In high school, Tiffany Jenkins was cheerleading captain and student body president. Then she became a drug addict.
As a popular student with good grades, Jenkins was hardly the girl people would vote "most likely to end up strung out on the floor of a jail cell." But that's where she ended up in 2012, at the low point of her opioid addiction.
Now five years sober, the mother of three has a popular blog, Juggling the Jenkins, where she blends mom humor with stories of addiction recovery. The unlikely combo has helped her gather more than a million Facebook followers in less than a year.
This former opioid addict never dreamed she would become a viral Facebook sensation and inspire othersThis hilarious mom vlogger hopes to use her platform to inspire those battling addiction that there is a life after drugs. https://bit.ly/2HP4e8l
Posted by Circa on Thursday, May 3, 2018
In this video from Circa, Jenkins explains how she uses her humor videos to draw people in. "They're like, 'Oh my gosh, I love this girl, she's so funny,' and then they get to my page and find out that I'm a drug addict, and they're like, 'Whoa, wait a minute. This is not what I think of when I think of drug addicts.'"
She uses her platform to share her story as well as stories of recovery and hope from others.
Jenkins started drug rehab after a 120-day jail stint, inspired by her father who had recently entered rehab for alcoholism. Then she got pregnant.
"I had been clean for 10 months and living in a halfway house when I got pregnant with my son," she says. "I already had a good foundation of recovery, but knowing that a little human was growing inside me and would depend on me from now until forever gave me a motivation and determination I didn't know I had to keep going."
Now, her three kids keep her focused on the life she wants to live — one that isn't ruled by drugs or alcohol.
"My children, their laughs, their tantrums, their sleepy morning eyes — I just have so much gratitude in my heart," she says. "I was given a second chance at life, and my children are a constant (oftentimes noisy) reminder."
Jenkins' willingness to share her story has inspired thousands. And she's opened her platform for others to share their own recovery stories. "If more people shared their truth — even the ugly parts," she says, "so many more people would realize they aren't alone, and the shame and guilt they have been carrying does not have to be carried alone."
Jenkins puts a fresh face on drug addiction recovery — and offers a refreshing perspective on what it means to be an addict.
I met Jenkins recently at the Mom 2.0 Summit conference, where we ended up at the same dinner table. Her humor flowed from her effortlessly (she really is incredibly funny), but it was her nonchalant openness about being a recovering drug addict that was compelling.
And that's really the whole point of her blog: Addiction doesn't have a stereotype.
According to the Center on Addiction, addiction and substance abuse affect more Americans than heart conditions, diabetes, or cancer. If 40 million Americans ages 12 and older have substance problems, there's a very good chance we all know an addict.
And for those who are dealing with a loved one's addiction, hearing from people who have successfully made it to the other side can feel like a vital lifeline.
What she wants people to know about addiction is real, honest, and heartfelt.
"There is a lot of anger and hatred toward addicts," says Jenkins, "and to be honest, it's completely understandable. Addiction makes us do terrible things. It turns us into liars, thieves, manipulators, and criminals. The thing is, not one single one of us raised our hand on career day and said 'I want to be an addict.' This was never part of the plan."
Jenkins says that sympathy and coddling don't help addicts recover. She explains: "What we need is love, emotional support, and empathy. Many addicts never come forward with the truth of their situation — a crucial step in getting help for themselves — for fear of ridicule, hatred, and loss of familial relationships. We have to break the stigma and create an open, productive dialog. Because there is no such thing as a lost cause. Anyone currently in the midst of addiction absolutely can get clean and have a wonderful life — but they can't do it alone."
Thanks to Jenkins and people who share their stories on her site, more people with addiction will know they're not alone.
You can read stories of addiction recovery on Jenkins' Recovering Beautifully blog. If you or someone you know are struggling with substance abuse, call (800) 662-HELP (4357) or check out addiction recovery resources at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Correction 7/30/2018: This story was updated to reflect Jenkins is a mom raising three kids.