A Day To Remember
For most people, photos from their wedding day are among some of their most cherished memories, capturing moments from a day filled with happiness, love, and joy. For Jen Hirst, however, photos from her wedding day serve as a reminder of one of the hardest days of her life, and sadly, one she only remembers parts of.
“My wedding was one of the hardest days of my life. And it’s supposed to be something that you’ll remember forever, but I only remember some of it. That was the beginning of me getting help.”
Now a mother of two young children, a health and fitness lover, and founder of her own small business, Jen Hirst recently celebrated 10 years of sobriety in April 2023. Jen says when she shares before and after photos with her clients, she shows them photos of that day because she says nobody knew what was going on inside.
“I like to start every podcast like this: It can happen to anyone.”
Jen’s story with addiction is one that, sadly, so many others can relate to; and one that highlights just how pervasive the disease is. What started out as casual drinking quickly descended into a cycle of using alcohol to get through each and every day. However, Jen, like many others, justified her drinking for many years because she didn’t “look” like your typical alcoholic. Jen was what is referred to as a high-functioning alcoholic or a closet alcoholic.
“I did my drinking at home, hiding bottles around the house so my husband wouldn’t find out. On the outside, it appeared that I had it all together, but I was physically and mentally collapsing.”
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A child of two great parents, Jen says she came from a perfectionist family and remembers her parents rarely indulging in alcohol. She says that, while there was always alcohol around, she had never seen her parents drunk before.
Her entire young adult life, Jen remembers being obsessed with what other people thought of her. “That’s how our family was,” she explained, “And so I just placed that above everybody else.” However, this obsession came at a cost. In her quest for perfection, she placed immense expectations on herself to look a certain way, to achieve certain goals, or to be the perfectionist her parents raised her to be. When these expectations went unmet, Jen says she beat herself up, which started her cycle of drinking.
“I started to use alcohol to fall asleep because I had social anxiety. Then I would drink before going on dates. I had experienced what I thought was ‘normal drinking’ for a while throughout high school and college; that was my turning point.”
Jen remembers this turning point like it was yesterday. She and her then-boyfriend at the time had discussed taking a break, and she said she felt lost and had no idea what to do. Confused, sad, and already in the early stages of alcohol addiction, Jen’s roommates offered her Adderall, and she says the rest is history.
“My roommates at the time were a bunch of guys who used Adderall. One day they’re like, ‘Hey, if you take this, you’re gonna feel amazing, and you’re not gonna care about the break.’ And I said, ‘What the hell? I don’t want to feel this way.’ So from that moment forward, I felt amazing because that’s what Adderall does: makes you feel like God. I felt like I could take on the world.”
However, unbeknownst to Jen, these feelings of relief would be short-lived. Soon, things would start to go downhill fast.
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Rationalization To Realization
Jen’s struggles with alcohol and Adderall would continue for years, up until the year leading up to her wedding.
“At that time, I was working around the clock. I was doing freelance full-time. I had my corporate job full-time. I was doing my wedding all by myself. I never asked for help. And so, I drank at night to have fun, to cope with my anxiety and overwhelm.”
However, all of that stress, anxiety, and worrying came crashing down just a few days after her wedding. Just days after being married, Jen broke down in front of her husband, much to his surprise.
“My husband didn’t know what was going on at all because I had hidden my addiction so well.”
From this point on, Jen’s year-and-a-half-long journey to sobriety began. She said she felt fed up and couldn’t continue on the path she was on. Her first step was attending an AA meeting, which she says she did drunk. Jen felt as though AA alone wasn’t working, so she and her husband decided they would make the next step: outpatient rehab. However, after only a short time, Jen says she knew it wasn’t working for her.
It took Jen almost a full year to build up the courage to attend an inpatient rehab, which she eventually did at Hazelden Betty Ford, where she did a 30-day stay. Jen remembers the fear she had before going, wondering what people would think if she was going to lose her job and what it would be like inside.
“I remember thinking, ‘What are people gonna think? Am I going to lose my job?’ And then I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to lose my job anyway because I’m already heading down that path.”
However, after those first 30 days, Jen came home and relapsed. Shortly thereafter, she returned to Hazelden for their extended 60-day stay, but again, she relapsed. Jen says she “just wasn’t ready yet,” but remembers “really wanting to get sober.”
After her third attempt at getting sober, Jen felt as though all was lost, but she never gave up that ambition to get sober. However, it would take a near-death experience to give her the wake-up call she desperately needed. That wake-up call came on April 23, 2013, a night Jen will remember forever.
The Night That Changed Everything
In April of 2013, Jen was at her lowest point in her battle with addiction. Her struggle with alcohol had cost her nearly everything. First her car, then her job, and nearly her marriage.
“I had gotten kicked out of my house, my husband had set a boundary, and I really felt my physical health declining. I started losing things pretty quickly, to the point where I was staying at my parent’s place because they were the only people left, even though they were fed up with me as well.”
Then, on the night of the 23rd, Jen’s life changed forever. Jen was instructed to join her father at his office to keep tabs on her behavior. She had managed to purchase some mouthwash, which she drank as a substitute for alcohol. This, combined with the Adderall she was taking, became a recipe for disaster.
“By that point, I didn’t care. It was truly astonishing; I had gone from a happy-go-lucky kid to now wanting to end my life because I didn’t know how I was gonna get out of the mess I was creating.”
Earlier that week she found her hands going numb on her childhood bed, and vividly remembers thinking that her time was up. She frantically Googled “signs of cardiac arrest,” and did what the site instructed.
Back at her fathers office with a half bottle of mouthwash in her system, she blacked out.
Jen was rushed to the hospital, where she was stabilized and immediately sent to an inpatient facility, where nurses found she had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.34, nearly four and a half times higher than the legal limit. However, Jen says it wasn’t the fact that her BAC was so high that scared her, but rather the fact that she had been drinking this heavily for so long.
[hghlight]”While that scared me, it was the fact that I had been blowing that and doing that every single night for the past two years. How many times did I cheat it and get away with it? And that really scared me.”[/highlight]
After that night, Jen says she was done. She recalls surrendering and making the decision to stop fighting. She just accepted that she needed help and said everything clicked after that.
“I let go of what was gonna happen because, at that point, I had a lot of stuff to clean up. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a job. I was on the verge of losing my marriage. My parents didn’t want me. I was calling homeless shelters in detox because my parents didn’t want me back there. I didn’t know what to do, but I just said as long as I don’t drink, I can’t make this any worse.”
From that moment on, Jen dedicated herself to her sobriety and, through years of hard work, showed those around her that she was truly committed to bettering herself once and for all.
Lighting The Way For Others
Now 10 years sober, Jen Hirst is thriving. Currently working full-time as a sober coach and founder of Lighthouse Sobriety, Jen helps women across the country kick alcohol to the curb and live happier, healthier lives. However, Jen says she never set out to become a sober coach or sober influencer. Rather, she says Lighthouse was the byproduct of her goal to become a Beachbody coach.
After coming out of the Sober Closet in 2017, Jen began sharing her sobriety journey on social media, and over the course of a year it became clear that her calling was to help others get sober. Jen realized, “I don’t think I’m supposed to help women lose weight, I think I’m supposed to get them get and STAY sober!”
“I heard a quote in a podcast that said, ‘Be the lighthouse and light the way for others.’ And I thought that’s just exactly what this is all about: being that light for others and not trying to tell anybody to get sober, but raising your hand first and being that guiding light for people who are in the dark.”
Lighthouse Sobriety first started as individual and group coaching; however, Jen quickly noticed that many of the same women were rejoining these programs. She quickly understood that there was a need for a membership program, which she says has been a major help for those who want long-term care.
Jen left her corporate job behind and now heads up Lighthouse Sobriety full-time. She coaches monthly, with almost daily meetings with her clients. She curates all of her own handouts, nutritional guides, book recommendations, and guest speakers for her members.
“It’s a really great community of women who are taking care of themselves, sharing their wins and struggles, and is just a really supportive place.”
When talking with Jen, one of the first things that we picked up on was her love for both her husband and two children, both of which she says have been a major source of support for her since getting sober. It’s apparent that Jen carries this same level of support to the women in her community, as well as those around her.
Jen Hirst’s recovery story is truly the light in the dark for so many women across the country. Her dedication and devotion to her recovery community are an inspiration to not just the women in her programs but to anyone struggling with an addiction.
If you are looking for information on addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact a treatment provider today.