By Liana Jacob
MEET THE mum who became an ALCOHOLIC at TWELVE-YEARS-OLD, before PRISON gave her the nudge she needed to turn her life around – and she’s UNRECOGNISABLE now.
Author, Jen Elizabeth (42) from Temecula, California, USA, was brought up in a home of addictions and mental illnesses and when she was just three years old, her parents joined a cult where she was molested until she was nine when they escaped.
The years of sexual abuse she endured lured her into a destructive path and she had her first taste of alcohol when she was just 12 years old, in the form of a bottle of vodka. Since then she used alcohol as a way to find peace, which progressed to opiate drugs.
She was in and out of hospitals and became dependent on them. Throughout this dark period, she became homeless and was offered heroin and a syringe at which time she didn’t care about what happened to her. She was a frequent IV heroin user and spent 13 years in and out of homelessness; living in cars, motel rooms and was arrested many times for drug possession, being under the influence, receiving stolen property and violations of probation.
In 2010, she was in her state prison cell, halfway through her sentence, when she had an epiphany and decided that she was worth more than just existing or getting by the way she was. She decided to get help and turned her life around.
Though the road to recovery was a long and challenging process, she re-built her life and set up a daily routine of drinking coffee in the morning, praying, meditating and playing with her two children; Gage (6) and Ava (2). Having children has helped her appreciate her life and given her a sense of purpose. She plans to be open with her kids about her journey and believes that you are never ‘too far gone’ to turn your life around.
“I was born to a woman who knew nothing about maternal love. She was allusive and abusive; mentally, physically and spiritually. She was also an opioid addict,” Jen said.
“I would beg for her love; trying to be pretty enough, skinny enough, polite enough for her to even just hug me.
“I was raised around a lot of sadness and confusion. My parents joined a religious cult when I was three; I was molested there until we escaped at age nine.
“I was consumed with shame and secrets from my childhood. When I was twelve years old, I found a bottle of vodka; It was the first peace I had ever known. I was an alcoholic from that age on.
“It progressed to opiates. I doctor shopped and ER hopped, growing more and more dependent on them and sick without them. I became homeless and was offered heroin and a syringe.
“At that point in my life I didn’t care about myself or my life at all. I became an IV heroin user and spent around thirteen years in and out of homelessness, living in cars and dirty motel rooms, in and out of jail; desperate and destitute.
“I hated myself; I had never faced my sexual abuse or the abuse I suffered in my home. I thought I was worthless, dirty and unlovable.
“I was arrested many times for possession of drugs, under the influence, receiving stolen property, violations of probation etc.
“I was a slave to my addiction. I did anything and everything I needed to in order to survive, to stay well, to silence the shame in my heart.
“Each time I was arrested it was humiliating and terrifying because I knew the withdrawal I would soon be suffering.”
It wasn’t until almost nine years ago that Jen felt the overwhelming sensation that she had to dig herself out of the dark hole she fell into. She had to re-learn basic day to day chores and tasks like shopping, communicating with people and building a life for herself.
She has since published a memoir about her experiences that you can buy from Amazon. It was published in January 2019.
“I ended up in state prison; halfway through my sentence I had what I believe was a divine intervention. All the sound left my cell and a sensation came over me,” she said.
“A tiny spark was ignited that finally believed just a little bit that I was worth more than that life, that I wasn’t meant to die alone from an overdose in some riverbed as a transient whose identification was pending.
“It’s been a long road; addiction had filled every fibre of my being. I had to learn how to be a human; to shower and make my bed, how to talk to people and go to the shops.
“I’ve had a lot of healing work on my childhood trauma, which is the root to all of my problems. I had to learn that none of that was my fault or my burden to bear.
“Up until I was thirty-four, I had never lived; I survived. Existed. Recovery literally gave me a life for the first time.
“Being a mum has definitely made it clear about what kind of home I wanted to raise my children in. They are little still, but I plan on having very open communication with them about the lessons I’ve learned in life.
“I want them to know that nothing they ever do will make me love them any less and that anyone can turn anything around.
“People are shocked and proud of me for speaking about the hard stuff and dedicating my life to helping encourage others that they are worth healing.
“The childhood trauma was the hardest thing about my recovery; that shame and PTSD was deep in my bones. It is a journey I will be in forever, but I get so much stronger with every step I take.
“I don’t have much contact with most of my family. Unfortunately, they continue to exist as they always have, and I’ve set boundaries for my own life to thrive.
“But the friends in my life who I call family today, are inspired by everything I’m willing to put out there in order to help people.
“Helping people who struggle is everything to me. It’s why I do everything do, to love people where they are and to show them that they are worth so much more.
“Alcohol is glorified and normalised even though it is so deadly. Especially the wine mum culture. It’s so poisonous to themselves and their children. I don’t believe in shaming people, but I try to show how beautiful life looks like without substances.
“If you’re sick and tired, if you’re harming yourself, or even if you’re just questioning your relationship with substances – there is a different way to live.
“I believe in recovery; there is nothing too bad and no one too far gone for healing to reach. You are not alone. There are so many of us out here recovering together. I love you.”