“Addiction is the only prison where the locks are on the inside.”


My cell phone buzzed the other day, and the caller ID said, “OFFENDER CALL,” in all caps. I almost didn’t answer it, but then I realized it could be coming from Jeff. Jeff is a young man currently sitting in prison who received an Emily’s Hope Treatment Scholarship. I was relieved to find out it was him when I took the call. It took about a minute of prompts before I was patched through and heard his voice on the other end of the line. “How are you?” I immediately asked. I have been so worried about Jeff. His voice sounded like he was putting on a brave front, “I’m okay,” he said. 

Jeff Grossman, an Emily's Hope Treatment Scholarship recipient

Is Jeff really okay? Is he really going to be okay? I have my doubts. Jeff began drinking after college to mask feelings of self-hatred about his sexuality. Jeff is gay, and while he says his family was “fine with it,” he just couldn’t accept himself. He used alcohol to cover up and mask all of his uncomfortable feelings. That’s not unusual among the LGBTQ Community, where an estimated 20% to 30% abuse substances compared with about 10% of the population as a whole.

Jeff’s drinking was out of control. The stints in treatment and DUIs piled up. Then in October of 2022, Jeff got behind the wheel drunk and hit someone. Following that incident, Jeff realized he needed to be serious about recovery and received an Emily’s Hope Treatment Scholarship to help him get in the door. He says this time, for whatever reason, it stuck. Over the last year, Jeff has worked a program, helped others struggling with substance use disorder, and worked a full-time white-collar job. However, all this time, he had criminal charges looming over his head. His attorney advised him to plead guilty. After all, he was guilty of driving drunk and hitting someone. He continued to stay in recovery and hoped for the best. 

That’s when my husband, who also happens to be named Jeff, met him. He was doing some work on behalf of Emily’s Hope when the younger Jeff told him he’d been helped by an Emily’s Hope Treatment Scholarship and would like to give back to the organization. That led to this video, where Jeff shared his story with us and the world. 

Jeff’s story and how he was helped by Emily’s Hope

A few weeks after shooting this video, Jeff had his day in court. He was sentenced to five years in prison. I do believe that there need to be consequences for driving drunk. However, we don’t deal with addiction as an illness or public health threat in this country. The war on drugs that began more than 50 years ago and the drug policies in place have made substance use disorder a criminal justice issue rather than a treatment issue. People in this nation have been conditioned to see the drugs or alcohol first and the problems they create rather than seeing the person who is suffering from a disease that literally hijacks the brain. 

Someone suffering from this brain disease is unable to stop, despite negative consequences. If those negative consequences worked, our prisons would be empty. But time and time again, we see the same “offenders” back behind bars because they go back to using. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends. The stress of isolation makes people more vulnerable to using substances. And nothing is more isolating than prison. And that’s why I worry about Jeff. He’d been doing so well in recovery for more than a year. But can he survive prison? And how does society benefit from him being there?

Jeff Grossman and Angela Kennecke
Jeff Grossman & Angela Kennecke

I asked him about getting treatment in prison. He told me the waiting list is seven to nine months long for that. He told me drugs were rampant in the facility where he was being held. And I have no doubt that is true. I want to believe that Jeff can beat the odds, but the cards are stacked against him. If he can’t, an Emily’s Hope Treatment Scholarship will be there for him again. 

Faith, Hope & Courage,


3 responses

  1. Cherie Buss Avatar
    Cherie Buss

    I have a feeling Jeff will be okay. With you Angela, and Emily’s Hope . He now has someone who cares and will see him through. For Jeff and so many others serving time without the treatment and support needed ,must be the most hopeless feeling in the world. He has hope now . I am just in awe what you and Emily’s Hope is and has accomplished already. Thank you

    1. Angela Kennecke Avatar
      Angela Kennecke

      Thank you for your support!

  2. Pennie M Hansen Avatar
    Pennie M Hansen

    I agree he has you Angela I wish this program was around years ago thanks to you Angela people will get the help they need

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