Thursday, October 18, 2012

Coming clean

Last summer, I somehow ended up telling my boss's boss's boss - the director of behavioral health something or other for the hospital system I work for - that I received drug treatment as a teen through the program I now work for. That sort of disclosure is fairly well received in my company, as we like to hear about successes. So the big boss asked if I was willing to share my story as part of fundraising to expand the adolescent program, to put a face to the assertion that adolescent treatment works. So I agreed to that, and they used a few quotes from me in a PowerPoint presentation to investors.

Then the PR department emailed and asked if I would agree to share my story in our community newsletter. With my full name. and my picture! That freaked me out. I like to stay private. I believe that addicts in recovery are not more qualified as drug counselors, and I earnestly defend my colleagues who are not addicts themselves. I also like my anonymity, my ability to appear as a "normie", and not be some magic special success story of recovery, or freak who couldn't figure out how to have a good time without getting obliterated. And there's still judgement and stigma about addiction and recovery. So, I took my own good advice and consulted with my wise people - in this case, my boss, her boss, and my mom. My supervisors were understanding of my fears but encouraged me to do the story. Finally, my mom said something that really resonated with me: "We have to tell people that treatment works."

So I agreed to do the story, and the writer - Andra Van Kempen - was so awesome. She asked great questions, she tried to see from my perspective, she listened to me talk for two hours. She was able to take the big-ness of my story, the way all our stories are big, and distill it down to a one-page article that still remained true to my experiences.

The response I've gotten has been so positive, and I'm really grateful I did the story. We really do recover, y'all.


You can read it here: Addiction Counselor Comes Full Circle




  1. What a courageous choice! People need success stories and it seems like most frequently we hear about the failures. I don't think you sound like either a "magic special success story of recovery, or freak " but like a young woman who successfully recovered from a serious problem. Good for you! Great picture by the way!

  2. Yeah! You look so happy in your photo! Great sweater by the way!!!!

  3. Hi Jenna
    Thank you for sharing your story, as an adult child of a recovering alcholic I know that the anomonity (sp) of 12 step programs is very important, but sometimes reaching out and putting a healthy, recovering face to a disease really does help. I hope your story helps, I am sure it will. My mom's recovery birthday is December 1, 1980. She would say if you work your steps it works. Happy Thanksgiving from a fellow knitter (we met through a pair of monkeys I think), not the kind on someones back, but on your feet!