Jenna's Bright Story: Keep Looking Up

Updated: Mar 13

When I picked up my first drink in 8th grade I was struggling deeply with shame, feelings of isolation, and self-loathing. My GPA went from a 4.0 to a 2.0 and I lost myself in finding temporary relief in alcohol and other drugs. I became progressively more isolated and by my senior year of high school I struggled to fit in beyond feeling close to one friend which really hurt. When I drank, I drank to black out, and I smoked weed almost every day by myself. I did things I was not proud of and self-hatred got worse, sometimes spurring self-harm. My first years in college I considered myself a loner, I had a manic episode at 20 years old and was diagnosed with bipolar 1, then fell into a severe depression and an opiate addiction with no direction for my future or hope that I even had one.


I think that those that suffer with active addiction/alcoholism are resilient people to begin with, we know we endure or have endured many many difficulties throughout our drinking and using. Recovery in my life has taken that natural resilience and bolstered it by teaching me effective and fulfilling ways of practicing resilience. This resilience goes beyond what I did before to survive which was putting my head down, isolating, and just bearing and pushing through the negativity that was around and within me in.


I was introduced to recovery at the age of 21 when I went to rehab, and though I went back out to drinking a couple of times, I have been a part of the recovery community for much of the nearly 10 years between then and now. To name a few major milestones I finished undergrad, went back to school for occupational therapy, got my master’s degree and a job as a licensed occupational therapist, raised a dog, watched a community of people grow around me, and I am no longer a stranger to good, great, even wonderful feelings these days. This is a far cry from what I thought I was capable of!


Trust me when I say there were many times between 21 and now when I wanted to and could have given up. I could write many pages on what life in recovery has taught me about resilience, but I’ll attempt to sum it up. For me the seed of a new kind of resilience was planted when I started letting people in. Let them know what is weighing on you so that you don’t have to carry it alone anymore. Give of yourself to other people too, life is much more manageable when I’m not stuck thinking about me all of the time and I can be useful instead. We are not meant to be perfect, just show up and do your best. Life won’t always look pretty much less perfect, but it will always be valuable. Try again if you fall down, believe that if something didn’t work out that you’ll learn from it and it’ll make you stronger. No matter the pace just keep trying. Learn to love yourself. This has been hard hard work for me and I’m still working but it pays off! Lastly and most importantly for me is that I believe in a higher power that is working for and with me to build a future that I could never imagine. I don’t mind when I encounter someone who doesn’t believe the way I do because I know my belief works for me and has brought me great joy, connection, and success too.


There are absolutely still days where I feel disconnected and/or discontent. There are dreams that have stayed unfulfilled and possible ways that life could go that scare me. I believe with my supports and continuing to look up I will remain resilient to life’s hardships and that life will continue to get better.


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