Profiles in Recovery

Jenna Hollenstein

There’s a saying in 12-step culture: Alcoholism is an elevator that keeps going down – but you can get off at any floor.

Hollenstein exited long before her ride hit bottom. In fact, her drinking never produced a public crisis or rocked her career. But catastrophe isn’t the only way that alcohol can sabotage a life.

Nursing frequent hangovers, Hollenstein began to see how she was drinking to distraction: trying to fill empty hours and squash feelings of depression, insecurity and loneliness. She was using drinking to make her world different – but missing out on living.

Hollenstein entered an outpatient treatment program and discovered the practice of meditation, which she says “allowed me to embrace my life in all its messy, chaotic, wonderful imperfection.” She’s been in recovery for 10 years now and has learned to look inward for happiness and guidance.

Day Jobs:
Nutrition therapist, writer, mindfulness teacher, mom. Author of the memoir, “Drinking to Distraction.”

Founder of, a nutrition practice that incorporates the practices of Intuitive Eating, mindful eating, Health At Every Size, Buddhist meditation, and therapeutic approaches to addiction.

At my worst, I was:
Pretending that alcohol increased the quality of my life, made me more interesting, and my experiences more interesting.

I was in such denial of the reality of my experience but it was easy to do because alcohol was such a normalized and omnipresent part of my surroundings.

What I lost to addiction:
I lost confidence in my ability to navigate the full spectrum of my experience. I used alcohol to make the highs higher and the lows more tolerable. As a result, I didn’t authentically experience any of it.

What worked for me:
I attended an outpatient rehab program consisting of three-hour meetings three times per week leading up to the December holidays.

After that, I went solo for years (likely practicing dry drunk behaviors of various sorts) until I discovered Buddhist meditation and how that allowed me to expand my flexibility, resilience, and tolerance for discomfort.

Advice to my younger self:
Don’t be so afraid of life – of feeling different than everyone, of being awkward, of feeling strong emotions like sadness and loneliness without the self-medication of alcohol.

Favorite recovery quote:
“Never underestimate the desire to bolt” ~ Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron

When cravings come:
I notice my desire to check out (or bolt, as Pema Chodron says). I try to turn fully toward whatever uncomfortable experience I’m having and lean into it.

What I value most in recovery:
Honesty with myself about how I’m using anything to modify my reality, the resilience I developed for coping with ups and downs and everything in between, and confidence in myself and the fact that while not everything will be ok, everything will be ok.

I get inspired by:
People’s stories of vulnerability and how it is part of their power (rather than a source of weakness).

If you’re a person in long-term recovery who wants to share your insights, please contact us at [email protected].