She Used To Be An Addict. Now This Blogger Is Using Her Story To Help Others.

“I had lived in shame, in the shadows, for so long, afraid to tell the truth about who I was."

Before mom Tiffany Jenkins was a well-known parenting blogger with over one million followers on Facebook, she was struggling with addiction and facing 20 felony charges. 

Jenkins' past drug use and her time behind bars are not things she hides from the loyal readers of her blog, Juggling the Jenkins. On the contrary, her addiction — and the depression, anxiety and crimes that followed — are at the heart of an astounding story of recovery that helped propel her to internet fame.

"I had lived in shame, in the shadows, for so long, afraid to tell the truth about who I was because of the judgment and the hatred that's associated with addicts," Jenkins told A Plus. "I started writing about my life because it was so crazy how I was trying to learn to be a productive member of society myself as well as raise three children in the process."

By her account, Jenkins' adolescence came with the kind of structure and motivation that is associated with producing happy, healthy young adults. Her stepfather was a police officer, she was performing well in school, and she was an athlete on multiple sports teams at the school. And then things changed. One night, she tried alcohol for the first time while she was hanging out with some older friends. A relatively common act of disobedience, one familiar to many teenagers, turned into something much, much worse.

"Something dark had been living inside me," Jenkins remembered. "I didn't know until I fed it, and once I fed it I couldn't stop."

Two months later, she had dropped out of school to spend her time smoking pot and drinking alcohol. At 19, she found her drug of choice: opioids. She began using oxycodone, which has been a driving force behind the opioid epidemic that's sweeping the country

But she also knew very little about the repercussions that were coming. Without a smartphone or a proper education about the effects of drug use, Jenkins had never even heard of withdrawal and didn't think addiction was something that could happen to her. She took the drugs because they made her feel different, numb, until the night they stopped being for fun.

Jenkins hadn't used at all that day and began to feel sicker than she had ever before. Her bones felt like they "were growing out my body," she remembered. A friend told that it was because she hadn't taken one of her pills and that if she took one she'd feel better. She was going through her first bout of withdrawal. 

"That was the night I stopped using because I wanted to and started using because I had to," Jenkins told A Plus. "My body and mind had become dependent on the drug."

Her addiction continued for 10 years, even as she began dating a sheriff's deputy. For almost three years of that relationship, Jenkins hid her addiction from her boyfriend. When they moved in together, she became more desperate as she fell deeper into her addiction. Her morals deteriorated, she said. She discovered pawn shops and began stealing things from around the house, selling them off to buy more drugs. Her intent was always to replace the thing she took — but she never could. The addiction never gave her a break. All the while, she was doing everything she could to hide her addiction from her boyfriend and preserve the life she had created with him.

Eventually, Jenkins began stealing his guns and selling them. When she was finally caught, the hammer came down. She was charged with 20 felonies ranging from grand theft of firearms to defrauding a pawn broker. And before she knew it, she was serving 120 days in jail.

"I didn't know how to live a life without drugs so I had completely given up while in jail," Jenkins said.

Then her father came to visit.

While he was there, her dad told her that he would love her no matter what — and that, perhaps more importantly, he'd have faith in her until she could have faith in herself. 

"That little spark of hope ignited a flame inside of me and a passion that I wanted to try to live life differently," Jenkins told A Plus. "So I made the decision to go to rehab from jail."

After she was released, Jenkins spent six months in rehab. Then she went to a halfway house, and after two months there, she got pregnant. She married the man who would father her children, had her first son on her birthday and another child 16 months later. And then, her step-daughter moved in with the family full-time.

"In the span of two years, I went from living in a halfway house to being a married mother of three," Jenkins said.

The unexpected turn of events compelled her to start blogging about her experiences. And when she began writing, people started reading and sharing. The more she wrote about her addiction, her anxiety and her depression, the more inspiring messages she got and the more motivated she was to continue. Addicts reached out to her to say that her writing encouraged them open up to their families and seek help. Her truth, she realized, was one people all across the county were living.

"The amount of addicts who are out there suffering in silence because of the hatred surrounding addiction is astounding," Jenkins told A Plus. Now, she encourages people to share their own stories on her blog. "The more people that do that, the more we can chip away at the stigma that all addicts are lost causes. Because we're not. A life after addiction is possible."

If anyone is proof of that, it's Jenkins. She's been sober for five years, has over a million fans, and has — as she puts it — an amazing life. Her Instagram is a mixed bag of smiling children and personal challenges like losing weight, facing anxiety and trying to make dinner with Blue Apron. Jenkins isn't always happy or all smiles, but she's committed to being honest. And that's what makes her blog, and the new life she's living, so important to the people that follow her.

"The news is full of so many sad, heartbreaking stories of parents overdosing with their kids in their car or people dying," Jenkins said. "It's very rare to see somebody living a life after addiction and not just a life, but an amazing life, a happy life. You don't see that much, so I wanted to be the match that started that fire. And it's been spreading like wildfire."

Cover image courtesy Tiffany Jenkins.

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