Adventures in recovery: Jenny’s journey from addiction to law school

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The fifth-annual HazelFest Music & Recovery Community Festival takes place on August 5 at Hazelden in Center City. A celebration of help, hope, and healing to those affected by the disease of addiction, this year’s festival features performances by Lizzo and Har Mar Superstar, along with recovery speakers, a family fun zone, and more. Leading up to this year’s festival, we’re talking with some of the men and women of the Twin Cities recovery community, and sharing their stories.

In October 2012, Jenny A. had reached a crossroads in her addiction.

“It got to the point where I had to choose between my hopes and dreams, or drugs and alcohol,” she says.

With that choice in her mind, Jenny made the decision to get sober on October 2, 2012, a date she still holds on to closely.

While many people don’t recognize their alcoholism or addiction for quite a while, Jenny says she knew right away.

“I have alcoholism in my family, so I know what it looks like,” she recalls. “The first time I tried it, I knew I was an alcoholic because of the way I drank.”

Although she recognized the signs and feelings of alcoholism early on, the unmanageability of her addiction took a while.

“My drinking was probably unmanageable to everyone except me,” she recalls. “On the outside, I was okay. I was in college, I had good grades; but on the inside I was miserable.”

At the age of 23, Jenny was working toward her goal of becoming a lawyer, but her addiction had other ideas.

“I had just taken the LSAT and did really poorly because I was drinking and doing drugs all the time,” she says. “So I was studying for it again, but I was also working a job as a bartender where I could drink while I was working. I got pulled over on my way home from work, and got charged with a DWI.”

At that point, she knew that something had to change and that she needed to reach out for help.

“I knew I couldn’t be an attorney if I was breaking the law,” she says.

Jenny checked into Hazelden in Center City, where she stayed for approximately 35 days. Upon completing her inpatient program, she continued with an intensive outpatient program at the Hazelden Maple Grove location.

“I expected treatment to be a lot more medical,” she says of her initial impression. “I expected it to be 30 days of detox. But I didn’t realize that there is so much more to it. There’s therapy and meditation, and just all of these things that help you make a holistic life change.”

Though she acknowledges that many people in the Twin Cities sober community quit drinking without treatment, she says her time in Hazelden was the push she needed to get on her path to recovery.

“I needed that time to work on myself,” she says.

Now nearly five years sober, Jenny recently graduated from law school at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and is currently working at a law firm and preparing to take the bar exam. While some people would be less forthcoming about their issues with addiction, out of fear of judgment or negative consequences, Jenny has found that sharing her story allows her to help others.

“Some of my law school classes were about ethics and addiction, and I was always open and honest and told my story,” she recalls. “It helped some of my classmates who were struggling, and some of them would ask me about issues with their family.”

In addition, Jenny found an organization called Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, which provides free peer and professional assistance to Minnesota lawyers, judges, law students, and family members on any issue that causes stress or distress, including drug and alcohol addiction.

Jenny says that the relationships she has formed while in and since recovery are even more rewarding.

“I’ve made really great friends in sobriety, and before I started getting involved and going to meetings, I never realized just how big the community is,” she says. “I thought it was going to be something different than it was. There are a lot of young people in recovery and that was eye opening for me.”

 

Regardless of how busy her schedule is these days, Jenny still finds time to actively help others in recovery, and shares her own story regularly.

“There’s still such a huge stigma around it,” she says. “The more we talk about it, the more we can change that.”

Hazelfest takes place Saturday, August 5 at Hazelden in Center City. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. 


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