Catrina Grigsby: From Successful Entrepreneur to Hell & Back

BY AGE 19, CATRINA GRIGSBY was well on her way to securing a spot on some publication’s 30 under 30 list. FORTUNE has one, as do many local and regional magazines—the lists are the annual tallies by journalists on the lookout for dynamos in business, government, nonprofits, and the arts who are likely to make a splash in their areas of focus.

Catrina was born in Louisiana and raised in Arkansas in a “good family.” There was no drug abuse and the church was an important part of their lives. In 1990 Catrina’s mom, a hair stylist, moved to Seattle and opened a hair salon. In 1991 Catrina and her sister followed and Catrina went to school to become a licensed cosmetologist. In 1993 she took over her mom’s salon while mom went on to open salon number two, also in Seattle.

With this leg up, Catrina went on to grow the salon’s revenue and build a highly successful career styling hair for the fashion industry and some rich and famous around the country. With an intense focus on her career, she traveled to Detroit, Los Angeles and Oakland to attend hair shows and conventions.

At age 19 Catrina was a stunning financial success—her salon alone was raking in $89,000 in annual gross revenue. But like some newly-minted, highly-paid athletes who get into trouble, Catrina’s youth worked against her. She started living in the fast lane and had no respect for her hard-earned money. Partying all the time like everyone in her age group, Catrina became a regular user of alcohol, ecstasy and pot, which was socially-acceptable behavior among the crowd she ran with. She did not know her use would progress into serious abuse and major problems.

Catrina ran her salon for four years from 1993 to 1997, then moved back to Arkansas because she missed her family and the local culture. She obtained her Arkansas state cosmetology license and again drew a large clientele; she still drank and smoked pot.

After a year and a half Arkansas started to feel small. She moved back to Seattle and re-opened her salon, ABCII (after her first, Another Bad Creation); again, Catrina made it work. Now she was using cocaine and methamphetamines, and more and more of it. A year passed and she endured a tubal pregnancy that triggered a deep depression and more drug use. Even though she saw her mother and sister all the time, they never knew anything was wrong—she was an expert at hiding her addiction.

In 2000, a compromised Catrina reasoned that if she left Seattle she could start all over. Flush with money, she moved to Las Vegas and planned to get her Nevada license and open a hair salon. What she didn’t realize was that she was only running from her problems, not solving them.

Catrina’s drug habit ate up her savings. She ended up homeless and engaged in prostitution to earn money. She would lie and try to manipulate people, anything to keep her supply flowing. From 2000 to 2009 Catrina was arrested over 50 times for possession of drug paraphernalia, prostitution, loitering, trespassing (to name a few); eventually she landed in prison and spent a year.

Finally, Catrina was ready to acknowledge the extent of her problem. She had not spoken to her family on a regular basis for 10 years. Feeling guilt and shame, she had cut contact and didn’t even know whether her immediate family members were dead or alive, and they knew little of her. Catrina asked the judge if she could enroll in a rehab program, which was a direct route to getting out of prison.

The staff at The Salvation Army Southern Nevada’s Adult Rehabilitation Program (ARP) welcomed Catrina with open arms. After completing ARP in November 2009 she was enrolled in TSA’s Lied Vocational Training Program, which provides homeless adults employment and life skills training and case management leading to job placement. After six months Catrina became a lodge attendant in the ARP program she had successfully completed; in early 2011 she was promoted to case manager.

In November 2012, Catrina got a new job, one that she intends to build a career on: an addictions counselor for women in ARP. She is currently studying for a degree in psychology and will major in mental health or social work; her goal is to work with teens. Her work in the ARP coupled with her status as a college student qualifies her for state licensing as a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor Intern.

Although The Salvation Army is a church-based organization, Catrina always appreciated that they “do not push God on you” but allow you to open your heart on your own terms. She is now a member of the church.

Before The Salvation Army Southern Nevada, Catrina felt hopeless and thought she would die a drug addict. The Salvation Army taught her to love herself and forgive herself—and she felt loved by the folks at TSA. Says Catrina, “The concept of love is powerful.”

Previously published in diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for The Salvation Army Southern Nevada.