My life today is beautiful…beautiful because I get to experience it. I wasn’t living before. I was merely existing.

When I was first asked to participate in this social movement to help end the stigmas attached to recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, I didn’t think twice about it.  The answer was yes automatically.  I sat back and realized that this isn’t about me.  This is for all those who may be afraid to ask for help, those who I’ve known that have died never receiving help, and those who are helping others while recovering themselves one day at time.

My experience has shown me that active addicts and alcoholics are perceived to be choosing to live this horrific way of life.  They’re looked down upon as moral defectives and treated as such.  I can tell you that this is far from the truth.  I have the disease of alcoholism and addiction, which before recovery no longer allowed me any choices in my life.  I used to live and lived to use.  Numbing myself at all costs and waking up every day wondering if today will be the day I’ll die.  Was this what I was choosing?  Was I consciously choosing to continue to hurt myself and hurt those around me?  No. I was enslaved to my addictions.  The obsession of getting the next high at all costs was overwhelming.  The pain, agony and shame attached to active addiction is pure hell.

This is by no means an excuse or excusing my actions.  At the time I was completely unaware that there were other people like myself who have found and been given a way out.

Recovering people are courageous in every sense of the word, and who reach out their hands to the still suffering, living spiritual principles, all while claiming never to be perfect but free from their chains of addiction.  These people have helped save my life and continue to show me a way of living that I remain grateful for every day.

Since being in recovery and without any mood or mind-altering substances, I no longer treat others or myself the same way. Through this way of life I have been able to make amends and keep moving forward along the path placed in front of me.  I’ve felt a freedom I’ve never experienced.  This freedom is true, authentic and pure, and I have come to believe its god given.  The day I start to take this freedom for granted and I don’t have any gratitude is the day I start heading closer to a drink or a drug.  I’ve learned through others that this type of thinking can be redirected at any time to once again live in the solution of recovery.

Genetically at birth I was predisposed to have the gene of this disease. On my father’s side of the family is a long history of alcoholism and other various addictions.  My great grandfather left a bar one night drunk, slipped hit his head on the curb and died in the gutter.  A direct result of this disease, and I was warned growing up to be careful with my usage of alcohol and drugs.  I didn’t listen and was defiant to the core.  Before I started getting high at the age of fifteen I adopted an eating disorder and would also cut myself. Growing up an abusive and dysfunctional household I learned quickly to walk on eggshells and retreat into isolation.  The first time I used drugs and alcohol it was a means to an end an escape from me to be able to check out.  It was never a question of over indulgence.

As my disease progressed the sicker I became and the consequences worsened. I never acquired much at that point in my life but what I did have I lost. The downward spiral was fast and my bottom was hit hard. After two DWI’s, court cases, one abusive relationship after another, physical illness, mentally and spiritually broken, out of options and nowhere to turn at twenty-three years old I asked for help.

I felt relief and never knew how heavy a load I was carrying until it lifted piece by piece.

The state placed me in an institution where I remained for two months.  It was there I experienced hope for the first time in my life.  Hope that I will live and never have to feel that way again.  I listen to the speakers that would bring meetings in and found myself relating to them.  I learned what exactly addiction is, and that I’m not a bad person but a sick person.  I surrendered and shared my inner most painful thoughts and traumas.  I felt relief and never knew how heavy a load I was carrying until it lifted piece by piece.

From this rehab I reluctantly went into a woman’s oxford sober living house. I was in so much fear to make this move. I learned quickly the need to take direction and that I don’t have the answers to help myself, all I know how to do is get high.  With the regained support of my family off I went down to Ocean County from Monmouth County.  The girls at the house were awesome, welcoming me in with open arms.  We went to meetings together, cried together, laughed together, called each other out on our BS, and supported one another through everything life brought to our doorsteps sober.

I can’t and won’t stay sober on my own without help from other recovering women and men.  This is a gift I’ve been given, and I don’t know or question why I received this while others haven’t.  I just know that it is my responsibility to give it away.  To give away what was freely giving to me in order to keep it.  My life today is beautiful…beautiful because I get to experience it.  I wasn’t living before.  I was merely existing.

With Acceptance, surrender, honesty, open mindedness and willingness I’m able to be of service in whatever way God sees for me on any given day.  I am able to be there for my friends and family like never before.  I’m able to find who I am and who I’m not and accept both.  Every day is not always easy but every night I lay my head down sober I thank God for it.  Each day I wake up no longer hopeless and full of despair. Every new day brings endless possibilities when I remain sober and each day brings about the change that I have to seek to remain sober.  I was told as I entered that institution “you never have to feel this way again” and I never have.  Today I am working towards my college education and helping other women through sponsorship.  My name is Jenna Reidy and I am in long-term recovery.  My sobriety date is July 31, 2008.