Woman shares how Oakland Family Services saved her life

Jennifer with her husband, Mark, at Oakland Family Services’ Celebration Event in June.

Jennifer with her husband, Mark, at Oakland Family Services’ Celebration Event in June.

Through the ups and downs of Jennifer’s life one thing has been consistent – the help she has received from Oakland Family Services.

Over time, Oakland Family Services has touched her life four times. Whether she was an infant needing a home or an adult struggling with alcohol use, Oakland Family Services was there every step of the way.

Jennifer’s first connection with Oakland Family Service happened when she was adopted at the age of 4 months through the agency. As a child, Jennifer grew up feeling very alone. Her father was very “old school,” believing kids were to be seen but not heard, which resulted in her playing alone most of the time. Jennifer’s feeling of loneliness and isolation worsened after her grandfather – the one person in the world who really made her feel loved and special – died when she was 9 years old.

At the age of 13 Jennifer began to deal with her feelings of isolation by drinking alcohol.

“The allure of alcohol didn’t last long and eventually it left me feeling empty and depressed to the point where suicide became a very real option, and I would think of different ways to kill myself every single day,” she recalled.

“At 17, I took a bottle of pills one night when I was drinking. I can remember thinking if I could just fall asleep, I won’t wake up. Instead, I threw up all night. I just couldn’t die. God had other plans for me.”

Jennifer shares her story at the Celebration Event.

Jennifer shares her story at the Celebration Event.

It was during that point in Jennifer’s life when she encountered Oakland Family Services for the second time.

Oakland Family Services started Jennifer on her path to recovery and provided the tools her parents needed to cope with a child with addiction. It was a difficult journey, but this month Jennifer celebrated 24 years of sobriety.

Jennifer came into contact with Oakland Family Services for the third time in her life after she had a child. She knew from birth that something was different about him, but she couldn’t get anyone to listen. Her son had unbelievable sensory issues, and she finally learned after many attempts that he was on the autism spectrum, what that meant, and how to help him succeed. He is now 22 years old and doing well.

During that period of her life, Jennifer also was keeping a very dangerous secret. She was living with domestic violence. She reached out to Oakland Family Services for the fourth time in her life and spoke with a therapist about the emotional and mental abuse she was enduring in her marriage.

“At Oakland Family Services, I was given hope that there was a way out, encouragement that I could leave, if I decided to,” she said. “It didn’t happen for a few years, but after 16 years of marriage, I found a way out and it began with the hope I was given at Oakland Family Services.”

Jennifer now works in the financial planning and investment industry and is married with five children – two sons, two stepsons and a stepdaughter. She said she is grateful every day that her parents adopted her through Oakland Family Services.

“Although I have had many challenges, the direction my life took could have been so very different,” she said. “I could have so easily ended up like so many of the children in foster care going from home to home, still dealing with parents who are consumed by their own struggles or being that for my own children. Thanks to Oakland Family Services and other programs like it, I am alive today. I am mentoring other women and bringing them hope. Oakland Family Services saved my life.”