TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

October 19, 2010

Jennifer's Story


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — Click to view the Voice of Faith, September 2010 issue in its entirety.

My name is Jennifer Neeley. I am 22 years old, a Christian, and a recovering drug addict. Yes, I said Christian and recovering drug addict in the same sentence. God, in his infinite wisdom, gave us all free choice. I didn’t always choose wisely.

Throughout my childhood, I think I qualified, for the most part, as one of those children parents normally hope to have. I loved school, made straight A’s, and went to church faithfully with my grandparents. I played a little basketball in high school, and then started working to save up money for my very own car. I never intentionally set out to put my life on the wrong path. It just seemed to gradually happen over a period of time.

During my freshman and sophomore years, I experimented with alcohol on the weekends. During my junior year, I was spending more and more time around people who were using drugs. Oh, I turned down their drug offers for the first couple of months, but eventually gave into temptation. I still remember my exact words, “I want to try that.” At that point, that one moment in time, my world started falling apart.

I started with pain killers and believed they made me feel good and gave me more energy. I’m sure that really wasn’t the case, but you have to justify your choices sometimes. When I didn’t have a pill for a day or two, I would get sick to my stomach and didn’t even want to get out of bed. I was already addicted, but didn’t realize it — or refused to admit it — at the time. During my senior year, I was in the co-op program. I spent half a day at school and then worked the rest of the day as a nurse’s aid. This job really put a strain on my back, so I went from regular painkillers to a high-dose prescription pill and wound up taking three times the recommended dosage. The next step was on to stronger pills like methadone and oxycontin, but I still didn’t think I had a problem...then came meth. It gave me all kinds of energy. I didn’t need to sleep, eat, or anything else. All I needed was more meth.

The unbelievable thing here is that I still managed to graduate from high school with a 3.7 GPA. If I was that smart, you would think avoiding drug addiction would have been a breeze. Don’t be fooled. Addiction has a life of its own, and its sole purpose is to rob you of everything you hold dear.

I quit my job at 19, and stated selling drugs for a living. I was soon facing charges for assault and possession of a forged instrument. I kept spiraling downward and almost lost my life on Aug. 9, 2008, after overdosing on a mixture of methadone and xanax. My next two days were spent in a coma, on full life support. Miraculously, I survived. The doctors even said it was by the grace of God that I made it through the first night. I was released from the hospital on Aug 14th, and by the 15th, I was back on pain pills. By the 18th, I was back on meth. You are in pretty deep when narrowly escaping death doesn’t even phase you.

Everyone kept telling me God had a reason for pulling me through, but at the time I didn’t want to hear that. My addiction was still in control of my life, and it didn’t take long for the next shoe to drop. On September 20th, I found out I was pregnant. This news actually had a “sobering” effect on me. For the first time in years, I knew I had to get off drugs, but even knowing an innocent child was growing inside my body, I still couldn’t stop. My addiction was just too strong. I was a prisoner in my own body.

I was too ashamed to tell my family I hadn’t/couldn’t quit, and my doctors didn’t have the answer I was looking for either. They wanted me to go to a methadone clinic, which would keep me on some level of drugs until the baby was born. Apparently, there was a huge risk I could lose the baby if I quit totally on my own. This was quite a predicament. I finally wanted off drugs, and now they wanted me to keep taking them.

Without a tremendous number of options to fall back on, I started talking to God. All those prior years in church had taught me prayer was a powerful resource, but it had been a while since I had used it. I had always heard people say God moves in mysterious ways. Now, I can fully agree with that statement. I was unable to control my addiction to drugs, so God paved the way for me.

When I was 5 and 1/2 months pregnant, I failed a court-ordered drug test and was sent to a rehab program for pregnant women. I underwent a detox program and stayed in the program until my precious baby, Kaydence, was born on May 18, 2009. Not only had God provided a means for my rehabilitation, but he had also given me a perfectly healthy child to love. I felt truly blessed and finally hopeful for my future.

Unfortunately, my past was not completely done with me. I was arrested in July 2009 on an outstanding warrant (from 2007) for “conspiracy to manufacture.” I was sent to jail for two weeks and then released on “house arrest” to await my fate in Federal Court. I could be sentenced to up to nine years for my prior drug activities. During the waiting period, I surrendered my life to God (exactly one year after my near fatal overdose), went back to school, worked a full-time job, reported regularly to my court officer, and cherished every minute I could grab with my baby.

By the time I faced my charges in Federal court I had amassed a considerable portfolio of good behavior along with letters of recommendation from my employer and my court officer. My loving family was also present to show their support. It was apparently enough to convince the judge I was truly fighting to rebuild a meaningful life. My nine-year possible sentence became twenty-one months, of which I have already served seven.

Once your mind is clear, amazing things become apparent. I have never been alone in my struggles. God has always been with me. When I was at my worst, he picked me up and carried me through. My family has never forsaken me, or been ashamed of me. They proudly tell their friends just how far I have come in turning my life around. My sister has sacrificed a great deal to care for my beautiful Kaydence until I am released. It seems odd to say this, but being arrested and being held accountable for my past were some of the best things that ever happened to me.

I’m not bitter about my situation. I broke the law and endangered myself and others in the process. I could be facing almost a decade in prison, but I’m not. Through the strength God has given me, and the continued love and support of my family, I can get through this and come out better on the other side. I have a future, and I am going to make the best of it.

Side note to the story...

While writing this story, Jennifer was awaiting her first contact visit with her family since being sentenced in Federal Court. She was both excited and terrified as she feared her daughter, Kaydence, would have forgotten her, or be indifferent to seeing her after so many months. We are very happy to report that Kaydence flew into her mother’s arms and remained there for the entire five-hour visit. We at “Voice of Faith” wish this young woman and her family nothing but the best as they work together to rise from the living Hell of drug addiction.