Mix the chaos of an unsafe childhood with substance abuse as a teen and adult.

Mix a dissociative disorder with meth.

Mix the trauma of losing your children with 30 years of drug abuse.

And many would consider it a miracle that Jennifer Foreman is alive today, let alone sober, clean and quietly making one good decision after another.

When she was about 12, Foreman found that little blue pills in the medicine cabinet helped ease the hurt of a painful childhood.

If she took one, it was a little easier to cope with the secrets and the chaos. If she took two ... "geez, everything went away."

And no one seemed to notice the missing Valium, or that Foreman was a little wasted, or that there were not a lot of safe places in her life.

So she escaped through drugs and a dissociative disorder, which often is called multiple personality disorder.

Foreman remembers sitting at the dinner table as a child, with her grandpa — her hero — and realizing she didn't remember anything earlier in the day. It was her first memory of lost time that is common with a dissociative disorder.

But the disorder, associated with severe trauma — often sexual abuse as a young child — kicked into high gear when Foreman was in her 20s.

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She lost chunks of time. She would go to the mall and buy a beautiful outfit. Hours or days later, she would look in her closet and the clothes would be gone, replaced by clothes that looked like they came from Goodwill.

And she lost keys. Car keys would be missing; apartment keys would vanish. And then a key chain would show up in the middle of her living room, all the keys intact.

“I really thought I was losing my mind. Who was doing this to me? Who had my keys? Where did this makeup and jewelry come from? Was someone hypnotizing me? Stealing from me?

“I didn’t know it was me changing my wardrobe, my jewelry. What a roller-coaster ride,” said Foreman, who sometimes refers to herself as "me plus three." 

Eventually she learned one of her alter egos, the little girl in her, was taking the keys because she was afraid of getting locked out or left behind.

At the same time, Foreman’s abuse of drugs and alcohol escalated.

She went from pilfered Valium to pot and beer to mixing speed with a downer, to a very serious problem with Xanax and meth.

Foreman cleaned up during the pregnancies of three children. She married in 1996, separated and lost custody of her children in 2000, and relinquished her parental rights in 2003.

Her best friend died around Christmas 1999 from an acute asthma attack and heart attack. And that grief accelerated Foreman’s downward spiral with drugs.

Giving up custody of her children intensified her grief and shame.

“I had so much trauma and so much shame. There is no worse feeling in the world. I couldn’t get well.”

She told herself "the kids would be better off without me. I didn’t have what it took financially.  ... And people were pressuring me to relinquish them."

'I'm a dog on the street'

Relinquishment was a green light for total disintegration.

“Once you lose your kids, you lose all sense of self-worth. I don’t deserve a bed to sleep in, a house to live in. I’m a dog on the street.”

So she put herself in dangerous places with dangerous people. And no amount of drugs could ease the pain.

“It still hurts to this day. I have to daily choose grace." 

For more than a decade, Foreman, battling both the dissociative disorder and addiction, was in and out of jail, sometimes homeless.

Once, she bought a paper on Friday and the next time she was in touch with reality it was Thursday. “Is my time going backward?” she wondered.

She went through substance-abuse treatment several times but always used again. She was diagnosed with the dissociative disorder but didn’t want to deal with it. “It verified that I was crazy.”

So she kept on using, and making bad decisions, and getting into serious trouble.

“It was just a hopeless, lonely, lonely place to be.”

In December 2014, Foreman was arrested for intent to deliver drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, a serious felony, with the potential of up to 50 years in prison.

Bail was set at $30,000, and Foreman, who sold drugs only to support her own habit, had no way to round up the $3,000 needed to be released.

It looked hopeless, and Foreman promised herself if she ever got out of jail she was never going to use again. 

She got out in late January 2015 with the help of a woman she met in jail and $1,500 from a timely lawsuit victory. 

But a month later, Foreman had her Xanax prescription filled and “it was back to the races.” Abusing Xanax always led her back to meth.

Foreman moved into an upstairs apartment in the home of an elder with the F Street Neighborhood Church, which had become a part of her life and where she had felt a "divine pressure to move in a different direction."

“But I couldn’t put that meth pipe down. I couldn’t.”

Begging for help

She stole from her host to support her habit and was arrested for possession and DUI in June 2015. It turns out she had taken her host's emergency money, which he looked for after she was arrested to help pay her bond.

A relative paid her bond this time. Foreman stayed at the People's City Mission and emailed CenterPointe, begging for treatment.

“There was no way a 45-day treatment center was going to scratch the surface,” she said. CenterPointe had a long-term residential program aimed at people with both addiction and mental health issues that included help with housing.

In late September 2015, Foreman started CenterPointe’s long-term residential program, with zero self-confidence.

She had been treated for addiction before, but this time was different; she was different. This time she knew she needed help. She could not do this on her own.

The CenterPointe staff helped her stop using drugs, showed her how to change her attitude and behavior and deal with the dissociative disorder. They walked beside her into a productive life.

After telling her life story in a group session, her counselor validated her trajectory. Anyone with her set of problems — childhood trauma, losing custody of her children — would become an addict, he said.

“This was a game-changer,” she said. The acknowledgement that the addiction wasn’t all her fault freed her from some of the debilitating shame and allowed her to find some peace with her past.

An estimated 8.2 million people in the U.S. have both a substance-use disorder and a mental illness, making them more likely to have legal issues and be homeless. 

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Through CenterPointe’s housing program, Foreman also found an apartment, a major hurdle for someone like her with a criminal record, bad credit and no job.

CenterPointe subsidized the rent, but Foreman had to find the apartment and face the rejection. 

"There were lots of tears, lots of prayers and lots of rejection" before she found a landlord willing to take that risk.

Her church also welcomed her back, loving her when she couldn’t love herself.

“They accepted me and embraced me whatever state I was in. I was accepted when I knew what I had done was unacceptable.”

Foreman spent seven months in CenterPointe’s long-term inpatient program and another two years in the outpatient program.

During that first year, Foreman slowly cleaned up her legal mess, one terrifying court date at a time.

A presentence investigation turned up paperwork showing one of her alter egos had tried to get help from CenterPointe years earlier.

“One of me suited up and tried to get help,” said Foreman, who has learned to integrate her "girls" and to avoid trauma trigger points.

Unlike Sybil, a character in a book and movie by the same name, dissociative disorder personalities are subtle changes that most people never notice, she said.

"All of me is respectful and loving." 

Foreman fully expected to be sent to prison. Instead, on July 7, 2016, the judge gave her five years of intensive supervision.

“I know God was with me every step of this journey and the church was praying in the background ... and God was in the judge’s ear” when he decided to try probation.

Three years after seeking help at CenterPointe, Foreman is drug- and alcohol-free, with a full life that allows her to give back. 

Foreman's progress is "just remarkable," said Matt Schur, who has worked with her at CenterPointe. He said her journey "shows that we should not give up on people."

Foreman had a desire for wellness and knew that it was not an easy journey. "She was willing to put in the hard work and still puts in the hard work," he said.

"In so many ways, Jen is an example of how this program (working on both the addiction and mental health issues in one program) really does make a difference."

People with Foreman's issues have many gifts to offer when they're in a place of recovery and can be the best version of themselves, he said.  

"She is a shining example of that."  

A life full of blessings

Foreman has reunited with her children; gets to play with two beautiful grandbabies; helps her grandmother take care of the family home and horses; teaches and shares her knowledge of horses with a group of young women; volunteers at her church, where she runs a support group; and tells her story to CenterPointe inpatient clients.

Jennifer Foreman moves Jimmy to the barn for feeding on her grandmother's property in west Lincoln. Foreman has battled mental illness and substance-abuse issues since she was a child. GWYNETH ROBERTS, Journal Star

She has a driver’s license; she’s insured; and for the first time in her life she has a credit card.

CenterPointe, her church family and a loving God changed her life, Foreman said. But she had to be ready, honest about her past and willing to learn new coping skills.

Today, Foreman says she never, ever has to be a victim again. She can keep herself safe. She can avoid violence and sexual abuse.

“I’m OK now. It doesn’t have to happen again.”

With God’s help, she is a survivor, she said. And she's grateful to be able to share her story so that it might help others find hope.

“My life is just full of so many blessings. I cannot begin to describe how much different it is today."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7250 or nhicks@journalstar.com

On Twitter @LJSNancyHicks.