This is an interview with Jennifer Simonis, a young lady who has an amazing story to tell. She was looking for help and called a hotline for drug and alcohol treatment centers, and now she works at that same company, Aid in Recovery, helping others find their path to sobriety. What is amazing is that you can call into Aid in Recovery and speak to her.
First, here is her story:
What was the deciding factor that drove you to get treatment?
I woke up in a jail cell, it wasn’t my first time in jail, nor was it the first time in a “special” cell that I’d earned a right to as a result of decisions made under the influence. I looked around trying to understand where exactly within the jail I was, no window-no more than a slit in the door, no bed pad, no blanket, but a heavy lead suit – a turtle suit as it’s affectionately called, was on me. Then a wave of reality washed over me. Where was the young woman who went to college with both academic and athletic scholarships, the high school senior voted most likely to succeed, the vibrant, happy little girl fishing on the docks? Where was the smile, the optimism, the promise of a bright future? In that moment I knew that every avenue I had pursued simply wasn’t enough to turn my life around. I needed something more, but what? I had to take a leap and try in-patient treatment.
What was your initial thought when your first entered the program?
Honestly, I was terrified and trembling. To say I was shaking uncontrollably is an understatement. I couldn’t stop crying and every word I uttered I stuttered through. I kept trying to recoil and hide myself in my baggy clothes, dwarfing my substance abused body, thin and frail, and my eyes black and sunken in. I was ashamed, scared, and nervous. Despite my fear, my attempts to hide and close everyone out as I always did, the admissions staff, the techs, the therapists and clients alike welcomed me with warmth and encouragement. A sense of positivity and promise that a life presumably lost to darkness still had a light shining bright at the end of the tunnel.
Did you have times where you considered leaving treatment and why? If so, did you try to convince people to support your thoughts?
Absolutely, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I did. I had moments where I thought I was “cured”, where I could conquer the world. I had moments of missing my bed, my friends, my family, and my pets. Moments I spent wondering what was happening in the world without me, what was I missing out on? I knew that no one on the outside, no one who truly loved me was going to support me wanting to leave so I never tried. Of course I could have called the folks I used with and they would have rallied the troops to bring me home, but no one who really cared would have even listened to my “woe is me” claims. I dug in deep and knew that I had to keep working, had to hang in there and sort through all the years of burying my worries, my troubles, my triumphs and struggles in a sea of booze and a blizzard of cocaine.
What motivated you to get through your treatment?
Without question it was the promise that the once happy, vibrant, positive, and successful woman buried within could be released from her chains. She could break the cycle and live an amazing life. I didn’t want to hurt anyone anymore, didn’t want to hurt myself. I wanted more. I remember the first smile I had in treatment. I didn’t even recognize myself for that split instance. The corners of my mouth which for years had been stuck pointed to the floor were turning up and I loved the feeling that was coursing through my body. I wanted more of that, more honest, pure unadulterated happiness.
What are some key strategies you learned in treatment that you still use to help you stay clean today?
I learned to confront life as it happened. No longer was I running, avoiding phone calls, questions, and conflict. I learned how to approach every instance of life positive or negative and process through it. I learned how to recognize when the onset of anxiety, depression or my ADD were beginning to flare so that I could manage it before it managed me. It’s amazing how early your body lets you know when things are happening if you are clear in your mind, body, and spirit.
How did your views on treatment change from your first day to your last?
I suspect like most people, I had this vision of treatment at a very institutionalized setting. A sort of cross between a revocation of freedom and a hospital. It was nothing like that, it was a place where people finally understood me, where I was able to understand myself and learn how to live again. I was safe to work through my core issues all the while protected from endangering and damaging myself or others. I was able to engage in positive sober experiences and realize I could enjoy my life sober. It wasn’t all work and education about substance abuse, it was learning how to live again. We went to the gym, went bowling, deep sea fishing, horseback riding, and even had a Super Bowl party. I was living a healthy life, free of substance and enjoying it!
Was it hard for you to leave your friends and family for an extended amount of time?
It was hard. I made a very abrupt decision to go. I originally had planned a date a month away and saw that I couldn’t wait, and had to go immediately. I made a call to Ricky at Aid in Recovery, whom I’d been working with to get into treatment. He was incredible and with me every step of the way, he lined up transportation for me and I was on my way within an hour. I was worried about my animals. Who would care for them? Would they be ok? How would my bills get paid? What about my job? Then it hit me! What good am I to myself or anyone else if I continue this way?
What was it like when you went home after treatment?
It was tough and yet exhilarating. My house was still upside down from when I left. I had spent 90 days cleansing my mind, body, and soul. Now I had to face the reality of the disastrous, unorganized life I was leading before. I had to confront the damage and neglect my active addiction had done to my home. I found booze, straws, and bags throughout my house. The house didn’t resemble a home, it was more of a storage shed. Like I said it was tough, but in many ways it was positive. I never wanted to go back to living a life like that again, and no longer was I comfortable with a life of chaos. I longed for organization.
Was there anything or anyone that was involved in your life prior to treatment that is still with you and helping you in a positive way?
Those that were with me prior to my addiction, who were with me for the right reasons are absolutely still present in my life and they are incredibly supportive and protective of me. The relationship we share now is so much more healthy and intimate than ever before. There is no hiding, no lies, and just pure honest relationships. I’m free to be me and they aren’t walking on egg shells or in constant fear for me. It’s amazing! It’s liberating!
Where would you see yourself today if you didn’t go through treatment?
Honestly, I would probably be in jail if even alive. Prior to treatment my life was not a priority nor of value to me. I wasn’t consciously suicidal, but I definitely didn’t care whether or not I lived to see the next day. I secretly hoped each night when I closed my eyes I wouldn’t wake up, back then I thought not only would I, but the world would be a lot better off without me. There would be no more pain, no more lies no more suffering caused to anyone by me.
How has your life changed since you went through treatment?
I’m living a life more bright and beautiful than I had ever imagined. Every relationship in my life be it platonic, familial or romantic is genuine. They’ve soared to new heights. My feelings and my emotions are awake in beautiful intensity and my mind is clear and able to process every moment of the gift of the second chance before me.
As said above, you can call into Aid in Recovery 24/7 and reach and speak to Jennifer or any one of her colleagues. We are here to help those fighting addiction find a place for recovery.