Ten years ago, when Jen started residential treatment at Cedar House, she knew her addiction was spiraling out of control and she needed help. What she didn’t know was what treatment was really all about and the true value of the community she would find at Cedar House.
As a young woman in her 20s, Jen liked to “work hard and play hard.” She earned her associate degree and worked in retail management. During that time, she began drinking heavily. By the age of 29, she had four DUIs. She said, “I would wake up and fixate on drinking. I realized that I was in the grips of alcoholism.”
After trying out meth to sober up enough to drink even more, meth became her drug of choice. Jen said, “Meth is evil. It’s the devil. It leads you to do things you would never do for that next high. I felt invincible, just didn’t care, and ended up losing friends and family along the way.”
From 2003-2013, Jen was in and out of jail and prison. When she got out, she would go back to drinking, using, and couch surfing, while never really admitting to being homeless.
In March of 2013, Jen’s parole agent told her that she needed treatment at Cedar House “or you’ll find yourself back in jail”. Jen said, “I didn’t really know what that was.” But she made the call and entered the Cedar House program three days later.
When she walked in and began the intake process, the admissions staff asked about her living arrangements, and she realized for the first time that she really was homeless. She said, “For me to admit that truth, I knew, this is it. This is my best effort for something different, and I was desperate for something different.”
Now, Jen considers that “the gift of desperation. It reminds you where you don’t want to be. Never forget day one.”
One day, when Jen was settling into life at Cedar House, she heard a group of women making noise in the TV room when one woman joked, “Can we quiet down and get some recovery in here?” Their conversation continued, and Jen listened as they talked about the program and the steps. She said, “They were on fire for recovery! I remember thinking, ‘That’s what I want. I want to follow that!’”
She spent the next 90 days absorbing as much as she could from the groups and people’s stories. She learned to set goals and create a timeline for her life in the next year. Starting with those three months of residential treatment, she mapped out the next three months for outpatient treatment, meetings, and a plan to go back to school for her drug and alcohol certificate after six months. Day after day, she fine-tuned the timeline, which would prove to be a crucial tool for her sustained recovery.
Someone special had come into Jen’s life at that time, but she wasn’t fully aware of her just yet. During the time Jen spent in and out of jail, speakers occasionally came in to address the inmates on a panel. One woman’s inspiring message stood out to Jen every time. One day at Cedar House, the same woman appeared on a panel addressing clients. Jen was excited to have the opportunity to approach the panel that day and meet the woman who would later become her sponsor and dear friend, Ernestine.
Starting with Ernestine and a few close friends she met at Cedar House, Jen built herself a community of like-minded individuals who support each other in recovery and in life. This group of men and women who would attend church on Sundays while in treatment has continued going to church and meetings together for the past ten years. They stay connected with a Facebook group chat and look forward to seeing each other at events. Jen wholeheartedly believes in the value of her community. She says, “We need to have and build community.”
With ten years of sobriety, Jen knows that it took a village to help her get to where she is today. After her time at Cedar House, she continued to follow her timeline with outpatient services, meetings and sober living. She earned her drug and alcohol certification at Valley College in 2015, an associate degree in human services, and her bachelor’s degree from Antioch University in Culver City in 2020.
Since finding recovery for herself, Jen has helped countless individuals learn to live a clean and sober life through various programs. In 2021, she came to work at Cedar House as a Case Manager and continues to be an EPIC Life Changer every day. She said, “The 12-step program teaches honesty and integrity. Learning those things is so important. That acronym EPIC (which stands for Cedar House’s core values of excellence, passion, integrity and compassion) means a lot to me.”
She continues to teach the principles of recovery that serve her well. She encourages clients to make a timeline. She said, “It just makes sense. What are you going to fill your time with? What are you going to do in the next 365 days?”
“Building community. That’s what we’ve done. You have to lose everything you think you know in order to start something better.” This is the message she shares with clients, learned from “a whole lot of life experience.” She said, “You’ve got to turn it around and use it for something good.”