Losing Her Daughter but Not Her Will to Help Others
“When she walked into a room she owned it. She had a really big personality. While she was in school, she was gifted and talented. She was a dancer for many years with a local company here in town and she had done the Nutcracker several years in a row. She had a beautiful voice. She was very artistic and very smart. So, she was just, all around, a very cool girl. She was …. she was my baby. ”
Picetti tried as best she could to save her own daughter.
“For five years I worked with her to try to save her life,” she remembers. “But there was also another component, and that was mental illness. So, she was, very high functioning and her mental illness was borderline personality disorder …. And so even though she was high functioning, you would never tell that she had a personality disorder. But what happens is when people have a mental illness no matter how small or how large they tend to self-medicate. So, Jane started self-medicating at a young age...For five years, I tried saving her life and it was a journey you know, in and out of treatment centers and just lots of therapy and trying different medications…”
She said Jane had been clean for a while before her death, going back to school and taking part in family Sunday night dinners. On the last family dinner she attended, she remembers talking with her about hamburgers and food and her classes at TMCC.
“If you become clean and you stop doing the drugs for an extended amount of time, and then you try them again…. a huge danger is overdose. And that's what happened.”
From Devastation to the Jane Aubrey House
Picetti says the loss brought her family closer together, but that initially her daughter’s death was devastating.
“I mean I couldn't get out of bed for the first couple of months. I mean losing a child is the most painful thing I think a human being could ever go through ... but it's been three years. And I just had a hand in opening up three recovery homes. The first recovery home was named after my daughter. It's called the Jane Aubrey House and it serves six women between the ages of 18 and 25ish who struggle with opioid addiction.”
She says typical recovery programs of 30 days just don’t seem to work.
“It was really important for me to build a program that was longer than 30 days. I wanted something that was going to be as long as it could take in conjunction with therapy and back to work opportunities and peer support. So, something that's complete, a complete program for these individuals. So, they have a better chance at recovery and sustaining that recovery and being successful in life. The type of people I work with are the younger generation. So, between 18 and 25 ish because you know they still have a chance … “
Success and Heartbreak at the Ridge House
The Ridge House also caters to young men facing opioid addictions, and she says there’s both satisfaction of huge success and total heartbreak in the work she does.
“We have another home that is for boys, the same age group 18 to 25 ish. And I just love them so much and they know that I love them and it's really fun to see them grow. The biggest challenge is relapse but it's also super common. Matter of fact …. they say it can take five to seven times, someone relapsing five to seven times, before it sticks, before recovery can really stick. That doesn't happen all the time but that is kind of the norm number. So, the biggest challenge is to see these young individuals slip and fall. We have lost a few which is heartbreaking for me because they're like my children. I mean, I really do care and love, love, them and I get to know their families and such. But then, to see them succeed is just so incredible … with smiles on their face and when we sit around and tell each other what we're so thankful for and you know they tell me that they're thankful that they're not on the streets anymore and they're thankful that they're not going through withdrawals anymore, because it's super painful coming off opioids.”
The Ridge House also deals with gambling addiction and alcoholism. She would like to see more beds for the program and more longer term recovery options.
A TEDx Talk at UNR
Watch Julia Picetti above speak publicly about her journey. She says speaking out has opened minds and doors. "I was fortunate enough to do a TEDx talk and because of that talk I've actually had people in other communities across the United States reach out to me and asked me to come to their communities and help them and teach them how to bring their community together.... My church got involved, Grace Church, and they actually started a recovery program called HopeFirst and it's a six-million dollar program with three million dollars of it going back into our community here in Reno for additional homes to house these people who are going through a recovery …. "
Follow the Money
Picetti says people should also look into what caused some of the opioid epidemic, and how excessive manufacturing, prescription and use of pain medication and painkillers such OxyContin, Percocet, Palladone, Vicodin, Percodan, Tylox and Demerol, among others, left many people being addicted and then also sometimes moving on to heroin.
“I think that people need to follow the money I think that a lot of people have gotten very wealthy off of this crisis and you know …. you look at the pharmaceutical companies and pain management so you know back in the 80s it was always a doctor who didn’t want you to be in pain you know …. and that's what they were taught. They were taught that… It just escalated in a lot of prescriptions being prescribed when they probably didn't need to be…. And here we are like 30 years later and this crisis.”
Battling the Lack of Affordable Housing in Reno
Picetti is also getting involved in efforts to help with the lack of affordable housing in Reno as she sees the issues of addiction, homelessness, and mental illness as being all intertwined. She sees this as a crisis on the entire West Coast.
“Our town is growing and it's prospering and so therefore a lot of people are moving in. And I'm happy about that. I'm happy about all of that. I think it's really great because we just went through a horrible recession and you know we're coming out of it and we're coming out of it stronger. So, I am happy about that but …. you know we have over three-thousand homeless children in Washoe County …. and because of the influx and because we are becoming super popular for lack of a better word, it's raising the rents … and it's making it difficult for people who have a lower income to afford a place to live. Even the motels are getting expensive. So that creates a lot more homelessness. So, it really is unfortunate and it needs to be addressed and I know our cities are addressing it. But things don't happen quickly all the time …”
Once Homeless Herself, Now Fighting for Underdogs
Picetti was homeless herself in her teen years, after she ran away from her dysfunctional childhood home when she was 15. “I did not graduate high school. I lived out in the streets for two years. My home life wasn't as good as it should have been. I just had a rough childhood without getting into details and it was just best that I left. It was scary. I slept in alleyways. It was cold. I went several days without eating and then everything that comes along with homelessness and also begging for money. I was an only child and I decided that I didn't want to continue being homeless. My faith helped me and I had an epiphany that I really wanted to have a good life.”
For those addicted, she says they should realize that what they have is a disease, which they shouldn’t be ashamed of. She recommends seeking help as soon as they can from those they trust.
“It could be a family member or it could be a friend or it could be a doctor. Whoever. But just have that conversation. If you're truly down and you're in your addiction you just need to have that conversation with someone that cares for you and get help because having a disease isn't something that you should be ashamed of. You need help and you need love and you need tools for the rest of your life to be successful.”
Love and Reaching Out
If you feel a loved one or a friend is addicted, only love is the answer she says.
“You really need to love them where they're at. And sometimes that can be very difficult … It's a disease and you need to get them help and never give up on them. Now I'm not saying not to have boundaries and such but never give up on them. If they want to get help, do whatever you need to do to get help there. There's a lot of help out there. I mean we don't have enough but there is a lot of help out there and you just you need to love those individuals.”
As she fights for her daughter’s legacy through her work and convictions, Picetti also fights for her own.
“I would like to be remembered as a person who cares deeply for the underdog,” she said. “Maybe not so much the underdog but I really care deeply about people who have maybe made mistakes but want to stand up and walk in the right direction and really try. I care deeply about those people and if I can help them have a better life because they want to have a better life and they want to do the work I will certainly be there for them. So that's how I want to be remembered.”