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Ms. Jeannie Villarreal

Photos and text used with permission of
Ms. Jeannie Villarreal.

Jeannie Villarreal observes that living with an addiction-and recovering from it-has made her grateful for what she has in life, given her an appreciation for even the simplest of things. Clean and sober since 1992, she has drawn on courage she never knew she possessed before her recovery. Jeannie, who describes herself as "semi-retired," works for a community access television station and loves traveling with her husband and spending time with her two grandsons. But, for a long time, she suffered from alcohol and drug addiction, a disease that she says is very shame-based and that most people attach blame to. While learning in recovery "not to sweat the small stuff," Jeannie in time began to focus on what was truly important to her. Besides returning to school and completing both bachelor's and master's degrees, she founded RAFT (Recovering Advocates For Treatment), the first "recovering advocacy" group in California and one of the first in the U.S. She also worked with a committee to establish Faces and Voices of Recovery. One of the goals these two organizations shared was the formation of a partnership with the scientific community to further the understanding and knowledge of drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. The DOD Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) provided that opportunity through the peer review process. Jeannie describes her experience as a consumer reviewer with the PRMRP as very gratifying. In her words, "The acceptance that I have experienced with the staff and scientists [of PRMRP] has been very humbling and rewarding. For an addict to come from the depths of this disease to working side by side with scientists and professionals committed to furthering the prevention and the recovery of addiction makes me realize we are not alone." She appreciates the commitment of the research community, which she sees as "equal to that of those of us in recovery." At the same time, she recognizes that it is hard to know what addiction is "without walking a mile in our shoes." Jeannie's role as a PRMRP consumer reviewer allows her to play an active part in contributing to a greater understanding of the underlying causes of addiction. Clean and sober since 1992, Jeannie notes, "We really do have more support outside the recovery community than we ever thought," and when she urges the research community to "keep up the good fight," it is clear that Jeannie Villarreal has walked that mile and continues the journey "one day at a time."