By Bridget Bauer

Jennifer wasn’t afraid of dying but of living. After several attempts at suicide not working, she was ready for something to change her cycle of drug addiction.

Fortunately, a counselor at Ozark Center knew about the plans of ASCENT Recovery Residences adding a women’s section. He put Jennifer in touch with Teddy Steen, the executive director of ASCENT. The two women hit it off, and Steen realized Jennifer was a great fit. Unfortunately, the women’s residential recovery residence wasn’t quite ready to open.

“She kept calling me, and we kept in touch for two months,” Steen said. “I didn’t hear from her for a little while, then all of sudden she called me and told me to come and get her.”

Descent into Drug Addiction

At 22 years old, Jennifer had everything—two kids, husband, house and cars. Although she had been on her own since the age of 14 because her parents abused drugs, Jennifer got out of high school and went to nursing school and got an LPN. Life was good until chronic migraines led to a prescription for opiates. Eventually, she became addicted to the pain pills and life spiraled out of control.

“I didn’t care about anything but myself,” Jennifer said. “I lost everything because I couldn’t get it together. Then, I got arrested.”

Eventually, Jennifer was committed, and at first, she was diagnosed as being mentally ill. After losing her kids and husband in Colorado, she moved to Joplin because her brother and dad were living here. Arrests for credit card theft and DUI led to several commitments for detox. During one of those stints, she married again and had another child. But, that relationship wasn’t good because it was built on both being drug addicts.

Jennifer embodies several characteristics of drug addicts. For one, it started as taking pain pills for another condition and also led to criminal activity. However, she knew she had to do something about it, and once she was ready, ASCENT was the answer.


In June, 2012, Jennifer entered ASCENT. She wanted a place like ASCENT because she knew she needed long-term treatment. What she discovered when she got there was the importance of structure.

“I didn’t grow up in a structured family, and stability was a missing component for me,” Jennifer said. “Living in a therapeutic community was what I was missing in life.”

What really became clear to Jennifer was the importance of faith. One component of ASCENT’s recovery steps is molding a spiritual life.

“I was missing the God component,” Jennifer said. “That is a foundation for recovery here, and I had never prayed until I came here.”

Though there were ups and downs, Jennifer thrived in recovery. She said after entering ASCENT, it was the first time she had energy and was able to stay awake which was also something her kids noticed.

“Once she got sober she was able to look at what she had become,” Steen said. “It has been almost two years being sober, and she has become very active in the recovery community.”

Life After Treatment

Looking back, Jennifer doesn’t regret her journey. She now see it as a way to help other women which is what she does by taking AA meetings to women at the jails and Lafayette House. She also has a great relationship with her two kids in Colorado (a 14-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy) and their father and is raising her 4-year-old son. In addition to having a solid faith foundation, she heralds the program at ASCENT.

“That program saved my life,” she exclaimed.

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