From Addiction to Agents of Change

This is an excerpt from an article originally published in The Phoenix Spirit on 1/14/2019. See the full story here.

From Addiction to Agents of Change

The Power of Recovery Stories

Recovery is one of the most painful yet transformative processes a person can go through. More often than not, the depths of despair is our catalyst for change: when the weight of being is more painful that the prospect of becoming.

Like Rumi says, it is from the bough of our hearts that we find the joy of recovery. But that process requires shedding our rotten roots, learning how to live in our bodies and learning how to weather life’s storms, so that we can live fully. Recovery isn’t just about not using drugs and alcohol — it’s about learning how to thrive so much that using drugs is unappealing.

Sharing stories of recovery gives us a sense of hope. They inspire us, showing us that not only is it possible for us to change, but that we can go on to live a life of meaning and of purpose.

We have featured four incredible people who embody everything it means to become an agent of change. From the depths of addiction — featuring methamphetamines, crack cocaine, alcohol, felony charges and prison sentences — these stories of transformation come from people who have not only recovered, but who have gone on to help other people in recovery lead their best lives and shape the way the nation deals with substance use disorder.

Janie Gullickson’s Story

Recently featured in Now This video, Goodwill and Janie Gullickson Are Helping Women Rebuild Their Lives After Jail, Janie shared her powerful story. Once addicted to methamphetamine, Janie’s substance use disorder spanned a couple of decades. Drugs were everything to her — the way she functioned and her means of getting through the day. Eventually, her addiction became a very public struggle impacting all areas of her life, including her mental health. “I was the mother of five children, a teenage mom,” Janie says. “I tried to function, and then eventually I became more of that stereotypical image that folks may have of an IV user on the streets.”

Janie has been convicted of more than 12 felonies. She spent five years in and out of county jails before serving two years in prison. It was there she was given a second chance. Janie enrolled in the job readiness program run by Goodwill. The program helped her get back on her feet, but more than that, it changed her life. Today, Janie is now the executive director of the Mental Health and Addiction Association of Oregon (MHAAO), a peer-led organization that is committed to promoting self-directed recovery and wellness for all individuals.

“At MHAAO, we believe that all individuals who experience mental health and/or addiction challenges can recover and that recovery, its journey and process, is unique to the individual,” Janie says. “We honor lived experiences. We support people wherever they are on their journey, free from judgment, or agenda. We support these aims through education, advocacy, recovery, peer services, training, technical assistance, community collaboration, and through developing peer workforce and leadership.”

Janie encourages other women to share their story. “When women share their story — even when it’s hard, it’s vulnerable, it’s scary — there’s magic in sharing that. It’ll change someone’s life,” she says.

Olivia Pennelle is the founder of Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery.