Recovery Spotlight: Jennifer Booth

My name is Jennifer Booth and I am in recovery from drugs and alcohol. I never dreamed of becoming an addict, nor did I ever think that it would be my fate. However, I was out of control from a young age and made plenty of poor choices along the way. I was loved and well taken care of as a child. I was the baby of the family and the only girl. If you asked me back then what my childhood was like, I would have told you that I was forgotten about and no one cared for me but that was just a perceptual distortion. I felt a sense of entitlement as a child like I deserved so much more than what I was given. My parents gave me everything they could and I never felt like I was unloved but something was wrong with me. Internally I was a mess and I didn’t know why. I would take things simply because I wanted them and felt like I deserved it. I now know that was when I began stealing.I always sought validation from other people and I allowed that to influence my behaviors. As a child, I would listen to the same music as my friends or be interested in the same hobbies. I became a teenager and my friends changed. Their hobbies were drinking and I was seeking their validation. I’m a chronic people-pleaser and I didn’t realize how much it was bringing me down. I was using alcohol to balance out my teenage emotions that I didn’t know how to handle. I wanted to escape from my own reality. I never wanted to appear to be vulnerable. I had a million emotions that I didn’t want anyone else to see. Alcohol was easy to get a hold of and I loved the way it made me feel inside. I felt confident in myself. As time went on, I began to experiment with drugs like marijuana. I liked how much faster weed could produce the same effects. I wanted to get out of my own mind as fast as I could. Marijuana did the job in half the time. I smoked weed every chance I got. I should have known then that I had an addiction issue but I just thought everyone was doing the same thing.I went to a New Year’s Eve party with a guy when I was fifteen years old. I was interested in him and I made some poor choices to be accepted by him. That night I tried opiates for the first time and I fell in love. Nothing in life had ever made me feel the way opiates did that night. I would do opiates every chance I could. It completely consumed my life before I even realized. I thought I was just enjoying life and being a teenager. I spent every day with this man not because I cared about him, but because he supported my habit. I moved in with him at sixteen because withdrawals became my biggest fear. At the same time, I didn’t want my parents to witness the things I was doing. I thought staying away was like protecting them from the truth. My addiction became increasingly worse and it took over every aspect of my life. I tried heroin once because someone I trusted had offered it to me. I was resistant but I am a people-pleaser trying to support a drug habit. Heroin produced the same effects with half the money spent. I found my new love. Drugs never truly made me happy though. I had an angry attitude that put a wedge between me and other people. I looked at others as lying and deceiving people because that is who I was. My outlook on the world was very negative. I dropped out of college because I had lost hope that I would ever be anything more than a drug addict. That idea became confirmed in my mind when my drug-dealing boyfriend went to rehab for the first time and I truly began to experience withdrawals. The insanity of addiction kicked in full-force. I was doing crazy things to support my drug habit. I was supposed to be getting my life together while he was gone, but instead I got worse. He relapsed when he came home because nothing had changed. Knowledge about this disease is not enough. Things continued to get worse and he eventually went to a long-term treatment. I felt abandoned and like something was wrong with me. He was simply just trying to save himself. I moved back home and I had to figure out how to support this habit on my own. I was under my parent’s roof again and addicted to drugs. I no longer had somewhere to go and hide my addiction. It was right in front of their face every day. I felt horrible about it, but I was more concerned with drugs than their opinion of me. My parents discovered that I was a junkie and they were devastated. I expected them to freak out and scream, but they didn’t. In the calmest manner I have ever seen my mother, she said “I know what you have been doing and all I want is for you to get better.” Terrified of withdrawals, I asked my parents to help me get on Suboxone. I tried to be better but Suboxone was just a crutch for me. I wasn’t getting any help for my mental obsessions and I stayed sick inside. If I couldn’t get drugs, I would do Suboxone. I was miserable and lost. Eventually I gave up on Suboxone completely and just continued getting high.I had a best friend when I was younger who lost her father to drug addiction and I always said that I would never do drugs. I had a lot of “never will I ever” but those diminished as time went on. I never wanted to be a “JUNKIE” and I even as a heroin addict I had a very negative opinions on junkies. I knew that using heroin intravenously would produce a greater effect with less heroin. Again, I fell in love with the effects produced by the drug. I had people in my life but they were only there because they helped my addiction in one way or another. I never thought of myself as a prostitute because I would only date drug dealers to support my habit. I wasn’t sleeping with random men. I didn’t realize until later on that I was doing the same thing a prostitute does. I didn’t care because I didn’t care about anything or anyone.I was arrested once at sixteen for theft but nothing serious for quite a while. I got to a point though where I had completely ruined the relationship with my family and I was homeless. I had nothing in my life that I cared about except for heroin. I was stealing regularly and had no regard for the people I was hurting along the way. I ended up stealing my father’s credit card and a book of checks. I never thought in a million years that my father would press charges. He loves me and he only wants the best for me. The best thing for me at that time though was me being incarcerated. No human power could have relieved me from my addiction and I needed a rude awakening. I had been arrested before that point but I was either released or bailed out. That time though, the jig was up. I was locked up and no one was coming to save me this time. I now think of it as a divine intervention. I spent seven days on suicide watch and it was horrible. I was going through withdrawals and for the first time my mind had cleared and I realized how incredibly alone I was. The damage I caused had pushed everyone away. I had my first spiritual awakening in jail. I saw what my life had become and I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I became willing to do anything to change my life. I had known for quite some time that I was a drug addict, but I was finally ready to do something about it. I immediately joined project 103 which is a treatment program inside the jail. I learned a lot about myself and why I felt so lost inside. As much as I hated being secluded from the rest of the world, I needed that time to focus on myself. I realized I had such a negative view on others because of the negative view I had on myself. I learned to take responsibility for the mistakes that I made. The most important thing I learned is that my past does not have to define my future. Internally I was feeling much better but I still had a lot of back-up time hanging over my head and no release date. I didn’t want to stay in jail but I didn’t know if I could be success on the street either. On July 1st, 2013 I was visited by a man named Paul Wolford and he told me he was the coordinator of the Drug Treatment Court. I didn’t know he was coming and I didn’t know who he was but it was no coincidence that he came to visit me that day. He asked me a series of questions and if I was willing to work for my sobriety. He also told me that I had obviously not been able to manage my own life and asked if I would be willing to let someone else take over. I didn’t like that statement but it made sense to me. I agreed and signed the paper.I was released from jail and sent to the Gale Recovery House. I had gone from being in jail and living with nine other women to coming home and living with eleven other women. I didn’t like it and I was resistant to the process in the beginning but I had no other choice. I was still trying to repair the damage from my past. I began going to intensive outpatient and meetings every day. I met other clean and sober people and that was the best thing for me. I didn’t have any friends when I came home and I all of a sudden was surrounded by recovery. Drug Court was strict and provided more structure than I cared for but it was the best thing for me. I truly had no idea how to live life and I had so much help along the way. I got in trouble for a lot of minor things in the beginning like not doing my chores at the house and not getting a job. I would get sanctions and I felt like drug court was against me. I didn’t realize that staying sober is not enough. Being clean and sober is about changing who you are into a better person. It was a lesson learned the hard way, but I needed to learn it. I found help and support in a 12 step program. I got a sponsor who started taking me through the twelve steps and this truly helped me begin to change internally. There were also enough women there that no matter the problem I faced, someone there could relate to how I felt. My life truly began to get amazing. I had acquired the material objections but I was also receiving the gifts of sobriety. I was comfortable with myself for the first time ever. I could be proud of myself. I was a good daughter and a good friend. I had positive people. I had a relationship with the God of my understanding. Life was great.I began to get confident about myself and my recovery and thought it was okay to slow down a little and enjoy the amazing blessings I had been given. I went to fewer meetings and virtually stopped doing step work. Before I even knew what was happening, I was making irrational decisions and I relapsed on alcohol. Alcohol hadn’t been my drug of choice since I was a young teenager and I thought I could handle one drink. The truth is that one is too many and a thousand is never enough. I was looking for pills by the time I got home. I had given up my own recovery but the worst part is that I took my fiancé back out with me. I was still living my life the same way but I was battling regret and shame internally. Drug Court caught on to me and I was locked up on a sanction and sent to rehab. I spent thirty days in jail waiting to get a bed in rehab and then did another thirty days in rehab. I got my mind cleared again and refocused on what is most important, my recovery. I went home but nothing had changed there. My fiancé was still getting high and only started taking Suboxone because I begged him to. I knew that I couldn’t live with someone who was on drugs and expect to stay sober. Him being on Suboxone worked for a very short period of time, but he wasn’t doing anything about his mental obsession. He was still sick.I went to a meeting on November 28th, 2014 and then came home to find my fiancé dead on our kitchen floor from a heroin overdose. The pain I felt inside was unbearable and I reached out. I found that so many people stood behind me and supported me. I never had to be alone thanks to my recovery family and God. I wasn’t alone. Although the pain was there, I stayed sober for a little while. Drug Court offered me every resource they could think of. I had the tools for success but I wasn’t willing to put in the work. Eventually, I started comparing out to others instead of comparing in. I isolated myself from everyone that loved and supported me. The inevitable happened and I relapsed. My friends put together an intervention and I felt horrible. I wanted to get better but my addiction was far too strong for anyone to be able to change it. No matter the amount of love I received, the drug was my only solution. The true insanity of it all was that I was abusing the same drug he died on, heroin. Drug Court locked me up on a sanction again and I had to complete project 103 in the jail. They said it was to save my life. I hated that I had to go, but I knew they were right.There I was again, sitting in jail, alone and grieving. The picture of my fiancé’ laying dead on the floor haunted my brain and I didn’t have drugs to cloud that memory. That was pain far greater than any physical thing I had felt before. I felt bad for his children he had left behind and everyone that loved him. I couldn’t fathom how they felt. I decided then that I never ever wanted to make another person feel the way that he had made me feel. I dedicated myself to making my recovery stronger than ever.I got a new sponsor and I admitted that I didn’t have the answers and I needed help. When I was feeling weak, I admitted it. When I needed advice, I asked for it. I took suggestions and focused on myself. My number one priority was recovery and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that. I regained all of the materialistic things quickly but that wasn’t what mattered. I completed the twelve steps for the first time in my life. I had a spiritual awakening as the result and felt an inner peace far greater than any effects produced by drugs before. I found happiness and peace. I have been clean and sober since February 6th, 2015 and that is my greatest accomplishment in life. This has not been the easiest thing, but it is by far the greatest thing I have ever done. Not every day is perfect, but it is worth it. I have regained a relationship with God as I understand Him and I know that if I continue to do the next right thing, I will be blessed. I still have my flaws and I still fall short, but my life is a million times better than it ever has been before. I am surrounded by amazing people who truly love me and only want the best for me. I have completed drug court and I am back in college and following my dreams of helping others escape addiction. I don’t need others to validate me today. I am proud of who I am. I can accept life on life’s terms. Life is going to throw you some curve balls; all that matters is how you handle it.