Where Jennifer grew up, a small town south of Birmingham, AL, using drugs and alcohol was a common way to pass the time. Addiction is a disease, and rehab was not taken seriously as a treatment. “Where I’m from, people aren’t ‘sober,’” she says. “Things like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) often ended up as the butt of many jokes.”
Yet, at just 23 years old, Jennifer realized she had a serious problem. Now a mother to a young son, she found herself unemployed and addicted to heroin. “I had zero experience with anyone in my life that took the disease of addiction seriously,” she shares. “I didn’t know what to do and was scared of taking the first step in getting help.”
Overcoming her fears, Jennifer decided to start a treatment program at Bradford.
“When I checked-in to Bradford on August 8, 2011, I was like a fish out of water,” she remembers. “I thought rehab was a place where you learn how to get drunk on the weekends and not have to drink all week long. I was skeptical of the whole ‘abstinence’ idea because I didn’t think it was possible.”
Though Jennifer was anxious during the intake process, where Bradford’s rehab programs begin, she was comforted by the caring staff.
“Everyone was so nice to me. I figured they hadn’t heard me answer all of those questions about how many drugs I was using or how much money I had stolen from my family to support my habit,” she says. “During my luggage search, I guess the lady could tell that I was incredibly nervous, so she said, ‘I was right where you were several years ago. Don’t worry. It gets better’. That immediately put me at ease.”
Like many in the very beginning of their recovery process, Jennifer wasn’t ready to open up and was even a bit skeptical that therapy could work.
“I was raised to believe that people don’t talk about their feelings. ‘Suck it up and move on’ were things that people often told me while growing up. When I was sitting in group therapy, talking about how I feel or listening to people talk about how they feel, things seemed far from therapeutic.”
Guided by her counselors and her peers in the inpatient treatment program, she finally found the courage to share.
“I was in inpatient treatment for almost two weeks before I finally started to open up. I found that I was comfortable in my group and was not afraid to talk about myself anymore,” Jennifer recalls. “It was really strange at first, making new friends that had been through a lot of the same stuff I had. What really made things easier was having a licensed counselor leading group that was also in recovery. You never realize how alone you’ve been until you finally find a group of people you can relate to”.
In her third week at Warrior Lodge, Jennifer had a revelation. She decided to fully follow the treatment plan and dedicate her energy to overcoming her addiction.
“I remember looking at a picture of my son that I had already seen at least a thousand times,” she says. “For some reason, this time was different. I would call this my first moment of spiritual awareness. While staring at this picture, I felt all of the fight drain out of me.”
“Doing things my way had landed me in rehab, so I decided to give it a shot. I’d do whatever my counselor suggested I do. It wasn’t like things could get any worse for me at that point. I marched straight to my counselor’s office and just said, ‘You win.’”
After completing her inpatient program, Jennifer’s discharge recommendation was to continue treatment in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) and sober living. The anxiety of the unknown crept back into her thoughts, but her dedication to recovery helped her persevere.
“I was not excited about opening up to a new group of people in IOP or about being away from my family for six months in sober living, but I wanted to try before I just gave up and went home,” she remembers. The decision to continue her care in sober living changed the course of her life.
“For me, I don’t think I would have been able to put all of those things into practice without going to sober living. It was there that I learned how to build my new life around my recovery, not just try to fit recovery into my life somewhere. Those women helped hold me accountable and taught me to have fun in sobriety. I was able to build a firm foundation in recovery on which I could begin rebuilding my life.”
“I decided to continue my care in the IOP. This decision helped me in my recovery immensely,” Jennifer says. “It gave me 28 days in a protective bubble, talking about what’s going through my head. I still craved the support and fellowship from people that were going through the same struggles and relied on the advice and guidance of a professional counselor who genuinely cared about me and my recovery.”
Jennifer found that by participating in the intensive outpatient program, she was able to build a diverse community that rallied behind her no matter what.
“I learned that the new people I met in group therapy could show me different perspectives,” she shares. “The IOP program even helped introduce me to the local Alcoholic Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups in the area. I always saw a familiar face when I showed up to meetings. I believe that the benefits of IOP are immeasurable.”
“Bradford has an entire continuum with every level of care. I was open-minded and willing enough to trust their process, and it was totally worth it. Relapse is often a part of people’s journey to recovery, but by the grace of God, it’s not for me,” she says. “I know I would not be here, almost ten years sober if it weren’t for the program and people at Bradford. It works if you work it!”