My name is Jenna Bonstein and I am a person in long-term recovery from substance use since February 8th, 2015. This is my experience about addiction and recovery, not unique in any way, nevertheless, it is my story. Before I could remember, I was dealing with behavioral issues as a young child, a lot of self-doubt and anxiety before drugs were ever introduced. I always felt that I was not good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough. I started drinking alcohol when I was 13, and it was a mixture of curiosity and rebellion. The moment I drank and felt a buzz, ALL of those feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy disappeared. I felt pressure to fit in from my peers and being “cool” definitely seemed more important to me than doing the right thing during my early adolescence years. By the time I was 15, I was drinking, smoking marijuana and experimenting with harder drugs more than just casually on the weekends. I had lost all control over the use of these substances; I was lying to my family and the people that I loved and my world and decisions were based off of getting and using substances.

A childhood friend and I started dating when I was 15 years old. We experimented with alcohol and drugs together. As the substance use got worse, I started to see a complete shift in character and our relationship became rocky and unstable. We dated for 3 years and when he died in 2011, my whole world came crashing down too fast for me to comprehend. When I was 20, Jeffrey passed away from an opioid overdose and I was facing charges for driving while intoxicated. This was a start of a wake-up call for me. Unfortunately, I was still struggling with the grief, pain and the complete devastation of what my life had become due to my substance use and I had no way of coping with my life other than the alcohol and drugs. The problem was the solution. The solution was the problem. I was fighting an internal battle of getting sober and using to numb the pain. A lot of people who battle substance use disorder can relate and understand that there is a desire to stop, and at the same time, there is a desire to continue. Both feel real and powerful. It is a deathly complicated paradox.

As time went on into my early 20’s, I continued to encounter more painful consequences and multiple arrests due to my substance use.

By God’s grace on August 2013, I got my second DWI. This arrest changed my reality since I was facing jail-time and losing my license for up to 2 years. I finally was ready to ask for help as I found myself in a desperate and broken place. This was the beginning of the journey to recovery. I started attending 12-step meetings and admitted that I had a problem and I didn’t know what to do about it. It was humbling to say “I don’t know what to do but I am willing to do whatever it takes to not feel this way anymore.” I wanted to stop making destructive decisions and hurting the ones I love.

Eventually, I was lead to a Christian church called Calvary Chapel. I was saved and I am living a whole new life in Christ (Isaiah 43 18-19). I have learned that God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28). These are promises that I hold onto and find true in my recovery. I began to be grateful for what God was starting to do. I met people that guided me out of the darkness and helped me find a purpose and a calling.

Recovery has given me a life worth living and I am very grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I have been given. I have been able to share my story in schools and in the community with teenagers, parents and local officials in hopes to help people not go down the same path I did and break the stigma attached to addiction. Every day, I get to participate in my recovery, no matter how I feel or what is going on. I make a decision to stay the course. There is hope in recovery for everyone, regardless where you’ve been or what you’ve done. I am blessed that I am able to help individuals see the light and guide them in this process. I am also eternally grateful for the ongoing support I have received from people in my life. The best part of being a recovery support specialist is being able to give back the same love, support and encouragement that I have received in my journey of recovery.