This week I have an incredible and inspiring interview with Tiffany Jenkins. Tiffany is a wife, mother, author, content creator and a recovering addict, she’s the face behind Juggling the Jenkins and author of “High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addicts Double Life”.
Getting to know Tiffany Jenkins
Tiffany opens by telling us a bit about her life growing up, where she comes from and what her family circumstances were. Her mother was a bartender and her Father moved furniture. Her Father had problems with substance abuse and her Mom divorced him when Tiffany was 7 years old and married a police officer who they both moved in with when she was around 9 years old.
Tiffany describes how growing up both her and her sister were latch-key kids, spending a lot of time on their own, with nobody around to tell her when to eat, when to do her homework etc. Because of this, Tiffany started gaining weight and was continually made fun of. During this time, Tiffany describes how she started developing a sense of humor, making fun of herself from a very young age. “I realized no boys wanted to date me, nobody wanted to be my friend” – When she started to make people laugh, they began to gravitate towards her.
Tiffany talks about how when she looks back, she can see there may have been some neglect, unintentionally, from her parents growing up. She gives some examples and describes how she has been left with many unanswered questions due to the passing of both her parents, meaning she can no longer ask them about her childhood. Tiffany moves on to talk a bit about her relationship with her parents, how she was a very defiant child who suffered from anxiety and depression. At 12 years old, she went to counseling with her Mom who tried her best with Tiffany and her sister. She saw her Dad less often, but when she did it would usually be in a bar surrounded by people drinking and partying – she was exposed to this from a very young age and knew little else – it became the norm.
High School Life
Tiffany talks about how things improved when she went to high school. She started exercising, lost weight, joined the cheerleading team and became increasingly popular. On the outside, everything seemed perfect, but Tiffany was constantly putting on a show. On the inside, she still felt like that “weird, overweight, nerdy kid”. Despite this, she thrived through her senior year – she hadn’t smoked a cigarette, skipped school or done anything to break the rules.
It all changed for Tiffany one day after a basketball match in high school when someone offered her a sip of alcohol. This wasn’t unusual, but Tiffany had always refused. But for some reason, that night she said yes and accepted. “That sip of alcohol changed my life forever”. Tiffany describes how for the first time in her life, she didn’t feel out of place – she didn’t worry about anything and loved the feeling of being numb, so much so that she started chasing it. We talk more about the anxiety and depression that Tiffany had been experiencing for such a long time, and how much relief this feeling of numbness brought. She had never known how to talk about the dark thoughts and feelings she’d had and kept them pent away. The numbness made it go away.
Three months later Tiffany dropped out of school. During this time, alcohol progressed to marijuana but never beyond that. Tiffany talks about how many of the people she started drinking and smoking with had already graduated and she wanted to be with them – she wanted to be anywhere but school. After three months of skipping school and working the system, she dropped out completely, and it was around this time that she found opiates – prescription pain medication. She describes how her life changed during this period, how the people she surrounded herself with were a bad influence and how she came to be addicted to opiates. She had a stereotypical view of an addict and never thought she would become one – it started off as fun and another way for her to feel numb.
And then is stopped being fun
In the midst of addiction
Tiffany moves on to talk about the moment it moved from fun to a method of stopping the pain. She woke up in agony and found that it was because she hadn’t taken any drugs that day. As soon as she took a pill, the pain stopped – she had become physically and mentally dependent on opiates. She describes what life was like, how the drugs became harder and harder to source and increasingly more expensive, eventually causing her to switch.
Tiffany prefaces this by opening up about the events that led to the switch in more depth. She talks about how when she was 23 her Mom was diagnosed with Cancer and passed away 5 months later, aged just 46. After, Tiffany checked into rehab, but not because she wanted to but because she thought she was supposed to. On the night she left rehab, she relapsed on alcohol. In her eyes, the problem was the pill, not her, and so alcohol was fine. Shortly after, Tiffany started dating a cop – she talks about how accepting he was of her past and how for a time she thought she had found exactly what she needed. Unfortunately, around 3 months into their relationship she relapsed and went back to the pills.
Tiffany’s double life
Tiffany explains how she thought her boyfriend would notice straight away, just by looking at her eyes. But he didn’t. That was when she realized that she could have the best of both worlds. She could have the fun on the side whilst keeping up appearances in her relationship. Tiffany ended up hiding her addiction from him for 2 and a half years. During this time, the addiction intensified and she began injecting pills when the original drug became harder to get. She describes how she then became addicted to injecting and the lengths she went through to hide the truth. She became so terrified of losing her boyfriend and the life that they had that there was no limit to what she would do to keep her addiction hidden. We talk about this in-depth and Tiffany opens up about keeping this secret for over 2 years and how it became more and more difficult to tell the truth. Through fear and deperation she continued to use through all aspect of her life. She could neither express herself or function properly without taking more pills. We also talk about how Tiffany’s addiction came at an important developmental stage in life and how this complicated things further. In her words, her brain only had three stops – obtaining money – getting drugs – getting high. This became her focus every day and she never had time to learn everyday life skills. She only had one focus in life.
Tiffany talks about how it escalated and escalated until everything started to crumble and she was arrested in her home. She began selling personal belongings and things from her home – this included taking her boyfriend’s guns and selling them. Eventually, she was arrested by friends she knew from the force and charged with around 28 felonies. Tiffany opens up and talks about this part of her life in detail. She tried to lie her way through but the police didn’t believe her. So her only option was to tell the truth.
The truth’s out
Tiffany describes what happened after she admitted the truth, where she was at with her addiction and how she knew she was addicted. However, she still didn’t understand her addiction. She spent 120 days in jail and through most of that time had the mindset of “I’ll just drink beer and be a good person” when she gets out. In prison, a letter was given to the judge asking to give her rehab. The judge offered Tiffany the choice and she went to rehab, where she learned the truth about her addiction and started along her road to recovery. Here she learned that the problem was herself and her personality. She needed to work on herself and avoid the aspects which would send her into a downward spiral.
While Tiffany doesn’t believe you have to hit rock bottom like she did before you can move forward, she does believe that you have to get to a point where you realize that nobody is coming to save you and it’s up to you to save yourself – you realize that enough is enough and that is the point you become willing to hear the message. In her case, she feels had she not been caught, she would have gone out fighting. But had things been different and she had been kicked out on the street with nowhere to turn, perhaps she would have sought help. We talk about this in detail.
Family advice from Tiffany Jenkins
Tiffany offers some advice for family and friends who are on the sidelines of somebody who is going through addiction and is perhaps not ready to change. “Loving an addict is the hardest thing that most people will ever have to go through”. Tiffany suggests learning the difference between loving and enabling because there is a very fine line and if you don’t pay attention to that line you could “love” your addict to death. This goes back to what Tiffany talks about with respect to addicts having to realize that nobody is coming to save them and they have to save themselves. This might potentially mean seeing your loved ones on the street, homeless, with nobody to support them, but this might be what they need to see they have to help themselves. “If you are doing anything that allows your addict to continue living the addict lifestyle for a moment longer, it is enabling” i.e. you are enabling them to continue their addiction.
If an addict is happy with you, your probably enabling, and if they’re pissed off with you, you’re probably trying to save their life.
Tiffany recommends the website nar-anon.org which is specifically designed for loved ones of an addict. They have support groups, advice and community groups where you can seek help and advice. We talk about how difficult it is for families, but that it is possible to love an addict without giving them anything. It’s not an easy road to navigate, but giving the message of love and support to an addict, whether they are ready to hear it or not, is still worth doing as at some point they will recall that message. Tiffany explains though how it’s equally important to protect yourself otherwise you will end up drowning along with your addict. In her case, there was nothing her family could have said to pull her away from addiction, she was desperate and “would have chosen death over withdrawal any day”. In these circumstances, there is little family can do other than offer that message of love and reassurance that you will be there when they are ready to receive help.
Life after addiction for Tiffany
Tiffany talks more about her rehab journey, how this time she wanted to do it for herself and although wanted to give up on occasions, persevered and came out the other side. She found friendship in some very strong woman and learned to talk about her thoughts and feelings, especially at times when she felt pushed to give up. After 6 months she moved to a halfway house, where she began learning the life skills that she never learned before. Within two months at the halfway house she had met a boy and then fell pregnant. This motivated her to work hard and change her life around. After 5 months of knowing her boyfriend, they got married. Tiffany gave birth to her son on her birthday and fell pregnant with her daughter 6 months later. Shortly after her daughter was born, her husband’s daughter from a previous relationship came to live with them and so in a short space of time Tiffany become a married woman with three children to look after. She was having to navigate this new life of being sober and being a mom and that is when she started writing and making videos and it took off from there on an upward trajectory ever since.
Tiffany hasn’t used since November 26th, 2012.
Juggling the Jenkins
Tiffany talks about the birth of Juggling the Jenkins! Once she started to love and appreciate herself once again she looked into things that she enjoyed. After the birth of her daughter, Tiffany suffered from post-partum depression and writing became an outlet for her. So she started sharing things that were very close to her and people started reaching out and Tiffany realized there were other people like her. For the first time in her life, she didn’t feel all of the things she had always been ashamed of, but not because of the drugs…because she shared her truth and she wasn’t alone. This fuelled her passion to keep going and she began making videos just for fun…this took off and over the past 2 years, Tiffany has gained millions of followers and found a place in the hearts of many. Tiffany talks more about her story with Juggling the Jenkins, including the publication of her book “High Achiever: The Incredible True Story of One Addicts Double Life”.
Tiffany closes by talking about what she had learned about humanity through her life and her work with Juggling the Jenkins and how there are more people than she ever realized that are open, kind and loving – She talks about how she’s learned the power of empathy and how there are so many people on the internet who open their hearts and minds to new perspectives and that was a gift to learn. Tiffany gives a final message of inspiration and love – there is life after addiction and it is possible to move forward. Don’t give up and reach out for help.
I’d like to thank Tiffany for coming on the show today and being so open and honest with sharing her story. If you’d like to follow up or find out any more info, you can find Tiffany on her website, as well as Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.
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