PORT ANGELES — After a 33-year struggle with methamphetamine, alcohol and marijuana, Jenni Tiderman has been able to rebuild relationships with family, find housing, hold a job and become an inspiration to others looking to get off drugs.
A year ago the woman who has celebrated her sobriety by holding signs on a street corner was homeless and detoxing in the Clallam County jail, but on Saturday she celebrated having one year free from drugs.
On Friday she stood in the pouring rain with a sign that said she has 364 days sober.
She would have waited until Saturday, she said, but she needed to be at her sister’s wedding.
“This isn’t anything I ever thought I would ever have,” Tiderman said.
“The longer I’m clean the more I like myself the way I am and I don’t need all those things.”
Among her greatest accomplishments, she said, is that over the last year she has slowly been able to get back into the lives of her six children.
She now has joint custody of her youngest son and regained full custody of her youngest daughter. She said it was challenging to work the system to get her daughter out of foster care, but to have the opportunity to be a mother is worth it.
“It’s amazing,” Tiderman said. “I get to be a mom and she gets to have a mother.”
Through Tiderman’s recovery, her father, Dale Tiderman, has also been able to once again have a daughter. He said drugs have torn his family apart, but now recovery is bringing it back together.
He had given up on his daughter in the past, but is now convinced his daughter is dedicated to changing her life.
“We’re all just really proud of her and how she’s been doing,” he said.
“You can’t force someone to get better; they have to want it themselves,” he said. “She finally found and seized the opportunity and she’s doing it.”
Jenni Tiderman said that a major part of her recovery is when her father had heart surgery in recent months.
That involved her traveling to Seattle — away from her support community — to be there for her dad as he recovered. It was terrifying for her.
“There’s nothing scarier than seeing your loved one on life support,” she said. “That is probably the scariest thing I have ever encountered.”
During that time she was unable to make it to 12-step meetings, so she relied on her recovery community in Port Angeles to get her through it.
She said that “for the longest time” her relationship with her father involved her asking for handouts, but she is finally able to give back to him.
As her family has been getting closer together, Jenni Tiderman’s sister, Tami Maupin, has been in recovery alongside her.
Early in Jenni Tiderman’s recovery Maupin had doubts and concerns about whether it would last, but has been thankful her sister has stayed the course.
Maupin, who recently celebrated two years clean from heroin and meth, said she was excited to give her sister a coin commemorating her one year of sobriety.
“I get to give her the one year coin,” Maupin said. “I didn’t know she could make it here … but I feel more confidence in her daily. She’s doing the stuff she’s supposed to be doing and I’m so proud of her.”
Maupin said she still watches her sister as close as she can and tries to be there when she needs her.
In the last year Jenni Tiderman has lost friends who died of overdoses and were murdered.
“I started watching her extra careful and made sure she was talking about it, telling people how she felt,” Maupin said.
Maupin said her sister is proof that addicts do recover.
“She’s come so far in a year and she has a long ways to go,” Maupin said. “She’s far from cured, but I trust her and I couldn’t say that a year ago. I trust her today, and that’s pretty huge.”
Jenni Tiderman has made her recovery as public as possible, both for herself and for others. On major milestones of her recovery Tiderman stands on the corner of First and Lincoln Streets with a sign announcing to the whole town how many days clean she has.
As she stood on the corner with her sign on Friday people smiled, waved, gave her thumbs ups and honked as they drove by.
“I’ve received so much support from this community, it’s amazing,” Tiderman said. “At first people thought I was out there panhandling … but this is just to spread awareness and hope that this can be done. If you knew me when I was out there in my active addiction, where I’m at right now is absolutely amazing.”
Tiderman’s recovery has been far from easy. When she decided to get clean she was still homeless and had nowhere to go.
She had been staying at Serenity House of Clallam County’s night-by-night shelter, but due to lack of funding at the time the shelter was about to close.
She depended on the community for support. Between regularly attending self-help meetings, support at the Salvation Army and from family she was able to stay clean long enough to get into housing.
It was 77 days into her recovery before Tiderman was accepted into an Oxford House, a worldwide organization that provides housing for recovering addicts.
Jenni Tiderman’s story has led to the addition of another Oxford House in Port Angeles — the one she lives in now.
Kelly Sanders, who teaches Tiderman’s son, began getting to know Jenni Tiderman early in her recovery and decided she needed to add an Oxford House that is dedicated to women and children.
“When I kept bumping into her all over town it was in my face that she is a person who just needs some help and support,” Sanders said. “She’s very tenacious and ambitious, so she was taking advantage of all the help she could get to reach her goal.”
Sanders said Jenni Tiderman has been a great ambassador to promote sobriety because “she is not afraid to put herself out there as someone who has walked a very difficult road, hit bottom, and clawed her way back up with the help of God and a support system and resources that are available right here in our little town.”
Among Jenni Tiderman’s resources has been the Celebrate Recovery program at The Revolution Church in Port Angeles.
Her pastor, The Rev. Jason Himmelberger, said that in addition to the support she receives from the recovery community and the church, the support from the community has been instrumental in her recovery.
Himmelberger said that in many cases people look down on addicts, but Jenni Tiderman is an example of what happens when people help.
“The community support has helped her quite a bit and that’s where I think it’s so important for us as a community to remember that people struggling with addiction are sons and daughters too,” Himmelberger said. “If we are to apply that same support to all of them, what would that do in their lives?”
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].