PORT ANGELES — After running out of drugs to distract her from the chill of the winter, Jenni Tiderman, climbed out of her snow-covered tent and made a life-changing decision.
“I dropped to my knees and prayed and prayed and prayed,” Tiderman said, recalling the moment she vowed never to use methamphetamine again.
She prayed to get clean from meth, marijuana and the other substances she had been using on and off for 33 years. She needed to shower, she needed her children back and she needed her life back.
It was at that moment she decided to ride her bike straight to detox — though she never made it there.
The chain on her bike fell off near Front and Race streets. While she was tinkering with her chain, Port Angeles Officer JJ Smith stopped to see what Tiderman was up to.
Tiderman, who at the time had just entered drug court for a recent possession charge, said Smith stopped to help her before learning she had a warrant for her arrest.
Smith said Tiderman first just wanted a ride to detox, but within a few minutes accepted that she was going to jail.
“I told her ‘I think you should put me in your car and take me to jail, because you’re about to give me everything I just prayed for,’ ” Tiderman said. “Everything I had just prayed for, she gave me, and I haven’t used since.”
Smith said she checks on Tiderman to see how she is doing and that it has been exciting to see her recovery. Smith and Officer Mike Johnson have each told Tiderman that if she needs anything she can reach out to either of them and they’ll try to help, Smith said.
Smith, who had previously prohibited Tiderman from multiple properties, including all city parks, wrote a letter for Tiderman explaining the progress she has seen.
“Every time I see her, she’s done something new where she has progressed further in sobriety and toward being more stable,” Smith said.
“It’s awesome to see the difference she has made. It’s her choice to be sober, not mine.”
Tiderman said she has been drug-free since Feb. 23.
Her sobriety was unexpected, said Tiderman’s older sister, Tami Frederick, who herself has been in recovery for 15 months.
Frederick recalled dropping Tiderman off at her tent in the snow, knowing the only way she would get clean is if it was her own choice.
“To tell you the truth, I didn’t think I was ever going to get my sister back,” Frederick said. “When I’m talking to her and she’s still using, I’m praying to God, am I ever getting my sister back? I just want to cry right now because miracles are happening.”
Frederick, who has used drugs off and on for about 30 years, knows first-hand the struggles Tiderman is going through and worries for her sister, who is 90 days clean.
Among the top struggles Frederick said she has faced is the stigma associated with recovery.
“There’s people that can’t get help because of the stigma,” she said. “Addiction is not prejudiced. It can take anyone out and I remember wanting to get clean and get help and I felt judged.”
Frederick has faith in her sister, but hears from people who think her sister is using again because of the people she associates with.
“I’m trying to tell her because of the people you are hanging out with, there are people assuming that your recovery is bogus,” Frederick said. She’s in drug court and does mandatory drug tests.
Tiderman was in jail for 21 days before getting into treatment at Cedar Grove counseling and through drug court she is required to attend seven 12-step meetings each week and attend intensive-outpatient treatment three times each week.
A man at drug court on Thursday described Tiderman’s attitude toward recovery as infectious and said she has been an inspiration to others.
She brings that attitude with her to the Revolution Church in Port Angeles, which she attends with her sister. It is there that they have both found support that has been instrumental to their recoveries, they said.
This is not the first time either of them have quit using drugs, but this is the first time religion has played such a big role in their recoveries, they said.
“This is the first time that I’ve had this element,” Tiderman said. “When I dropped to my knees I gave it to God. I said please take this away, and He did.”
At the front of the church is a box where people throw away their vices, such as heroin, meth, pornography, chew, cigarettes and others.
“People in the community are calling this the recovery church,” Frederick said. “It’s where the lost come to be found.”
Frederick said the church is starting Celebrate Recovery meetings. The first meeting is 7 p.m. June 16.
The Rev. Jason Himmelberger has seen Tiderman while she was in active addiction and has counseled her during her recovery. The change he has seen is “life-changing.”
“This time, obviously she’s having an amazing level of breakthrough and it’s really been great to see,” he said.
Tiderman is going through Clallam County’s Living in Families Together Court, hoping she will regain custody of her daughter. Through her recovery she is rebuilding relationships with her father and her sister, she said.
Among the top hurdles Tiderman was facing until recently was housing.
Tiderman is not allowed through treatment to work yet and has not had the resources to rent a home of her own. The goal is for her to learn how to live life sober before she takes on the stresses that come with having a job.
She had been sleeping at Serenity House of Clallam County’s night-by-night shelter, but recently was accepted into an Oxford House.
She said her prayers were answered when she was offered a couch in an Oxford House, supportive housing for people in recovery, as she waits for a room to open up.
“Everything I had been hoping and praying for came through,” Tiderman said Thursday before attending drug court. “My reality was Serenity House was getting ready to close down [its shelters] and I was going to be back out on the streets. The streets meant drugs to me.”
Tiderman has made her recovery as public as possible to let people know she’s serious about living a drug-free life and to let others know it is possible to get clean.
On the 30th and 60th days of her sobriety, Tiderman stood on a street corner in Port Angeles holding signs proclaiming her sobriety, she said.
By holding a sign by the side of the street, Tiderman was able to see her son, whom she hadn’t seen in years because of her addictions.
She said her son’s father pulled over after seeing her sign so that Tiderman could spend time with her son.
“We got to hang out for 2½ hours that night,” she said. Tiderman also took her son to church and also went bowling together, where her son beat her by 10 points.
She’ll be back out on the corner of Lincoln Street and First Street today, holding a sign saying she is 90-days sober.
Tiderman was telling people at drug court on Thursday she hopes they will take part as well. Tiderman said she has heard from some in active addiction who plan to be sober for a day so they can stand alongside her.
“My whole sign-holding thing isn’t to toot my own horn; it’s to bring awareness,” she said. “I want to show them that if I can do it, so can they.”
Tiderman and others in her life said her sobriety is proof that miracles happen.
“If you haven’t seen a miracle today, then you’re just not paying attention,” Tiderman said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].