ROGERSVILLE — Jennifer Jones was a straight-A student raised in church by a good family in the Beech Creek community near Rogersville, but the pain pills she received following a tonsillectomy led her down a destructive path of addiction.
“But by God's grace I was able to get clean and to stay clean, and I'm thankful for that,” Jones told a large crowd that attended the Hawkins County Recovery Court's Feb. 18 “Face of Addiction” event in Rogersville.
Today, Jones is founder and facilitator of the Crossroads Recovery Support Group based in Rogersville as well as a member of the Recovery Court Board of Directors and a court-appointed special advocate volunteer for CASA for Kids Inc.
It was her struggles that gave her the motivation and the tools to help people who are suffering the same addictions that once controlled her life.
“I think that a big part of who I am now is being able to give back the mercy that I was shown and to be able to help people who are struggling, who are where I was,” Jones said.
Last month, the Hawkins County Recovery Court hosted an event called “Faces of Addiction” to give recovering addicts an opportunity to talk about how they freed themselves from the shackles of drugs as well as shine a light on programs that are trying to help.
“I watched people all around me die”
Jones said she used drugs to numb her depression, anxiety and lack of confidence.
“I didn't fit in well with my peers,” Jones said. “I knew that I was different, or I perceived that I was different. I spent a lot of my life suffering inside of my own head, and I found something that numbed that, and that took over a large amount of my life.”
Jones added, “I watched people all around me die. My boyfriend at the time passed away from a drug overdose. And even then it didn't change my mind. I still kept using because I felt like I couldn't stop. I didn't know how because I did not want to live without being numb.”
This is a life or death situation
It takes the community as a whole to address addiction, and Jones said people can help in ways they may not realize. She encourages people to reach out and ask, “What can I do?”
“Recovery is needing a new outfit for church or needing a ride to your support group because you lost your license,” Jones said. “There's a lot of things people in the community can do to help that they don't realize is such a huge thing for somebody who is struggling.”
She added, “Even if you think that you can't make a difference, it takes everyone. If one person tries to do it all, it will be like it always has been. It will fizzle out. It will fail. The person becomes overwhelmed. People lose interest. But this is a life-or-death situation. It's not something that can be swept under the rug anymore. It's not something that can be hidden. Mental health is a real thing. It's a real issue. It needs not to be hidden. It needs to be put out front, in the open, where people are able to say that they need help — say that they're struggling and have people, rather than looking down on them and judging them, to reach out a helping hand. That's what community is about, and there are a lot of good people in the community who are willing to help.”
The Crossroads Recovery Support Group
Jones founded CRSG following her recovery as a community-based support group open to anyone battling life-controlling issues, including family members and friends, providing a casual, non-judgmental environment to find support and community.
“It's just people who are affected by whatever, who want to sit down in a place where they can talk to each other,” Jones said. “You'd be surprised the impact that has, just being able to talk to somebody who is willing to listen. I see it change people's lives — change people's perception and how they feel about themselves and how they feel about other people. That small impact carries on to something else.”
Jones added, “Every face has a story. It's not what you would assume it to be. As long as they have people who are willing to step forward and show them love and be kind and be willing to help, then they have hope. They can move forward with their lives and with their community. We all have the responsibility to ask ourselves what can I do. It's not just their problem. It's ours.”
Visit the Crossroads Recovery Support Group's Facebook page for more information.
This is the first in a series of four stories of recovery that were told during the Hawkins County Recovery Court’s Feb. 18 “Faces of Addiction” event.