Bobbi Jo Reed on transformation from addict to hero; helping thousands out of addiction through Christ
The documentary film titled "Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence" shows the remarkable transformation of a Kansas City woman named Bobbi Jo Reed, who went from being an addict to a minister who's helped thousands find recovery.
Thousands of people have stayed in Reed's healing houses over the years to help get their lives back on track. Along with getting cleaned up on the outside, an inner cleansing has also taken place for many.
"Nobody's ever left here without finding a relationship with Christ, and that's amazing," Reed said of the people who've stayed in her recovery homes during an interview with The Christian Post.
The documentary highlights Reed's remarkable journey of overcoming a 22-year struggle with alcoholism which led to homelessness, being trafficked, and nearly killed. After getting sober, she began her life's work with Healing House, which was started in 2003.
Healing House is a nonprofit that helps people recover from addiction by providing housing, support, and life assistance as they work on their recovery. She operates 14 homes and an apartment complex that houses those who come for help. Once, Reed recounted, 900 women were going through recovery in Kansas City, Missouri, but there were only 24 safe beds for them citywide.
Reed, a devout Christian, said she didn't come to her faith until she reached the end of herself. With her homes, she now provides a safe place for everyone to feel welcomed, valued and loved.
"When I started helping these other people and sharing my experience with them, I started feeling like maybe there's something I could be good at," Reed said. "The Lord just took that ... changed my life."
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Reed, who shared her honest testimony of addiction and how God used her experience to help save others. Her journey can also be seen in the Gold Room Films documentary which is now available.
Christian Post: Can you share a synopsis of your testimony?
Reed: I have two older brothers. My dad was a police officer, always worked two jobs. That's just a big part of my story. I always longed to have a relationship with my father. This is a common thread that I had found with women with addiction issues.
My mom had mental health issues that were not being addressed, so I started working a full-time job at 12 years old. I had the opportunity to go out with some of the older people at the job. My first drink was at 12. I had a speech impediment, I was always a chubby kid, and I had really low self-esteem. So when I found alcohol, I thought, 'Boy, I have arrived.' You always think you're funnier and better looking and a better dancer, right? But I just thought, "This is it."
From the time I was 13 years old, I was an alcoholic and an addict. I lived in a house where we had a purple elephant in the front room and everybody just walked around it. Nobody said, "Hey, we have an elephant in our room." If we didn't talk about it, it was non-existent.
We lived really in silos in my house, everybody did schoolwork and we were very siloed. It's not like we had any communication. My mom was a hoarder too, so there weren't places for us to sit and eat dinner and talk about things. I didn't know the Lord at all.
When I was a kid, I probably went to Sunday School three, four times and that's all I knew. I knew of a God, but as I spiraled more and more out of control, I was in my addiction for 22 years. It took me to a lot of sorted places. This is the sad thing about it. Once you keep going to new depths of despair, your mind tells you, "Oh, well, this is just how it is."
I remember a point when I was homeless, and there was an old guy that had a mattress and an old loveseat and a lantern under a bridge. I used to be envious and think, "Man if I could just have those things, I would be alright."
My addiction led me to homelessness, being human trafficked. Of course, he [my pimp] would beat me up severely; my face would be too messed up. I would have to live under a boxcar next to a liquor store, the boxes on the back of semis.
There's a part in a 12 step program that says incomprehensible demoralization. I know exactly what that means. I was so in the depths, I became an "it" out there. I was one of those people lying by the side of the road. When you pull up and you go, "Oh, my God, how can anybody be like that?" Well, it happens to people; it happened to me.
CP: In your upbringing, what could have been done differently to help you not turn to substance abuse?
Reed: I think if my dad wouldn't have always worked two jobs and not been present, I think that if we would have actually done things as a family, and not be so separated under the same roof. One of the things that I do at Healing House — and we always have — is I've created at Healing House the family that I always wanted.
We come together at five o'clock in the evening, we pray together, we eat dinner together, we talk about what's going on with one another. If you're just sitting down for a few moments, you can look at somebody's face and see if they've got something going on and we never did that.
A lot of families miss that because they might be in the same room together. But let's face it, everybody's on their phone, doing their own thing. If you're not paying attention, their demeanor, and you're not doing that on a regular basis, people get lost in it. I just got lost.
CP: What turned this around for you?
Reed: It was nothing but the grace of God that brought me out. I ended up in a detox in the inner city. This was what really made an impact. I always felt worthless. ... I went over a year without looking at myself in the mirror because I couldn't stand to see what was looking back at me.
The blessing [was] this detox. Everybody's in one of 18 bunk beds, no toothpaste, no toothbrushes, no soap, everybody's dirty. So when I got out of the detox, I got into a treatment center. But what I did to supplement my income back in those days is I baked things like banana nut bread, zucchini bread, and I'd take them to the flea market, I'd sell them.
So what I started doing when I got out of the treatment is I would buy like the little tubes of toothpaste and the small bars of soap, hotel stuff, I could get it really cheap. So I started taking that back to the detox. I started giving them my leftover baked goods and hygiene products.
As it sounds, I did it at first because it made me feel good. I kept doing it because it just became the next right thing to do. God showed me and I started filling up. Because addiction is selfish and self-centered. Even though you might be homeless, it's still selfish.
So when I started helping these other people and sharing my experience with them, I started feeling like, "Man, maybe I could do something, maybe there's something I could be good at."
The Lord just took that, those hygiene products and that detox and those loaves of homemade bread changed my life.
CP: Where would you say God was when you went through everything in your journey?
Reed: God always had to be with me. That is a promise because God gave us all free will. He gave us free will and I ran into a lot of people being in my addiction that those folks were using their free will badly.
But I know for a fact that if God hadn't been there with me, I would have been dead 100 times over anyway. I lived; I survived circumstances that most people would have died from. So I know for a fact He had to be there with me, even though horrific things were happening, that's people doing their free will. God was with me or I'd be dead. He spared my life through all the chaos and nonsense and stuff I was caught up in. I know for a fact that He was there with me through all of it.
We have to be at a point in our life when we're willing to accept God. For me, I was sober three-and-a-half years before I really accepted Christ deep down in my heart, and it was my mother's death that brought that on.
By taking care of her with cancer for three-and-a-half years and she died on Dec. 30, 1998. I had some roommates, I was three-and-a-half years sober, but my roommates had relapsed and left. My ex-boyfriend took me to the church, but I came home on Dec. 31 with my mother's urn for her ashes and I came home and my house was empty.
So my two roommates who relapsed were gone. My boyfriend's not home ... I started bawling because it seemed like the rug was pulled out from all my support system around me. My dad had just died three-and-a-half years before. So I went home that night, and I got into bed and I was just crying out to God.
I said, "Please don't let me go back where I came from. Lead and direct me, Lord, just take a hold of me." And I fell asleep praying to God and crying. Fear had always covered my life, fear of everything. When I woke up on Jan. 1, 1999, the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in me and I knew that I was going to be OK. That was the first time in my life that I ever felt I was going to be OK.
Don't get me wrong, I still tried to take my will back and forth periodically. But I thought that I wanted a boyfriend, I want this or that. You know what? I just let the Lord take ahold of me and just heal me and show me and lead me. The Lord does speak to me audibly, but He speaks to my heart and He always tells me this is the next thing. This is what you do, and I just follow it. When I say I'm a Christ-follower, I am a Christ-follower. When He speaks, I go!
CP: What advice do you have for families hoping to get through to a loved one in bondage to addiction?
Reed: I think that we just have to come to a point of brokenness. I didn't come to the Lord, basically, because I wanted to be this goody two shoes. I went to the Lord because I was out of options. I tried a lot of different things; this was my last thing. I had not even acknowledged God in my life prior to that. I think we have to get to this point of brokenness where we're willing to say, "OK, God, I've exhausted my efforts, I'm yours, just please take me."
When you have a loved one using drugs and alcohol, prayer is such a powerful thing. Continue to pray for them. My little saying is: There's always hope for an addict or alcoholic as long as they're breathing, there's always hope.
I think the families don't want to enable people, but you do want to be there and especially be there if that person becomes willing to accept the help. The other thing is, drug and alcohol treatment can cost $50,000 to $75,000. I also want people to know that there's free treatment that they can get into, there's free recovery housing.
Healing House does recovery support services. So we basically take people right off the street ... we get them hygiene, we get them clothing, we get them stable. They get put in this beautiful home. We have 14, all of our homes are beautiful. They live exactly like I want to live.
I've been 25 years sober. They just walk in there and they feel the presence of God. You know what? Even the ones that have their hearts really hardened. God permeates the place. Nobody's ever left here without finding a relationship with Christ and that's amazing.
CP: Tell us about Healing Homes and how that came about?
Reed: I had an inheritance, I had $50,000, and I was looking for places to help women. There was an abandoned old nursing home that I kept being drawn to. The Lord kept drawing me to this place. One day, I went around the corner from that nursing home. I went in and looked at a house and the guy wanted $150,000 and it wasn't set up right to help accommodate a lot of women. So when I went back out to my car, I said, "Lord, you know I'm impatient. When you want me to have this, will you please just drop it in my lap because I'm getting impatient?"
Then, I turned the corner and I'm on the side street of that old nursing home that I've been drawn to so many times. A real estate agent was walking up the steps to a house and I just said that prayer a minute earlier. So I pulled my car over and I ran up. I went in and it wreaked of urine and cigarette smoke. It had dark wood paneling and the windows were knocked out. It was awful. But guess what? The Holy Spirit was inside me saying, "This is it!"
It was a 23 room house for $50,000, the exact amount I had coming in the mail. Two months later, a dope-dealing pimp moved right in next door to the original house. So I claimed his house in Jesus' name. A year-and-a-half later, we got the dope man's house [too].
Every house has a God story attached to it. I mean, just the way He worked, there's no doubt that He wasn't present in showing the way and making a way.
Now we have 14 homes. Initially, it was for single women, and then men, and now families. So we have 40 apartments, and then we have 14 homes. There are 200 people that live with us each and every day. We also have a recovery community center that holds up to 350 people. There were Friday nights before COVID where we'd have 250 to 300 people in there for Bible study on a Friday night praising God, and staying clean and sober. Not just going without drugs and alcohol, but they're learning to be servants of God and helping others change.
We've really changed this whole community where we live. There used to be gunfire, drug dealers, pimps, gang members, you don't see any of that anymore, at all. So the whole dynamic has changed in our community. It's just amazing.
God has just been on the move. It's an amazing journey and I'm honored that God would pick me to be part of it. We just keep trekking. We also have a strip mall where we're opening up a beauty shop for people returning from prison who have their beauty certificates.
CP: How can people be a part of doing something like what you've done in their community?
Reed: I think just open your eyes and look around, see what's going on around you. Right now, my car is full of coats, and stocking caps and gloves, and bottles of water. So if I see somebody that's not dressed, I pull over and I say, "Do you need a coat honey? How about some gloves?" Find out you're homeless shelters and things like that. Give a donation of soap or toothpaste, toothbrushes. Look what's going on. Sometimes we don't even see what's right there. If you have an elderly neighbor, how is her grass getting mowed? Go mow her grass.
CP: The documentary is titled 'Under the Influence.' Who are you under the influence of now?
Reed: I love that title because I was under the influence of drugs and alcohol for so long. Absolutely, I am under the influence of God and Jesus Christ today, and I will be there until the Lord takes me home.
This is what God created me to do and I'm a very blessed woman. I am so thrilled at the opportunity for this message to get out there and help other folks who are suffering in their addiction, or family members, or people who are just sitting still right now and only staying in their little circle. God calls us to do more than just love the people directly around us. God calls us to do more.
I hope this film sparks something in every single person. I don't hope it, I pray that this will spark something in every person that gets to see it and call them to do something more than they're doing.