Editor’s note: In an effort to protect the subject of our interview for personal reasons, we have concealed her identity by naming her Jenny. Her story of addiction is told here.
Overcoming drug addiction is no small feat, for Jenny it took more than 10 years to get to where she is now. If you passed Jenny on the street you wouldn’t stereotype her as a typical “drug user,” however the disease of addiction does not discriminate.
“I started using drugs when I was a freshman in high school. It started with drinking for the first time after a football game and later that year I used marijuana. It made me feel cool and helped me fit in,” said Jenny. “I kept doing that occasionally, never regularly, for a while. It was only a matter of time before my choice of friends and curiosity got the best of me. I moved on to trying many other substances. It didn’t matter what I used, the ultimate goal was to escape myself and not have to feel anything.”
In high school, Jenny used drugs on and off until she graduated. When she was 19 years old, Jenny was arrested for the first time and had to go to court. The result of court was probation, but she learned how to quickly manipulate the system.
“I would clean my system out, pay enough money so they wouldn’t bother me, and be present in a decent manner,” said Jenny. “I had numerous appearances in the court system from 19 to the time I was 27-years old.”
Throughout the years, Jenny went to two different rehabs — one close to home and the other farther away. Her parents had no help from the court system and had to find a rehab on their own for their daughter. The rehab close to home made Jenny feel like she was on vacation and that she didn’t have to work to overcome her addiction. Her probation officer helped her parents find a better-fit rehab the second time around.
“At the first rehab, I had three cooked meals a day, shopping trips, and I even went home on Saturdays and Sundays,” said Jenny. “The problem was I didn’t do the work I needed to do to stay clean while I was there. The second time my probation officer found the rehab and the judge said that was the only way she would release me was if I went to the facility. I had been sitting in jail for 30 days and would have done anything they said to get out. Turns out that was the best decision of my life.”
Jenny’s days at her second rehab didn’t include going shopping or going home on the weekends. She had to work 14 to 16 hour days and was required to take an in-depth look at her character defects.
“It was hard, probably one the hardest things I have ever done,” said Jenny. “Contact to your family was cutoff for the first 60 days and I didn’t see them for the first six months. However, I learned a lot of tools that I still use today, almost six years later.”
One day Jenny decided enough was enough and that she was going to stop running, and stop lying to the people around her. She wanted to get her life back on track, so she stepped up and made the decision that enough was enough.
“My children were a deciding factor for me to stop doing drugs,” said Jenny. “Them, and the fact that I was just tired. At that point I had nowhere to go but up.”
If anyone can account for how hard it is to overcome addiction, Jenny is the person to talk to. Her advice for parents or family members who have a relative, friend, or someone they know who is going through the same thing is to just realize that people who suffer from substance abuse are not bad people.
“I would tell people that there is such a thing as ‘loving someone to death.’ Sometimes the greatest thing you can do for someone in active addiction, is to stop enabling them to continue with the behaviors. It’s unfortunate, but a majority of the times it’s only when we have lost everything, that we realize that we are ready to ask for and accept help.”
Jenny has turned her life around in hopes of helping people who have gone down a similar path that she has gone through. It has been five and a half years since Jenny has put any kind of drug or alcohol in her body. She is a full-time mom of two and works as a substance abuse counselor. Not only does Jenny have a full-time job and take care of her kids, she is also going to school in hopes of achieving her master’s in social work.
“I am of the belief that if I can help one person get through addiction then I have changed the world. It used to be that my only purpose was to get high and slowly kill myself, but today my passion and purpose is to save lives and reunite families,” said Jenny. “I also want to educate people on the disease of addiction. There is such a stigma around it that sometimes people are ashamed to ask for help. I hope that someone, somewhere will take something from this and it well help them no they are not alone.”
Kristian Russell can be reached at 336-258-4052 or on Twitter @YadkinElkSports.