Woman who described herself as 'waiting to die' is sober and thriving thanks to PRISM program


During the summer of 2016, Jennifer was pulled over by police on suspicion of drunken driving twice in one week. The Breathalyzer test revealed a blood alcohol content of .37 the first time. The second time, it was .43, more than five times the legal limit to be driving a car. The officers said they could not understand how she was alive.

“I was functioning,” she said. “That’s how much of an alcoholic I was.”

These driving under the influence (DUI) charges proved two things for Jennifer. One, that kicking her past drug use – which dated back to the age of 14 and included heroin, crack, cocaine and even consumption of fentanyl pain patches to get a quicker and more potent high – wasn’t enough to turn her life around.

“I’m an addict,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the substance is.” Though she had ceased drug use, she realized she was trapped in an addiction that was just as bad – alcohol. She could not function without drinking, consuming a pint of vodka in the morning just to stop shaking and drinking as many as three fifths of alcohol every day.

The second thing the charges proved to be were the catalyst for her finally becoming sober, repairing her relationship with her family, and beginning the reunification process with her 8-year-old son.

"When I was 25, I never thought I’d see 30. In fact, when I was 21, I never thought I’d see 25."

One of the DUIs resulted in jail time, which was not new for Jennifer, who has been in and out of jail because of possession charges and one drug-fueled crime. The other DUI resulted in sobriety court, which she commenced when she got out of jail. Her parole officer in sobriety court routed her to Project Recovery Intensive Services for Mothers (PRISM), Oakland County’s only gender-specific intensive outpatient substance use disorder program for mothers and expectant women. PRISM is offered by Day One, a program of Oakland Family Services.

Though Jennifer had been through rehab programs multiple times, she always went back to using when she got out. PRISM was different. Jennifer found support and help from the other women in her group sessions.

“Being with all women and all moms going through the same things … people help each other,” she said. “You are learning, but you are helping each other.”

She was also assisted by her individualized treatment plan and the expertise of her therapist, whom she continues to see for individual therapy though she has graduated from PRISM’S group therapy.

“I’ve never had a therapist with whom I’ve been able to be as individual and honest,” she said.

Coupled with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Jennifer credits PRISM with her arriving in a place she never thought she’d be – alive and thriving.

“When I was 25, I never thought I’d see 30. In fact, when I was 21, I never thought I’d see 25,” she said. “I was waiting to die, but didn’t have the nerve to put a gun to my head. I would have people drop dead next to me from heroin and wonder why I was alive.”

She has been sober for 18 months, and surrounds herself with AA friends who are sober and value her for who she is, as opposed to her past acquaintances who were happy to see her only because she brought drugs to the party.

The program has impacted not only Jennifer, but also her family. Jennifer is progressing toward regaining custody of her son, who her parents have had since his birth. Her parents say they feel as though they have their daughter back.

Jennifer graduated from sobriety court in January and has been asked by the court to mentor others struggling with the issues she has gone through. She said the impact that Oakland Family Services and Day One had on her life is “mind-blowing.”

“My life today is so much better,” she said. “I would tell women in the position I was in to come to PRISM. It’s going to be hard, but it’s also hard not to. This hard has rewards and happiness in it.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with misuse of drugs or alcohol, call Day One at (248) 858-7766. Day One ... we're here every day, every step of the way.