Synopses & Reviews
'Today I choose the light.'
Jennifer Storm's first memoir, Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America, tells the haunting story of her downward spiral into addiction that began when she was raped at twelve years old. She remained on a dangerous, self-destructive path for ten dark years, until one day she awoke in the hospital after attempting to commit suicide and realized she needed help.
Now, Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery offers a deeper look into Jennifer's inspiring story of survival and transformation. With fearless honesty, she chronicles her journey as she embarked upon a new life in recovery, finally facing her traumatic past, her buried emotions, and her long-hidden truth about her sexuality. A unique blend of addiction recovery and coming-out story, this book provides a positive, encouraging example for those who are facing similar adversities. Jennifer holds nothing back in this courageous and insightful memoir.
"In the follow-up to Blackout Girl, her memoir of alcohol addiction, author Storm continues her compelling journey to fulfillment as a functional, substance-free human being. Fresh from a 28-day rehabilitation program, Storm finds she must shed many friends and routines from her past in order to work her 12-Step AA program and move forward in her life. Along the way, Storm chronicles her day-to-day in its frustrations and mundane details, but also faces a life-threatening medical emergency, comes out as a lesbian, has a first gay sexual encounter, plans the first-ever Penn State Queer Prom, and finds her passion as an activist. Throughout, she relates her story with candor, humor, and insight, making this an engaging and occasionally thought-provoking memoir of growing up, getting over past mistakes, and extending oneself to others and the world at large." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Recovering from assault and addiction is an endeavor none should have to face. Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery is a sequel to Jennifer Storm's earlier memoir, Blackout Girl. Focusing on the long road to recovery, she tries to live her life free from drugs, facing her past mistakes and tragedies when trying to learn to love once more. Leave the Light On is poignant and a reminder that recovery is always possible. James A. Cox
Riding the Storm Out
Recovering lesbian describes her life in sobriety in Leave the Light On
By Liz Massey
Many young adults hit a major turning point in their early 20s. For some, it stems from the reality of having to find that first job after college; for others, it's sparked by a realization that a relationship, or a career path, has turned out not to be all it seemed.
But for Jennifer Storm, age 22 arrived with a truth that rested on the edge of the razor she used to slash her wrists with during a suicide attempt: she was an alcoholic and drug addict and her life had become unmanageable. After 10 years of abusing alcohol and cocaine, Storm landed in a rehab facility after this desperate act -- and began a new chapter of her life.
'Rehab was the jolt that I needed to put it all into perspective,' she said. 'It was absolutely critical ... it saved my life.'
Storm described the long, difficult road leading up to her stint in rehab in Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America, published in 2008. This year, she's back with a new memoir, Leave the Light On, which covers her post-rehab life, her early recovery experiences, and her emergence as a lesbian activist.
She said the impetus for this book came from feedback she received while as she toured the country several years ago promoting Blackout Girl.
'I had about 10 years of sobriety then, and people would ask me how I got to that point,' she said. 'There are so many memoirs that cover the gritty details of addiction, and not nearly as many that talk about how to maintain sobriety.'
Addiction began at age 12
Storm's latest book is unique in that it is one of the few recovery memoirs written by a young lesbian. Joe Amico, president of NALGAP: The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies, noted that he knew of almost no other autobiography that covered the same ground as Storm's.
'I am not aware of any other lesbian memoirs on recovery,' said Amico, who for many years ran a therapy practice in Phoenix. 'To have a book that tells recovery from a lesbian perspective is significant.'
Leave the Light On discusses the issues that led to Storm's alcoholism and drug addiction, which began at age 12 following a rape. After the suicide attempt that landed her in rehab, Storm sought a therapist's help to begin unraveling all the threads that had kept her bound to her addictions: the rape, the death of her mother and an inability to sit with painful feelings. She also began dealing with her sexual orientation, a part of her self that had been carefully hidden.
'Once I came out of rehab, I knew I wasn't going to use again, so I had to deal with why I did it,' she said. 'One of the tenets of the (12-step) program is honesty ... how could I work a program and hide this significant part of my life?'
To concentrate more fully on staying sober, Storm moved from her hometown of Allentown, Pa., to State College, several hours away. Even with this move, made possible with the assistance of Storm's father and stepmother, she said leaving behind her drinking and drugging friends was one of the hardest things she had to do in early recovery.
'I had to give up my whole friendship network, really,' she said. 'Our common bond was partying. Without it, I had little in common with people I had considered my closest friends.'
Rebuilding life around therapy
Storm initially rebuilt her life around recovery meetings and weekly sessions with her therapist. Later she focused on experiencing academic life once she applied to attend college at Pennsylvania State University. She came out and joined Lambda Delta Lambda, a lesbian sorority, which gave her a push into on-campus activism.
'The sorority gave me a social outlet outside the bars,' Storm said. 'Don't get me wrong -- these groups still have a big drinking component, but they also have a huge service component. And many of the sorority sisters were (LGBT) activists, which got me into activism, which is at the core of what I do today.'
After starting and leading several LGBT and diversity-oriented groups during her undergraduate days at Penn State, Storm currently channels her activist energies into her job as executive director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, Pa., a non-profit agency that provides support and assistance to crime victims. She also maintains a brisk schedule of public speaking engagements related to the needs of young LGBT adults in recovery.
When she speaks to young people at college campuses around the country, one of the things Storm said she tries to get across is that they can choose to live a chemical-free life. That notion of choice is something that she said surprised her at the beginning of her sobriety, and continues to amaze her today.
'When I got sober, I couldn't believe I had lived 10 years of my life the way I had, when I had so many other options,' Storm said. 'Recovery was hard, but the fact that, on any given day, I could make the decision not to use meant that anything was possible.'
Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery
By Jennifer Storm
Central Recovery Press, 2010 Midwest Book Review
Book Review by Suzanne K of "Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery" by Jennifer Storm.
This is the second memoir by Jennifer Storm. Her first, Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America, depicted her haunting descent into addiction which occurred after she had been raped at age twelve. In Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery, Storm picks up where the first book left off. Even without reading her first memoir, readers will be captivated by Storm's account of life in recovery.
Anyone who's been through treatment for addiction knows that recovery is a scary time. You worry about it when you're nearing the end of your treatment, and you worry constantly about it during the early days of your recovery. This happens regardless of what your drug or addictive behavior of choice is, how long you've been addicted before you seek and go through treatment, whether you've relapsed once or several times since treatment, who you are, where you live, how much money you have, how old you are, your sex, religious, political or any other type of affiliation. In short, recovery takes some getting used to.
And there's no better primer than reading Storm's tale of making it through the period of early recovery - without losing her sanity.
This is not to say that there weren't some tenuous moments. Whose recovery is smooth sailing, anyway? Not anyone that this writer has heard about. Truth to tell, however, Storm's account doesn't veer into details about protracted and numerous relapses. She does say that she did relapse at one point, but got back into treatment and subsequently was Keaable to maintain her sobriety.
The fact that Storm survived her addiction and suicide attempt (she cut her wrists) is a testament to her underlying courage and determination to live. The memories of the rape, the guilt and shame and self-hatred that plagued her for years and she buried with alcohol and drugs took a lot of therapy and many hours of 12-step meeting attendance and one-on-one discussions with her sponsor to overcome.
You often read in articles and advice about recovery that you should follow a regimented schedule in your first weeks and months after treatment. With no more 24-hour monitoring or every minute accounted for with therapy, meetings, or scheduled lectures or activities, the sudden freedom of recovery can throw anyone into a tailspin. Storm tells readers she very much needed the comfort of stability, and keeping to a regular daily schedule helped her begin to climb up from the depths of self-doubt and despair. Reciting the Alcoholics Anonymous Serenity Prayer also kept her from losing her grip.
Newcomers to recovery will find helpful tips scattered throughout the book. For example, Storm says that it's a good practice to mix up your 12-step meetings. Why should you do this? For one thing, it helps to keep things fresh. You won't be hearing the same people tell the same stories over and over again. By attending different meetings, you'll also be exposed to more people in recovery. Since it's tough to meet new people when you're still feeling raw and vulnerable, this is an excellent and non-threatening way to get to know new people who are clean and sober.
Another tip is to be cognizant of the so-called 12-step rules. Every fellowship has a few of them, whether they're called rules or just recommendations. Did you know that you shouldn't make any major life changes in your first year of recovery? This includes getting married or divorced, selling your house (unless you have to for financial reasons), and so on. You shouldn't date in the first year - so, no love interests (especially for women who have been traumatized). You also can't share your story until you've got a full year of recovery under your belt. And you can't lead a meeting or sponsor anyone until you reach your first year recovery milestone.
Attending 90 meetings in 90 days (the '90 in 90' rule) is also strongly recommended for newcomers. The first 90 days are the most critical for newly sober individuals. This is a time when internal self-worth issues are most common. Storm found her salvation in keeping herself busy and involved in the 12-step program. She relates that in early recovery it's easy to get sucked back into negative thoughts or wallow in self-pity of depression that follows such a major life change (going through addiction treatment and starting recovery).
Early recovery is also a time when panic attacks frequently occur. They usually come and go quickly, but can be devastating nonetheless. Storm recounts she committed to her Higher Power and just rode it out whenever panic overwhelmed her.
Desires and cravings, as every addict who's gone through treatment knows, are two different things. They're both tough to deal with, no matter when they occur. When old triggers resurface, Storm advises those new to recovery to recite the Serenity Prayer over and over. In addition, take deep and cleansing breaths while you say the words. You also need to avoid old people, places, and things that caused you to use in the past. And you simply must remain vigilant about your disease. You have to put your needs and your recovery above everything and everyone else.
In an easy-to-read style, Storm takes the reader through her early days in recovery. As she recounts her struggles to move into her own place, overcoming her conflicting thoughts of her own sexuality, dealing with old and new friendships, her up-and-down relationships with her parents and siblings, going on to college, starting a career, and, ultimately embarking on intimate relationships, readers cannot help but find insights into their own lives.
This memoir is not a manual or workbook for how everyone should manage their recovery. Each person is unique and must take his or her own path. But the book is a page turner, and Storm's fresh and sassy style is completely engaging.
As for Storm, we'll probably hear more from her in the future. As Executive Director of the Victim Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she has put her passion into helping others. She remains clean and sober - and happy at last. Liz Massey - Gay Phoenix Arizona
A revealing, hopeful account of a young woman's ascent out of the bleak despair of addiction and how recovery helped her confront the traumas and secrets that kept her living in the dark for so long.
Shows how a young person can rebuild his or her life after addiction and trauma.
About the Author
Jennifer Storm: Jennifer Storm is the Executive Director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Harrisburg, PA. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a BS in Rehabilitation Services and a Master's Degree in Organizational Management from The University of Phoenix.
In 2002, Governor Edward G. Rendell appointed Ms. Storm as a commissioner to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. She was later appointed to the Homeland Security, Law Enforcement and Justice Systems Advisory committees where she also serves on the Terrorism Prevention and Local Law Enforcement Subcommittee.
Her media appearances include appearances on all major networks as a spokesperson for victims rights. She has been profiled or appeared in We, Magazine for Women, Central Penn Business Journal, Curve Magazine, Rolling Stone, TIME, and many other media.
Ms. Storm is the author of Blackout Girl: Growing Up and Drying Out in America (Hazelden, 2008) and the follow-up memoir, Leave the Light On: A Memoir of Recovery and Self-Discovery (Central Recovery Press, 2010).