Over the past two years, many women have sat in our office and shared that they have used alcohol to deal with life and experienced shame around those choices. What may have been social at one time for them had become a way of coping with life. Some have shared that their family doesn’t know, and some have called it their secret addiction.
In this episode, we are going to shed some light into the dark corners of using alcohol to cope with life. Jenni is going to tenderly share her personal struggle, which began when she was 12 years old and lasted until her 30s when Jesus reclaimed her story with the help of a good friend. She now experiences freedom from addiction and shame because friends…. Shame Releases When Secrets Are Revealed.
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Transcript is auto-generated
life, shame, drinking, people, struggle, growing, church, god, reclaimed, home, knowing, jenny, years, confront, girls, alcohol, friends, college, reclaim, share
Jenni Johnson, Denisha Workizer
Denisha Workizer 00:00
We've been talking about how to shatter shame in our lives. And we know we know this is a heavy topic, but we're here for it because it is real and it affects most of us in some way in our lives. As Brene Brown describes it, shame is an intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging and connection. Friends, we're passionate about shattering shame in our lives, because Jesus already took our shame upon Himself on the cross. So we've shamed says we are flawed, unworthy of love belonging, your connection, Jesus says that we are deeply loved, we belong and that we were made for connection. Over the past two years, many women have sat in our office and shared that they've used alcohol to deal with life, and they have experienced shame around those choices. So what may have been at one time social for them, had now become a way of coping with life. Some have shared that their family doesn't know and others have referred to it as their secret addiction. So in this episode, we're going to shed some light into the dark corners of using alcohol to cope with life. Jenny is going to tenderly share her personal struggle which began when she was 12, and lasted until her 30s When Jesus reclaimed her story with the help of a good friend. Now, Jenny experiences freedom from addiction as well as shame, because friends, shame releases when secrets are revealed. We pray that today's episode is an encouragement for you. Welcome to Living the Reclaim life Podcast. I'm Tanisha. We're glad you're here for conversations that revive hope, inspire healing, and encourage you to live a vibrant life with Christ. So grab a cup of coffee as we chat with today's guest. And Ginni, we are so excited to have you today. Because you're going to bring a different insight for to shame for us. You're going to share your personal testimony of how you wrestled with something that brought shame in your life, but then how you overcame it and how God is a part of your story. And I'm really excited to hear about that today. And to tell you a little bit about Jenny, I could talk all day about Jenny did he has been in my life now. Gosh, probably 21 years. 22 years.
Jenni Johnson 02:28
I think close to that. Yes, it pretty amazing.
Denisha Workizer 02:31
And Judy became a part of the Reclaim story team. She's on our team in 2021. After volunteering and working at our church for 20 years. And you guys, she has led a children's ministry, child care ministry that served every department in our church. So this is a gal who has a lot of ministry experience. And to tell you a little bit about her personally, Jenny accepted Christ in her early college years and has experienced his life changing power, guidance and unconditional love throughout her life. She has a tremendous heart for the hurting and a true love and compassion for people. And today is she shares her own struggles openly. She does that to bring victory to other women. And also Glory to God. So Jenny, I'm so excited to have you today. And just we're gonna just have an awesome conversation.
Jenni Johnson 03:23
I appreciate being here. Thank you for inviting me.
Denisha Workizer 03:27
So this month, we're talking about shame. And I just appreciate your courage to come forward and just share your story. I know all of us have had messages of shame in our life things in our stories that have brought about shame. I love what you've shared with me about your story because you've been able to conquer that with God's help. But I also know it hasn't always been easy, right? So let's go back to the beginning. So tell me a little bit. Let's go back to your childhood. Tell me a little bit about how, what was it like growing up in your house I
Jenni Johnson 04:00
grew up in a home with I was an only child and I had alcoholic parents who were also addicted to prescription painkillers. However, they were extremely functional. My mom was a nurse for many years and my father taught high school for 38 years coach tennis their lives to the outside apparently normal and nothing happening but inside the home it was a lot of verbal abuse in attentiveness to me. I was a latchkey child for probably starting in second grade. Wow. Yeah. And it just it was a tough experience. I remember thinking at 17 All I want to do is get out of here and be somewhere else.
Denisha Workizer 04:46
And when you say people around you didn't know necessarily what was going on, how would somebody from say, oh, in did you guys did you grow up in a Christian home?
Jenni Johnson 04:56
I did not grow up in a Christian home. My parents were not Christians at that point my mom later accepted Christ, but they were not Christians. And it was funny because my aunt who is my mom's twin sister lived down the street and she wasn't even aware of what was happening in our home.
Denisha Workizer 05:13
How would she or maybe one of your parents, co workers? How would they have from the outside looking in? How would they have described home?
Jenni Johnson 05:22
I don't know if they could have described it. I don't think my parents talked a lot about home. There weren't very many people that came into our home. I remember not being able to have friends over. My mom had a few close friends that maybe knew what was happening, but I think their homes probably had dysfunction that made it seem normal to be in our home. I'm not sure.
Denisha Workizer 05:47
And that's probably true. I think we didn't talk about a lot. Today we bring up things we talk about our emotions. We talked about trauma more in society. But we didn't, then yeah. So how did that impact you growing up? Now let's go into to Jenny's late teen adult years, how did that impact you?
Jenni Johnson 06:07
I think I just suffered from a lot of insecurity. I also saw them coping using alcohol and drugs. And so I really didn't have the option of knowing Christ or having close friends I could turn to so I sought alcohol and drugs. I started drinking when I was about 12. In middle school.
Denisha Workizer 06:33
Wow, on and off. And what did that how did that play out later on in your teen years?
Jenni Johnson 06:39
I actually was arrested at one point with alcohol in my car. And my dad thought it was a prank because I never did anything wrong. They really didn't know. I had good grades. I did well in school. I think that's what probably made it made other people think that there really wasn't anything going on everything I didn't do poorly in school. I did well in school. But I was drinking a lot and I got in trouble.
Denisha Workizer 07:09
And how did the drinking affect your life? friendships? social life? What did that look like for you?
Jenni Johnson 07:16
I had friends who also drink so I tended to gravitate toward crowds that weren't so great in high school and lost some friendships. That way. When I went to college, it changed.
Denisha Workizer 07:29
So tell us about that. How did it change?
Jenni Johnson 07:31
I met several girls who are from ladies who are from northwest Iowa, all from the same community and very much strong Christians had grown up in Christian homes. And they all lived on my dorm floor and started inviting me to Bible studies into their church. And I eventually accepted Christ my first year of college, through their friendship. And
Denisha Workizer 07:57
so what did that look like? You were drinking? Did they know you were drinking early, we
Jenni Johnson 08:01
all still drink because I came to college seeing I had already seen so much dysfunction and wildness, I guess you might say. They came not seeing any of that. So it was a different freedom for them. For me, it was freedom from my parents and the hiding of all of my childhood things. I guess. When I came to college, they were getting a little wild and crazy. But for me, it was just nice to sit back and not have to deal with that.
Denisha Workizer 08:36
Is that an interesting perspective on college? I've heard that before. I've heard where kids that have grown up in Christian homes go off to college, and they're just like, there's freedom here. This is the time we're not condoning that. But we are saying that is a time in your life where you are out of the home and things you can make decisions on your own. And sometimes they're not always the great ones for you. It was like that was a normal transition. Almost. This is more normal. Really.
Jenni Johnson 09:02
Yeah, I was pretty free in my home growing up because nobody was really watching out for what I was doing. So it was interesting, but it didn't last long. And there was a lot of focus on friendships and going to church and camaraderie and being able to turn to somebody and talk to somebody rather than turn to drink.
Denisha Workizer 09:24
Fast forward. When did you realize that was becoming an issue in your life that it wasn't just casual college type drinky that it was turning into something more? What did that look like for you?
Jenni Johnson 09:35
I think I always knew that I had a struggle. But when I had my girls in my early 30s I started feeling like this is not going to be okay this is something I'm going to have to change because I don't want them to grow up like I did, and I after I was started College, I ended up transferring colleges. And that's where I met my husband. And that's actually where the change started to occur is with him and with his family.
Denisha Workizer 10:09
What did it look like? What was your drinking habits like at that moment? And then how did he and his family affect you
Jenni Johnson 10:17
think I had slowed my drinking. And when I met him, I, every time I had an issue or a problem with something, he wanted to go to prayer, he wanted to pray about it his family, both of his parents were very strong Christians involved in the church, and also not drinkers of any sort. So it was 180 degrees from what I'd grown up in. And I loved it. I gravitated towards it. I grew up. I loved him. Obviously, I married him.
Denisha Workizer 10:50
And how long have you been married now?
Jenni Johnson 10:52
Denisha Workizer 10:55
That's amazing. That's amazing.
Jenni Johnson 10:57
His parents were a huge part of just the start, or the impetus of me wanting to change how I was living.
Denisha Workizer 11:05
It sounds like they set a great example for you. Yes, yes. So what about that change? What did that look like for you?
Jenni Johnson 11:14
I began to see that it wasn't going to be a good path for me, my husband ended up getting into the Air Force. And we traveled quite a bit. So I continued to struggle a little bit with drinking, because sometimes a military career is not conducive to sobriety. But I once we came back here, and I, we started having children, is when I really started thinking, This isn't going to work for me. So
Denisha Workizer 11:45
and so you have your girls, yes. And what happened next?
Jenni Johnson 11:51
I think just realizing when they were very young, I think they were one and three, two and four, under five, for sure. I just saw them. And I saw myself when I was young, and I didn't want them to grow up, like I did, in a home where things you couldn't trust what was happening. You didn't know what was going to happen. You couldn't have friends over. I just didn't want that for them. And so I started questioning how I was going to change to make that a better place for them.
Denisha Workizer 12:26
And from we've talked before, and you've shared your testimony with me, and I just think it's such a neat moment that you actually reached out to God. And you asked him for something that I think many of us actually don't particularly want in our lives. But it sounds like you, you felt his nudging. And what did you ask him for? I
Jenni Johnson 12:48
asked for him to have someone confront me. I had gone to a revival at a church I was attending, and felt very convicted about my drinking, knowing that it was something I needed to quit. I had asked my husband about it, he didn't seem to think I had a problem. But I knew I had a problem. God was telling me I had a problem. And so I started praying that someone would confront me. And I actually told God who I thought it would be. It was between two people. And I threw out that fleece and said these, I think this is who needs to confront me, and I want them to confront me. And one of them did one
Denisha Workizer 13:31
of the two people that you had thought, Oh, so many times when we're in situations like that, we don't want somebody to confront us, we can become really good at hiding. But yet, you were throwing that out, was it almost God if you're convicting me of this, than bring somebody else to witness that? What was that moment where you're like,
Jenni Johnson 13:49
I knew I wanted it out in the open, I was tired of living with the shame of the secret. And I knew growing up in my home, that was the hardest part. It wasn't even the actual drinking or drugs. It was the secret of what was happening. And not being able to let anyone see that. And so that, that shame of feeling like this is not a good place, but I can't let anyone see it. And for me, even now in my life going on, I am very much a person who wants to bring something into the light. I don't want to have it in the darkness or hidden. And so I think that was the start of those kinds of feelings was saying, God, I want someone to confront me.
Denisha Workizer 14:34
I think that's so encouraging because we know healing happens in relationships, and you invited another human that can be scary. Invite someone else into that darkness with you. And so you prayed and you ask God one, I think it's going to be one of these two ladies have someone confront me. So what happened next?
Jenni Johnson 14:52
I was talking to her on the phone one night and I must have been not making a lot of sense or not totally coherent. No. And she asked me what was wrong. And I just told her I was tired that nothing was wrong. And the very next morning, I stopped drinking. I wrote her a letter and told her the story of wanting to be confronted and that I had been struggling with alcohol, and that she was the one that God brought to confront me. And for almost a year after that, she called me every night, she took me to celebrate recovery. We went to that some and she would call me every night at the time of evening. That was hard for me. And she would talk me through that.
Denisha Workizer 15:40
That's such a beautiful accountability. Yes, it was wonderful to have someone really walk you through that night did when you told her you were tired? Did she know that you had been drinking? Did she call you out on that? At that point?
Jenni Johnson 15:54
No, I don't think she even had a clue that I drink that much. Because I had learned growing up to hide it pretty well.
Denisha Workizer 16:02
So then she comes in, and you've you're talking to her every night for a year, which is beautiful. Yeah, yes, that is such a beautiful picture of this time is hard. For me. This is when I tend to go back to that habit and going to celebrate recovery. What did it look like? So going from that night, when you were on the phone with her to fast forward to a year later? What went on inside of you over that year of wrestling to give something up that you had been accustomed to since 12 years old? What did that look like?
Jenni Johnson 16:33
It was scary. It was really scary initially to think about doing something forever. And so it was definitely day to day. And it required a huge dependence on God. And I know that he could have taken that away from me, but he chose not to. And he chose for me to just keep depending on him, day by day, and I did. It's much easier now. I don't struggle on a daily basis at all. I know that it's something I can't ever do again. But the freedom of not having to hide that. I can't tell you what that feels like. It's just it's from God.
Denisha Workizer 17:16
And how long have you been celebrating that for him? 21 years, 21 years? Whoo. Yeah, that's amazing. How did your husband and your husband's family How did they play a part in your recovery?
Jenni Johnson 17:30
That's been too as he's not a super warm and fuzzy emotional guy, but I know it meant now I know even more what it means to him. But then I think he was a little baffled, maybe because he didn't see the problem. But he was very supportive of my desire to change my in laws were hugely supportive. It took me a while to tell them because they had no clue that I was struggling with alcohol. So when I finally told them, they were hugely supportive, and so proud of me, and every year on my anniversary date, they would remember that I had the day and made a point to write me a note or call me or tell me how proud they were of how nice
Denisha Workizer 18:13
to have such good just support? Yes. And how did God support you mentioned going to a revival. What did that look like? I love like the, I've been to a couple of like tent revivals. And I love that. So tell us a little bit about that love these God encounters.
Jenni Johnson 18:30
It was Ken Freeman. And I don't know if many people have heard of him, he wrote a book called rescued by the cross. But he his revival was a two or three day revival at a church here in town. And I went and I kept feeling at the end of the service, every I think it was two or three nights, I would feel he would call people forward. And I would feel the urge to go and know I was supposed to go but I just couldn't make my feet move. I just couldn't do it. And so that was the start of me, knowing that God was convicting me. And it was shortly after that I began praying for someone to confront me.
Denisha Workizer 19:15
The one thing about shame we know is that like the quote from Brene Brown, right? It tells us that we are innately not good in some way. So is this as you begin to not only kick a physical dependency, but you begin to depend more on the Lord. How did that play out in your family, with your girls with your husband? How did that play out?
Jenni Johnson 19:38
I think with my girls, they probably weren't aware I've asked them I've been super honest with my girls about my struggles, in an effort for them to be honest with me about anything they're struggling with. I'm not sure they were old enough to really understand. But my husband, I think would tell you now he was amazed at the change. and my ability to function. And as the years have gone by, I think it's become more apparent to him how much I needed that change and the freedom that I felt from not having that shame.
Denisha Workizer 20:17
What a beautiful relationship that you got to share that with your girls. And I know your girls, I love your girls there now adult women who are married, but
Jenni Johnson 20:26
yes, happens fast.
Denisha Workizer 20:28
It sure does it. I know that one thing I've always admired about you, Jenny watching you raise the girls for goodness. Yeah, the last probably by the 13 years. Yeah, 13 years for sure that we were really close. I've always admired your relationship with them that there is an honesty, you are definitely mom that you are a trusted safe, mom. And that's such the opposite. It sounds like maybe of what you had growing up. How did you This is on a little bit of a different topic. But I love that your family grew up your you grew up in a family that that used alcohol was very normal. And you were not attended to as a child the way maybe that could have been right? Fast forward now in your adult life as your wife as you're a mom, not only do you change those habits of alcoholism in your family, and you break those chains for you and your girls, but you also change the relationship that you as the mom have with your daughters. Tell us a little bit about that journey. I think many of us who are chain breakers think I want to do different. And I know for me, there's moments I found myself going, Oh, I'm saying the same thing. My mom said at one point in time I said I do different. But how did that just see it's such a different picture what I know you and your relationship with your girls and your husband, then what it sounds like you grew up? And how did that come to be? How did you conquer and break those chains.
Jenni Johnson 21:57
I think just honesty and giving them a safe place to grow up where they knew there was nothing they couldn't come to their dad or to myself with that would shock us or make us not love them being attentive to them as much as we could I homeschooled both girls. So we developed a very close relationship. And even now as adults now that we can be friends too. It's immensely important that they know they can come to me. And so I've always been really honest about any faults I have. Letting them know that there are things I know I did wrong, but that everyone does things wrong sometimes and that you're not alone, and that there are people who will love you. And most of all, sharing Jesus with them and knowing that they're going to be okay because they have Jesus to
Denisha Workizer 22:49
such a beautiful connection, that you guys can share the good, the bad everything together. That's such a beautiful relationship. Such a model really of the relationship that we have with the Lord, right that we can go to him with anything we can come and our most broken moments are in our most victorious moments, and he meets us in there. What does it look like in your recovery, to use your story to help others? How has God utilized that in your life?
Jenni Johnson 23:19
I think just I have a Bible study at my home and knowing that there's other women who have struggled with the same thing and being able to help them or talk to them. I think not being alone has really impacted me knowing that there are other people too, if you're open and honest about what's going on in your life, you're gonna find that there are other people who are struggling with the same thing or something similar, if not the same thing. And just knowing that not everyone walks around with things going well all the time. And in fact, most of us walk around, struggling with something. And to know that you can talk about it, the freedom to be honest about what's really going on in your life has made my life hugely different.
Denisha Workizer 24:07
And that's one thing that surprised me as we've dove in to reclaim story together the moments that God has just allowed people to be so vulnerable and honest about what's going on. Sometimes you see people at church on Sunday mornings and we're bright and shiny, if you will, yeah. But during the week, our weeks are hard and especially post pandemic. I know everybody's probably tired of talking about the pandemic but the reality is, a lot of addictions started during the pandemic. A lot of people had to cope with their family being home when they weren't home alcohol sales. I forget the amount, but they increased dramatically during COVID. And so, Jenny is we look at you and we see such a fantastic woman, just a woman of God. You've been hosting a Bible study in your home that can be that's vulnerable and a place where people can come and can be honest with what they're going through for 20 something years now. And we see you as this warm, loving, compassionate woman. What would you say to someone right now who who might be listening? Who might think, yeah, that's me. They can relate to Jenny back in her 30s. That's raising two girls and drinking and maybe nobody's noticing around them. What would you say to them in that moment,
Jenni Johnson 25:28
I think reach out to somebody, find somebody you can reach out to, to start opening up about things that are in your life, it's so freeing to be able to tell someone, just the relief of saying it out loud to somebody else is huge. That of being honest, the freedom that comes in honesty, and asking that person to pray for you. And to help you figure out the next step, just take one step, just for me, it was praying for someone to confront me, that was the first step. I didn't even know what I was going to do after that. I'm not sure what I thought I do. But it was a step in getting it out in the open of putting it out in the light. And letting God heal me,
Denisha Workizer 26:21
the man because I see a woman sitting before me right now, who does not struggle with shame, who can get on an international podcast and share your story about what God's done in your life, how he's healed you. And it really does, it shows other women that it's possible that your victory can be a victory for them. And it also shows how much we can depend on God.
Jenni Johnson 26:44
Right? That would be my hope that somebody would hear it and reach out to someone
Denisha Workizer 26:50
I want to throw out to if there's not someone who's safe in your life, if you don't have someone who would be that safe person Jenny had two of which she thought God would use one of them and he did feel free to email us. I just wanted throw this out just on my heart that if you don't have a safe person, feel free to email us. And we can help you connect with somebody locally in your city, that that would be connect at reclaim story.com. And you're not alone. You're not alone. A lot of people go through Alcoholics Anonymous. That's a great resource of people who understand people who can come around alongside you and support in your life. God chose to use your friend and chose Do you celebrate recovery. And that's a great resource as well. Many churches have celebrate recovery programs if you go online and look that up where you can find support with other people who've been there. But we also know that not everybody's healing is a one size fits all. So there's a couple of options for Celebrate Recovery or Alcoholics Anonymous that have worked for many people and helps bring a lot of people to the freedom that Jenny's describing today. So Jedi before we go today, is there anything else you'd like to share?
Jenni Johnson 28:06
That I am so thankful every day for the freedom I have in Christ? Just every day, I'm thankful and blessed.
Denisha Workizer 28:17
Amen. Jedi. Thank you so much. Thank you for being vulnerable and honest, be willing, being willing to share your story and our hope and our prayer is that your victory could be a victory for someone else as well.
Jenni Johnson 28:28
Yes, that would be my hope, too.
Denisha Workizer 28:31
All right. Thank you so much, Danny and we will see you same time, same place next week. Thanks for listening. I pray you found hope in today's conversation, and maybe even feel a little less alone in your story. Stay connected with us on Facebook and Instagram at reclaimed story. Want to learn more about living a reclaimed life and how you can be a part of our growing community ever claimers? Check out our website at reclaimed story.com all of those links and more will be in the show notes. And if you enjoyed this inspirational podcast Be sure to subscribe rate and review. Not only will you be the first one to know when new content comes out, but it is also a huge help and helping us reach more people to live the reclaimed life.