Living Her Authentic Self – Success Story

Johanna Montalvo is proud to say that she is finally able to be the real her.

In 2000 Johanna started her eight year tenure in the military with the Puerto Rico National Guard.  Two years later she found herself stationed in Fort Drum, NY on active duty with the United States Army, where she remained until 2008. After her time in the military, Johanna fell on tough times. She suffered from PTSD, which she tried to remedy with substance abuse.

Dealing with the loss of her mother in 2014 and her relationship falling apart due to her addiction, Johanna found herself suicidal in August of 2015. Just days before the year anniversary of her mother’s passing Johanna was able get into an AdCare facility to detox and start her journey of recovery. She quickly moved on to The Hope Center in Springfield. While sitting in a group meeting in September, Johanna was overcome with guilt. There were warrants out for her arrest and up until that moment she had disregarded them. Johanna knew she could not move forward without righting these wrongs.   She followed her conscience and turned herself in at the Holyoke District Court. Johanna was taken to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee to serve her sentence.

As Johanna awaited her court appearance for November 6th, Alexis Truslow, Soldier On Psychotherapist, visited Johanna and interviewed her asking a series of questions regarding her childhood, trauma, and addiction. At that time Johanna was not aware she was a potential candidate for the Veterans Treatment Court in the Holyoke District Court.  On the morning of November 3rd she was advised to get ready for court. It was there she was given the option to take part in that program. Johanna was released that same day.

In December, Johanna joined the Solider On Women’s Program. Soon after, she was chosen to be on the house committee. She quickly became an active resident who made herself visible and available to the other women within the house.

On January 21, 2016 Johanna was not only the first woman, but the very first person to complete Phase 1 of the Veterans Treatment Court program. As of today she has completed 3 phases and anticipates graduating from the program in May 2017.  While Johanna is only required to report to court once a month, she attends every week to support the other men and women veterans in the program.

With her record, Johanna has had a difficult time finding work; but Dave Felty, from Homeward Vets, believed in Johanna despite her past and gave her the chance to volunteer at Homeward Vets.  In addition she volunteers at Hope for Holyoke, a center that helped her persevere through detox.  Johanna also works weekly lunches at the World War II Club in Northampton

Johanna is now moving into her own apartment in downtown Northampton, which is fully furnished by Homeward Vets. Soldier On’ s Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) program aided her with the moving expenses for the furniture, the security deposit, and plans to provide assistance for her utilities.

Even though Johanna is leaving Solider On, she plans to stay in touch with not only the women from the program, but Sara, Stephanie, and other Soldier On staff as she will continue to get support from the relationships she has built over the past 8 months.

With the support of Access to Recovery (MA-ATR) Johanna has passed her driving test and received a valid driver’s license. She has built her resume with the help Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission and now has an interview at the beginning of August. Johanna’s ultimate goal is to become a Certified Peer Support Specialist so she can provide her peers with the same encouragement that she once needed.