Because you are going to think about her. We are all going to think about her and that is motivational.”

Malden Assistant Chief Probation Officer (ACPO) Judith Lawler acknowledged Recovery Court participants as well as Katie O’Leary, North Suffolk Mental Health Director of Recovery Support Services. Ms. Lawler also recognized Malden Chief Probation Officer (CPO) Marisa Cogliando-Vaughn, ACPO Jennifer Donahue, and Probation Officers Cynthia Russell, Nicole Guidoboni, and Alyssa Yearwood “whose dedication and caring to those who are struggling with substance abuse disorder and mental illness is inspirational.” She also gave special acknowledgement to PO Gianna Franco, “our leader in Recovery Court who works day in and day out to help probationers overcome obstacles and begin a journey of hope and healing.”

“Why are we here?  What is this? This to me as Oprah says is an ‘aha moment.’ A thought, an idea that started in Chelsea District Court about eight years ago under the leadership of Judge Benjamin Barnes has happened and is happening  again today because here we all are, women coming together to offer knowledge, support, and encouragement and hope to share the peaks and valleys, the ups and downs, the pain and the joy, the darkness and the light, and the struggles and successes of your journeys,” said Ms. Lawler.

Other guest speakers included former Recovery Court participants who are all now Recovery Coaches, including Rebekah Cole, NSMHA Recovery Coach and Charlestown Recovery Court graduate, and Danielle O’Brien, Recovery Support Centers Coordinator, Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and South Boston Recovery Court graduate.

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