Guest: Jenna Ruud | jennaruud2020@gmail
SAMHSA National Helpline
Confidential free help, from public health agencies, to find substance use treatment and information.
Where did it begin? Many years of denial. It was a roller coaster ride. How did you enter into drugs? She had a wonderful childhood. Her parents were great. When she was 12 her grandma developed brain cancer and it had a profound impact on their family. She saw photos of herself from age 12 to 14 and it was night and day. She always had a natural attraction to trouble. She was ahead in school always and a lot of her reading always glamorized drugs. It was a very cool thing. Jenna felt that she was overprotected and felt it played a role in idealizing drugs. Her siblings are 13 years apart so they didn’t play a huge part in drugs. How did your family deal with the deaths? It is blocked out in her memory. Her biggest fear is when her Mom dies. She will need all her strength and more. What is falling apart? Emotional, crying, napping during the day. She started taking antidepressants. It wasn’t who she was. Jenna got pregnant and had an abortion at 13 during this time. At 14 she started taking prescription drugs. She would be up for four days straight. Her brain is wired for addiction. Jenna is an overachiever. Ask any addict, would you choose to be this way? You can look at an addict’s brain and a non-addict and they are very different brains. Drug addicts brains get turned on. It can be pornography, gambling, video games. When she was prostituting, she found her clients addicted to gambling and sex.
Take us through the life of an addict. Let’s go there. Through the teenage years, she was told she was bright and gifted. She had no interest. A lot of her friends that were addicts had the thought that time was endless. Every addict feels youthful, they feel like they have time. She went to an artsy school and hippie. She was pron to violent outbursts towards her Mom. She threatened running away and killing herself. By 16/17 she was in the subculture. Mushrooms, acid, ecstasy. She loves ecstasy more than heroin. She camped, went to Mexico, hitchhiked. By 19 she was pregnant with the first daughter. 20 with a second daughter. The father beat her 8month old almost to death. She had two babies at 21 years old. She was a baby with babies. She had a mental breakdown. She slit her wrists. She gave her kids to her parents. She went to a mental hospital. White knuckling. She would try to be normal, go to college. It would last for a bit and then she would go off the wagon. She needed pills so much she drove 3 hours to get pills with her kids in the car. She was the most fun on drugs. She hated being sober. It was uncomfortable. The drugs made it go away. Mid twenties her parents said she couldn’t be around the kids. She was done. Instead of killing herself, she just spiraled down. By 30 she was arrested 9 times. When did you become ok with needles?
When my children were two and three. She was living in a trailer park. She was getting pills here and there. Her neighbor said why don’t you do methadone? She was so addicted and the pills were so expensive. Heroin was next. You can smoke it. You can get high all day for 10 bucks. It was progression. She had a friend that shot up with needles. He refused to shoot her up. But he finally did. It was game over. Addicted. It was amazing. What does that mean? Imagine you are stressed out and had the buzz effect of wine and slipped into the hot tub and had an orgasm and this is 1/100th of what you feel on heroin. Your thoughts and your heart come back in your body when you are sober. The negative chatter comes back and heroin blocks all that out. Heroin actually does bond with your molecular system. Everyday you feel like you have the flu without being high.
Were the father’s around while you were at the trailer park? She had horrible relationships. The fathers of the kids were awful and one is in jail. She white knuckled it. Crappy jobs that she could get to buy diapers. She would give up and parents would step in. Once the parents got guardianship she went further. She wanted to kill herself. She wanted to take drugs. She would fantasize about being clean. Five years ago, she was prostituting for drugs. If you do drugs and put them first, they will get to a point where they will do more. This was before the epidemic. They will become homeless, be in jail, and prostitutes.
What kind of tools do they need to not go down this road?
I think we underestimate how stubborn teenagers are. Knowing that if you keep going down this path, it could help. She can tell if people are sincere. If you use drugs this will happen. You will be raped, you could die, your parents will disown you, etc.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
What do you want the audience to walk away with? Start here. In the depth of people’s addictions she met the most amazing people. Everyone was suffering trauma. They turned to pills. Sitting on a corner at 4am.
Don’t you want to be clean? She didn’t quit drugs because she hated drugs. Heroin was always there for her. She quit drugs because she loved them more than anything else. The best thing that happened to her she went to jail. Adulting sucks. Bills, the stress. They can do whatever they want and they look down on all of us adulting. After 6 months of being clean in jail, she saw girls coming in off the streets it was so raw. She detoxed in jail. How long did it take? 89% of people that go to jail are on drugs. It took 2 weeks in isolation. They give you . Sleep, throw up, rinse, repeat. It took a month for her to be able to stand up.
Five months into jail stay, her daughter started asking her to go to treatment. But she was missing her soulmate heroin. She now had a criminal record. She went to treatment for a month after she got out. The urge is always there. She lives with it on a daily basis.
She advocates for a help center in Seattle. The Aurora Commons. A communal living space. Non-profit. Spiritually based group. You can wash your clothes. You can play piano. You can cook, you can sit. Charge your phone. It gave you dignity back. She was there everyday to shower and use the bathroom. Make-up, condoms were plentiful. They tried to get her to a shelter. After she was clean, she was on an advocacy group. They meet and talk about what they can do for the women that are still using. They care about what people need medically and emotionally. She went back to Aurora with her kids to see it on a Saturday night. She went back to the commons and was so well relieved and was never so listened to and received lots of hugs.
She gained a lot of weight. But when people saw me sickly skinny. She got lots of complements. It was horribly reinforcing. The adulting. Getting life on track. She craves escape. A craving lasts only for 10 seconds. You can get through it. Her boyfriend is clean as well. She met him on the streets. She remembered all the bad things to help her not go back. She recommends counseling. She would go to help meetings when she was prostituting. She meditates. When you are using you are dead, don’t do those things to yourself when you are clean. She lives with her youngest daughter now. She can’t find a job with a record. She has her sobriety and her family.
The souls who have gone through the darkest of days have the most to give.
What about the relationship with the drugs. The gift of your journey will change lives. She went through hell and back.
Do you accept life showing up and being difficult. She feels like she is coasting right now. We need people to show compassion. We put people in boxes. She has family support. She says we need communal places to lift up individuals.
To the people that are the family of drug addicts. Drug addicts hate what they are doing to you. They care so much it keeps them in the horrible cycle.
Thank you for being vulnerable. This opens doors for you not living in a place of fear.
It is about getting through struggles! We are honored to bring you into our tribe! We are all in this thing called life together. It goes back to opening your heart and asking for help!