Never a Lost Cause: How Brenda Got the Courage to Start a Whole New Life
Brenda Lehl graduated from Solutions Academy in May of 2021. She overcame PTSD, abusive relationships, codependency and more with courage and grace. We couldn’t be more proud of her and her classmates as they begin this brighter, better chapter of their lives. And we are honored that Brenda agreed to share her story, in her own words, of sacrifice, bravery and hope with us today.
Hiding from the World
“My life had been falling apart for a while. I wasn’t using drugs or anything like that, but I was dealing with pretty severe PTSD. Because of PTSD, I didn’t trust anyone. Everything felt like a mortal threat all the time, and that really hindered my ability to live a normal life. And alcohol was one of my coping mechanisms. Every time something triggered me to panic, I’d go hide and drink. That’s the side of me my daughter was growing up around.
“Everything really fell apart one day when my neighbor started harassing me. I now know he was probably using drugs and not intentionally trying to upset me, but back then it felt so personal. His harassment unhinged me. I holed up in my apartment and cried. I couldn’t care for my daughter. I could only try to hide from my feelings and drink. That’s around the time I lost custody of my daughter, and I realized how far I had fallen.
Rewire My Brain
“Right after I lost my daughter, I was at my lowest. Completely out of the blue, Facebook started showing me information about Solutions for Change and I kind of took that as a sign. I called up my friend who was an intern at Solutions and told her I was looking for a place that could rewire my brain and teach me to do life on life’s terms.
“She explained how Solutions Academy would show me how to build a healthy, independent life. That’s exactly what I needed. No one had ever taught me how to manage my problems or assert myself. Yet the place that could completely turn my life around had always been just three miles from my home. I was so committed to pursuing an education at Solutions.
“But God, I was so scared too. I got to my first day at Solutions for Change. I had just been evicted. Essentially, I had to choose whether to fight for my apartment or fight for my life and my daughter at Solutions. I let my apartment and all of my possessions go, and I was so scared of making the wrong decision. But a Solutions team member saw me with this terrified expression on my face, wrapped me in a big hug and said, ‘Welcome to a new way of life. I am so proud of you.’ And right then I knew I made the right choice.
Building a Community
“Like I said earlier, I did not trust anyone when I got to Solutions. I had a lot of healing and growing to do before I could form strong relationships. I did, however, trust the Solutions for Change process. Every program and class was an opportunity to better myself, so I completely committed to working hard and learning as much as I could.
“Over time, as I got more comfortable in Solutions, their team helped me open up more. They showed me how destructive some of my old relationship habits were, and taught me how to overcome them. I always used to tell my PTSD triggers to the wrong people—people who would use them against me. And that made me feel really unlovable and alone. I tried even harder to get people to care about me, and I lost my sense of self. When I broke free of those behaviors, I could figure out my true self again.
“From then on, I was so empowered to reach out to others. Solutions extended so much trust to me, which made me feel safe enough to trust people again. The best way I’ve created new relationships is through servant leadership. Solutions’ emphasis on servant leadership allowed me to live authentically for the first time. My best self shines through when I’m helping my neighbors. Now, I have this wonderful, supportive community in my apartment building here on Solutions property.
Returning the Favor
“I graduated from Solutions in May. And my life looks so much better than it did a few years ago, especially because I regained custody of my daughter. I remember telling the judge that Solutions was going to be really hard for me, but I had to push through it sober for my daughter’s sake. And honestly, I think the fact that I went to Solutions is one of the reasons the judge allowed me to see her again.
“So my family is reunited and I’m going back to school to become a counselor. An incredible Solutions volunteer actually convinced me to go get my degree. They helped me figure out how to clear my old student debt and now I’m getting straight As. I want to become a counselor so I can join a team like Solutions and advocate for others. I want to be a servant leader who brings out the best in people.
“Solutions is so revolutionary because they believe rehabilitation is possible for anyone. Our own justice system doesn’t even seem to believe that—they tend to see labels as permanent. The courts labeled me an alcoholic and assumed that’s how I would be forever. But Solutions looks a little deeper. Solutions dug into the trauma and heartache that led me to drink and solved those issues. And lo and behold, I’m free from drinking and the emotional weight I was carrying.
“Hopefully, I will be able to make other families feel as heard, cared for and supported as Solutions made me feel. That’s what I want to do with my life now. And until then, I’m so proud to instill the values of servant leadership in my daughter. She’s so brilliant and so kind. I can already see how she’s benefitting from having a stable, loving home I didn’t always have as a child. Our success as a family reminds me that no one is ever, ever a lost cause. Anyone can change.”
We thank Brenda for sharing her amazing story and encourage you to check out the dozens of other inspiring Overcomer stories here on our blog! And if you would like to get involved in the Solutions for Change mission as a volunteer, reach out today to see how you can help.