The hardest part is admitting to yourself that there is a problem, but it is the first step to freedom. Make sure you get the right help with a qualified professional. Have a tight knit circle of people you can confined in. Have a strategy and a plan.
As a part of my series about people who made the journey from an addict to an entrepreneur, I had the pleasure to interview Jennifer Mckenzie.
Jennifer Mckenzie a 38 year-old mum of four, is a woman on a mission, living life to the full and paying forward her knowledge, expertise and life journey lessons, living a life that she very nearly ended on numerous occasions. Now a multiple business owner Lunar Spirit Wellbeing and The Healing Shed LTD, also a No 1 best-selling author, host of her own wellbeing podcast, That Inner Voice, and a thriving entrepreneurial Coach with celebrity clients (The Conscious Living Coach) Jen combines her holistic therapy experience of nearly 20 years, with her NLP life coach qualifications, bringing mindfulness into the everyday life of her clients. Jen also hosts her own online talk show- Real Talk Stand in Your POWER. Jen is an expert panelist for global platform Speak up and Empower.
Connecting science and spirituality, her work focuses on helping others to move forward in their lives. Jen’s purpose is to create transformations within others through managing mindsets, to help create lasting transformations, not ‘sticky plaster solutions.’
Combining mindfulness, meditation, reiki, holistic therapy, energy practices, conscious living and addiction recovery, Jen helps people to let go of their fears and stop self-sabotaging so they can live peacefully.
She is also a huge body positivity activist, having learnt to love her own body after many years of being made to feel ashamed of it, working to empower other women to embrace their femininity and celebrate their bodies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you describe your childhood for us?
My childhood was ok, I grew up in a middle-class family in a good area. I was the middle child with an older and younger brother. My parents were kind and loving, I didn’t want for much, my father was head of math’s at a private school, my mother stayed at home with us then qualified as a teacher also. I was encouraged to express my individuality. Looking back, I was also told to be quiet a lot, I was labelled a ‘difficult’ child, I think I embarrassed my mother with my behavior. I was curious child, I wanted to know ‘why’ all the time. I loved nature, horses and being outside. I kept my room meticulously tidy, an obsession with having things in order. I was confident, outgoing and not afraid to speak my mind. I was head strong and determined. Middle school was a different story, I was bullied for my individuality, being small and having rosy cheeks. I also got bullied by a teacher, during a math lesson, I was daydreaming, I didn’t know an answer to a question, so he slammed his hand on the table and said, “a demented slug can do better than you!”. I got called that for some time after by the other children. I started to doubt myself, hated the way I looked. I was pretty sensitive, so the bullying got to me, I was often called a cry baby. I began to withdraw and suppress my emotions. I escaped with horse riding from 8yrs old, then my escapism turned to drink and drugs in my teens. My parents divorced when I was 14. I kept getting in trouble with the police. I did achieve lots; I was pretty intelligent.
Can you share with us how were you initially introduced to your addiction? What drew you to the addiction you had?
I tried alcohol from a young age, 13 it made me forget all the troubles in my head. At 14, I hung around with older people, I was smoking weed, crack and taking pills. Experimenting with drugs, sex, and crime! It was a thrill, I got off on the adrenaline. Plus, it made me money while I was still at school. I enjoyed the escapism.
What do you think you were really masking or running from in the first place?
Myself! My true feelings, I wanted to escape reality. Suppressing emotions, trauma. Confused about my sexuality. I was holding everything in. I thought very deeply, I felt like everything was my fault. Looking back addiction and obsessive behaviors started in childhood for me, the drink and drugs were a solution.
Can you share what the lowest point in your addiction and life was?
Probably soiling myself in white hotpants on the way home from a party!
On a serious note, the lowest point was August 2008 when my girls were living with me, I was a single parent, working in promotions as a model and brand rep. I was drinking and using a lot. This was the transition from functioning to non-functioning addict. I was losing control of my emotions and my using, my life was crumbling down, I lost work, crashed my car, wasn’t paying my rent. The worse part my girls went to stay with their Dad so I could get help, but it made me worse. It was awful, my heart broke into a million pieces, I remember getting a sheet and trying to hang myself from the balcony of the stairs, I sent a goodbye text to their Dad, he sent someone close by over immediately, so I was interrupted by banging on the door. I felt like an absolute failure in every single way possible. My addiction got worse, I was in and out of situations with abusive men. I lost everything and became homeless at 29, then discovered I was pregnant again. A lot of the time it felt like I was living a double life, I was always putting on a front or hiding who I really was.
Can you tell us the story about how you were able to overcome your addiction?
It was 2015, I had 2 more young children by this time. In 2012 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I had been housed seemed to have sorted my life out, but the emotional turmoil was still there. The ups and downs emotionally. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, my mental health was going down the pan, all the triggers from unresolved trauma resurfaced. I was binge drinking and using rather than every day like before. Coping with 2 young children and being told I was an awful mother by my sons’ father, instead of support I was told I wasn’t good enough. I ended the toxic relationship in March 2015, 5 months before we were due to get married. In November I had had enough of myself, I felt again like a complete failure. I tried to take my own life, I planned it, got the kids looked after, I tried to take my own life. I got sectioned, in the hospital after a few days of not washing or barely eating or saying anything. I went to get something to eat, on my return to my room there was a white feather on top of my blue book (the big book of alcoholics anonymous) There was no way a feather could have got into a clinical, closed room. I dropped to my knees and a light came back on inside me. I had a spiritual awakening; I knew I was now here for a bigger purpose. I sobbed and sobbed like I had never before. I wasn’t meant to die. I wanted to change my life and take hold of my addiction, so I did. I used my spiritual path of meditation, self-help books, meetings, changing my circle, I had some therapy too.
How did you reconcile within yourself and to others the pain that addiction caused to you and them?
Now this was a long old journey! The hardest was forgiving myself. The guilt was hard, it was hard to see the hurt I had caused.
In my early recovery I attended AA and CA meetings. So, I went through my 12 steps, steps 8 and 9 are about a wiliness to right your wrongs and making amends, but only if it wouldn’t cause more damage.
I repaired damage by accepting that I couldn’t change the past, but I could change my behavior going forward. I spoke to my parents, my children, friends that I had left. I said sorry for my actions but in all honesty, I didn’t think my words held much weight, it was my actions over time that re-gained the trust I had lost from the people close to me. Forgiveness is a practice I now teach through meditation and spiritual ceremony. It can be like shedding layers.
When you stopped your addiction, what did you do to fill in all the newfound time you had?
I put all my effort into my business, self-healing and learning new skills. Being in the present moment. Helping others became a huge part of my life and work too.
What positive habits have you incorporated into your life post addiction to keep you on the right path?
Knowing myself was a must, the triggers, the warning signs, so I made a plan of keeping busy with exercise, nature, writing has really helped me. Talking up instead of holding in my emotions.
Can you tell us a story about how your entrepreneurial journey started?
In 2016 I had been out of hospital a while. I had about £3, a handful of skills and a massage bed. I started my business from my lounge and haven’t looked back. I progressed to a cabin in the garden and now have expanded to online and building a wellbeing studio at my home address. I learnt a lot along the way and I am still learning now. I have built 2 businesses and my brand from scratch, I am nowhere near where I want to be yet with my company but I am well on my way. I have an addiction and wellbeing podcast called That Inner Voice and am going for motivational speaking gigs now too.
But really, I always been entrepreneurial, coming up with new ideas to make money, even at school, just none of them were legit.
What character traits have you transferred from your addiction to your entrepreneurship. Please share both the positive and negative.
I would say my tenacious way of going after what I want. Survival mode taught me resilience which you need in business. I think I witnessed so much BS come out of people’s mouths, mostly my own that I can spot it a mile off, which comes in handy when choosing who to work with.
I can catch myself being addicted to my work, so I have to set clear boundaries and make sure I have time off.
I learnt not to judge people because I know how it feels to pull myself out of the gutter, who am I to judge anyone, this comes across in my teachings.
I am very distrusting, so I tend to take on too much rather than delegate.
Why do you think this topic is not discussed enough?
Shame! Fear! The stigma attached. When addicts are portrayed on our screens or what we are conditioned to think, we see “the down and out addict” not a true representation of what a functioning addict is. There are so many variations of addiction, especially the “busy badge” that many businesspeople wear but is that masking something deeper?
Also, I believe it is lack of awareness or education around addiction. I didn’t like to talk about it as I feared people would think I was incompetent at work or scared of me. Lots of life’s judgements come down to fear.
Can you share three pieces of advice that you would give to the entrepreneur who is struggling with some sort of addiction but ashamed to speak about it or get help?
1-The hardest part is admitting to yourself that there is a problem, but it is the first step to freedom. Make sure you get the right help with a qualified professional. Have a tight knit circle of people you can confined in. Have a strategy and a plan.
2- Stop beating yourself up! Remember you are not alone. It can feel like no-one else is going through the same but I can assure you they are.
3- Recovery is a beautiful journey, I will not say it is easy but it is most definitely worth it. Imagine all that effort that went into addiction turn, put that effort into your self-healing first then your business. The lessons can be turned into a positive by sharing what you went through to help others.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for your insights. That was really inspiring!