Thursday, January 1, 2009

Author Jennifer Storm by Tanya Vece

One of the books I just finished reading is Blackout Girl by Jennifer Storm. The book is an intriguing account of a not so unfamiliar story. Drugs, alcohol, and sexual abuse are all served on the rocks in this book along side of a shot of youth. I recently had the chance to talk with Jennifer by phone about her life , both past and present.

Jennifer's story starts where most people believe opportunity to mold their future begins. At the age of twelve Jennifer Storm was raped by an acquaintance after blacking out from drinking. Most can't bear the thought of a child on the verge of puberty being involved in sexual intercourse, but according to the Justice Department one in two rape victims are under the age of 18; one in six is under age 12. A statistic which is disheartening to say the very least. Around this time Jennifer's addiction to alcohol and cocaine emerged.

A vicious cycle took a hold of Jennifer. In her book she tries to reason her intake for alcohol and drugs as a way to numb the pain. It isn't until the end of the book both the reader & the author truly realize the chicken & egg theory is debatable. Some argue drinking & drugs lead to bad things. No doubt they can. Others argue the drinking & drugs numb the bad things. In Jennifer's book readers can say the circumstances warrant both.

According to once you are victim of sexual assault the chances of another assault are high. In Jennifer's case this was true. At the age of seventeen she was sexually assaulted again by her best friend's cousin. When I asked Jennifer about why she decided after ten years of sobriety to revisit her pain and past she honestly answered "I found writing to be a healing journey into my past. I discovered two things when I was writing Blackout Girl. One was I had a unique story about how I dealt with things and two my story wasn't that unique!" She continued on to stay "I would read books about recovery but none spoke to my truth about it. There were a lot of books about the journey leading to sobriety but I didn't really find stories about the process of sobriety. I wanted to write about the depths of my hell and how I got sober."

When I spoke with Jennifer we compared notes and she talked about her Cocaine addiction. "It fueled my alcohol addiction, which was my primary addiction. It was hard for me to do one without the other. I was an upper girl. I would fuck for free or use my tips from being a waitress or bartender to feed my habit" Jennifer said. Most female addicts end up stripping or performing forms of prostitution to keep up with expensive drugs habits.

"Relationships have been one of the hardest things" Jennifer continued. "Knowing what is healthy, what is appropriate, and boundaries are important." she said in response to a question I asked regarding sobriety and relationships. I noted it has been an observation of mine most addicts carry their addictive behavior into relationships. In Blackout Girl Jennifer discusses not only her road to sobriety but her realization and acceptance of being a lesbian. "Everyone has issues. Finding a healthy relationship is one of the hardest things to do. Every relationship I have been in in the past has been destructive. I think because intimacy triggers a lot." In the book Jennifer honestly talks about sobriety and finding yourself, something that is relatable to everyone regardless if you are homosexual, straight, sober or currently using.

Now an executive director for Dauphin County's Victim Witness Assistance Program, Jennifer Storm is using her background to her advantage. In 2002, the Pennsylvania legislature passed one of the most inclusive hate crime statues in the country. Legislation Jennifer worked personally towards getting passed into law. 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 various accolades adds to the feeling of hope, and self-empowerment, the reader is left with at the end of Blackout Girl. If Jennifer Storm can overcome the various challenges and adversities that came into her life, as well as kick a drug and alcohol habit, we all should be able to be optimistic towards the future. Even if it means venturing into the unknown and giving yourself a fresh start at sobriety.

The first time author is now finishing her book tour and just finalized a draft of her second memoir. The working title is coined by her as "Leave the Light On" and discusses the challenges of staying sober while in college. Her battles are no longer with drugs & alcohol but the healthy , and also crazy, life of being a writer. "I got lucky with Hazelden Publishing. They were taking unsolicited manuscripts at the time and I was able to get a publisher before I got an agent. My advice for writers starting out would be to self-publish. If you can get your book onto and into a few book stores which generate decent sales, like 1500 to 2000 books, it is that much easier to go back to an agent and get your book picked up." Jennifer recently did a workshop at Book Expo America in Los Angeles. "Self-publishing seems to be the trend. Now at days you have to work your ass off. Even if you do get a book deal the publisher doesn't really help with the marketing of it. You have to get yourself out there!" she explained.

I like Jennifer's book because it has mass appeal. People who have been sober can relate, people working on sobriety can relate, people with challenges in life (which encompasses us all) can relate. Parents who have children need to read this story. Jennifer deals with so much of the meat and potatoes during the process of growing up even though her circumstances are on the extreme side. Suicide attempts, her attraction to other women, the battle with the bottle, and the battle within her self to love herself are all detailed in Ms. Storm's book. While reading the book you can't help but find yourself routing for Jennifer to beat the odds. I often found myself comparing situations in my life , as well as my similar responses, to Jennifer's story. Blackout Girl reminds us all how easily her story could easily be ours - or that of our children. It is a must read of the human experience.

Jennifer is currently speaking at colleges around the USA. If you have the ability to bring her to your local campus, please contact her via her website. Tour dates for her book signings are listed there too!