Meet Sandra Allen, a Port Angeles community member, a mentor and friend, a Peninsula Behavioral Health team member, a Recovery Hero.
Looking at Sandra’s radiant smile, it is hard to imagine the hardships she has faced over the years. For over a decade, Sandra grappled with mental health and substance use disorder (SUD). The grief of losing a family member, a pain killer prescription for a broken wrist, and the twists and turns of daily life—all contributed to a dependence on substances.
Sandra described the concept of a holistic wheel of wellness, an idea that there are different areas of health that must be prioritized and balanced. She shared that while amid her addiction, “there was a piece of my wheel missing”. An unbalanced life led to strains on health, family, and employment. Sandra was faced with unemployment, the prison system, and navigating social and systemic stigmas.
Sandra became sober while serving time in prison. It was the first time she had the opportunity to prioritize self reflection. Upon her release, she continued to commit to her health. She pursued ongoing treatment, got a job (despite the many barriers individuals with criminal backgrounds often face), leaned on a strong support system, and dove into her education with a focus on addiction studies.
“I was sober for a while before I actually began my recovery journey.” It was through a stable pursuit of education, exercise, working through guilt and shame, and family, that she embraced recovery.
“Recovery is taking care of yourself in a holistic way,” working towards a balanced mind, body, and spirit. The challenging and important work of prioritizing your own health is essential to creating a better future for yourself. The impact of Sandra’s recovery goes beyond herself, as she now dedicates her work to supporting others. She works with Peninsula Behavioral Health as the Supervisor of Outreach Services. She oversees the REAL Program, PATH & Peer Pathfinder, Jail Transitions and the Hub and Spoke program. The Outreach Services team provides peer support and works to connect individuals to community resources using their lived experience to inspire others in their recovery journey.
Sandra described recently meeting a young woman through her work. Sandra greeted her and shared a bit about her own recovery journey, the young woman connected with her and was inspired by Sandra’s 5 years of sobriety. This authentic connection, conversation rooted in deep care and genuine interest, ended up inspiring a change in this woman’s life. Since this interaction, she has received SUD treatment, obtained safe and supportive housing, and is meeting up with Sandra to go see the new Top Gun movie.
Sandra encourages places of employment across the region to “not discount a person because of their past.” She shared the lifechanging impact of working for an organization that values her experience and doesn’t judge her, and instead of creating barriers, they have opened doors that have allowed her to make a beautiful difference within the community. “Peninsula Behavioral Health believes in me.”
OCH is honored to work alongside Peninsula Behavioral Health and Sandra Allen, co-creating a recovery friendly region.