MEDFORD, Ore. — A woman gets clean after years of addiction, and now she’s turning around to help others do the same. She along with a group of others began the Addictions Recovery Center, or ARC Alumni group, and are trying to make sure recovery is both successful and fun.
“If I had never started doing anything, if I never drank a drop obviously, you know I wouldn’t be here to tell the story right now,” Jodie Zander said.
Jodie Zander has always been a people person.
“I started drinking early, and it was really really fun,” she said. “At first, going to parties and I should have known that there was something because I’d get sick, but I would rally and normal people would get sick and, and they would stop.”
She didn’t stop, she wanted to keep the party going. She wanted to keep having fun. That want quickly turning into a need when she hit hard times.
“I mean one of the simplest things is my parents got divorced, and my older brother disappeared without a trace in 2001, and we still have never found him.”
Sparking her years-long battle with addiction.
“I stayed pretty numb. My wanting to drink became needing to drink. All of a sudden the obsession that we get kicks in, and you don’t even know why. Some days I didn’t even want a drink but then I would end up at the end of the day, there I was in a blackout getting a DUI.”
Jodie had an outgoing personality but alcoholism isolated her. She says she was lonely for a long time, and there was no end in sight until one night.
“I was kind of done. I remember having those feelings of I was really tired, I was really tired I was lying to my family and I was doing all these things. I wasn’t working and I really was unemployable at the time. And, I was laying in the bathtub, and I just thought, God I’m just so tired, and I would think about how easy it would be to just kind of slip under the water and take that deep breath.”
She said, she felt she had two options in front of her.
“I still get emotional because it takes me back because it was such, it was just such a dark time in my life.”
But she chose to live. She picked up the phone and called the Addictions Recovery Center. In treatment, she thought she’d be leaving her past behind, but learned, she had to face her demons to move forward.
“I didn’t understand that until I got treatment, so I learned about alcoholism. I learned about the chronic illness of alcoholism, which was a really big turning point for me. That’s where I learned that I was an alcoholic.”
Jodie says it was at ARC that she got her life back, and understood that for her alcoholism isn’t a choice. She says as a part of her recovery she needed to find a way to have fun without alcohol and be with others. And that want for fun helped form the idea for ARC Alumni.
“We all come from different walks of life, different families, different backgrounds, but what we have in common is that we have addiction in common. If you don’t really get involved and you don’t reach your hand out, and you don’t get involved in some kind of treatment after your treatment or some kind of fellowship or something. You can get lost in the cracks”
Jodie says the group started small with just seven or eight but has grown to hundreds of people in various stages of recovery coming together to form their own community based on one thing, addiction.
“Alcoholism is such a solo activity, but recovery seems to be such a group thing without others, telling their stories like being willing to tell their story and say hey, this is what happened to me. I wouldn’t have even given it a try.”
“We’re here just to be compassionate because we’ve all been there before because you’re starting over and it’s like you hit the reset button, so now what? The alumni’s there to explain now what and say come with me it’s gonna be okay,” ARC Alumni member, John said.
They focus on making sure people have fun in their recovery, but it’s much more than that.
“As an alcoholic, I never thought I could have fun without alcohol, and that was a big reason for many years to not to even bother trying to quit,” ARC Alumni, John said. “So it’s nice when the Alumni come to the facility and you see its gonna be okay.”
Jodie says she relies on this group, and they rely on her. But she had to take the first step herself.
“The only one, the person that it really comes down to is you. You have to be willing, you have to be willing and you have to be willing to ask for help, and then you have to be willing to do the work. Whatever kind of life you want when you get clean and sober. That’s the life that you’re going to get. So don’t be afraid of it. Ask for help and get it.”
If you are struggling with addiction, know there is help available but it’s up to you to take that step. No matter if you live in southern Oregon in Northern California. There are a variety of resources available for you, but as Jodie Zander said you have to reach out and ask for help. There’s no better time than now.