Jessica Baker

Q&A with Author Jessica K. Baker

Jessica K. Baker drew upon her personal experiences with loved ones battling addiction as she wrote her first book, Opiate Jane. Jessica also spent five years working in the addiction field as a counseling assistant and a social work assistant. Here she discusses how and why she wrote Opiate Jane as a YA novel and what she hopes readers will take away from her work.

Jessica BakerWhat prompted you to write Opiate Jane?

I had been working in the addiction field for about five years. I left that field when I got to the point that I felt frustrated that even though it was my profession to help, I could not help the ones I loved. I needed to get those feelings and frustrations out. They came out in Opiate Jane. Jane had the courage to do and say the things I could not. I could not be prouder of her, and I am thankful that creating her left a piece of her in me. She changed my life. My hope is she will change others’ lives as well.

Why did you choose to use fiction as the format for sharing parts of your personal experience with addicted loved ones?

I chose the format of fiction because I have never been good at talking about myself or my feelings. It was easy with Jane; she wasn’t me. A lot of the book is fiction—I was never in foster care and my mother was a wonderful mother when I was a child. I wanted to write a YA novel and still wanted to let out the feelings I was going through as an adult. That seemed to be the best fit. Jane and her mother’s relationship is the secondary addiction relationship in Opiate Jane. The majority of the feelings poured into this book were into Jane’s feelings about Landon, those feelings I was living with and conflicted with every day. When you love someone who has an addiction, you are always wondering if you’re doing too much and enabling them or if you’re not doing enough to help them. That fear of what can happen if you don’t do enough is a horrible place to live.

Which writers and works inspired your writing?

I had fallen in love with Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series. It made me realize there was more to life than just surviving and that I wanted more. I needed more. I wanted to write a love story that fought against all odds and won. I wanted my female character to be strong and fear nothing. I wanted her to do what I felt like I could not.

I also was very much inspired by Blue October. As crazy as it sounds, Justin Furstenfeld has been singing about my life for over ten years. Every new album seems to have so much of what I am feeling. One song in particular had the most impact on Opiate Jane: “Should Be Loved.” Blue October’s music is filled with so much emotion. It is an honor to listen to it. It has helped me through a lot.

Opiate JaneAs a first-time author, what challenges did you face in your writing process, and how did you overcome them?

I had never tried to write anything before. It was quite the challenge to bring Jane’s story to life. I took me almost a year. I wrote in sporadic pieces and then put them together. The middle came before the beginning. I wrote what I felt and tried to apply the best situation to it. The biggest challenge for me was sharing it. Did I want people to read about my feelings? Would anyone like it? Would it help anyone else the way it helped me? I had to just overcome my fear and share Jane’s story. To my surprise, it has been well received.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who might be struggling to revisit personal traumas or tragedies?

Let it out. It feels so much better to let it out. Especially when dealing with addiction. It is so stigmatized. Society not only shames the addict but also shames the people who love them simply because they love them. After writing Opiate Jane, I joined a group called Solace Clermont. It was a breath of fresh air to be around people going through and dealing with similar situations. Never think you are alone; there are people who are going through the same feelings you are. Seek them out. I also sought out counseling, which also carries a stigma. At that point, I didn’t care about stigma or shame anymore. I didn’t need counseling long, but it helped me tremendously. The counselor told me something that has stuck with me for years. She said that I was mucking through the mud with everyone else’s rocks in my boots. Here I am, six years later, and the only rocks in my boots are mine.

What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Opiate Jane?

I hope anyone who reads Opiate Jane gets the courage to do what they need to do and it helps them become stronger in their situation. I hope they realize they are not alone.

Welcome New Author: Jessica K. Baker

Jessica BakerKiCam Projects is delighted to welcome Jessica K. Baker to our family of authors!

Jessica’s young adult novel, Opiate Jane, will release in November 2019. Based on Jessica’s own experience with loved ones battling addiction, Opiate Jane follows a teen-aged girl forced to move to rural Ohio after being reunited with her mother, who’s gotten clean after years in active addiction. Having been through foster care and let down countless times, Jane is skeptical of her mother, lonely in her new school, and concerned only with caring for her little sister, Lizzie. When Jane unexpectedly finds herself in a relationship with Landon, the rich, good-looking, has-it-all-together boy whose family employs her mom, Jane reluctantly lets down her walls. But no sooner than she does, Jane discovers that Landon is dealing with demons of his own.

Before writing Opiate Jane, Jessica spent five years working in the addiction field, as a counseling assistant and a social work assistant. She has a degree in human and social services and is pursuing a second degree in business administration.

Jessica was inspired by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer and Blue October lead singer Justin Furstenfeld. “They both made me realize that I deserve to be loved,” Jessica says.

Jessica shares her life in Ohio with her daughter, Annie, 14.

“I am a fighter,” Jessica says. “I keep going with a good attitude even after I get knocked back a few steps. I am also a good mother, which is the most important job I have. I am an optimistic, open-minded person.”

Welcome to the KiCam family, Jessica!

Welcome New Author: Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz

Scot HodkiewiczKiCam Projects is delighted to welcome author Dr. Scot Hodkiewicz, whose book Going through Hell to Get to Heaven will release in January 2019.

We first met Scot at BookExpo in June and immediately were moved by his story. Scot and his family were nearly killed when their vehicle was hit by an intoxicated driver on a highway in their home state of Wisconsin. Through the course of his long, painful recovery, Scot learned that he’d been living his life according to his own “master plan”—and that his plan wasn’t the one that mattered. A Christian, Scot realized his faith wasn’t as strong or as active as he’d once believed. In fact, he’d put his own will over God’s will, and he would have to search his soul to find both the humility and the strength to change his approach to life.

Along his journey, Scot encountered many angels on Earth who helped him face his mortality, the fear of losing his veterinary business, worries about not being able to provide for his family, and a dependency on pain medication. With each trial, Scot learned to listen for God’s voice and direction, and his story now enables others to do the same.

Scot’s goal for this book is to help other Christians consider their lives and ask themselves whether they’re living on their own terms or on God’s. Each chapter contains reflection questions perfect for use in Bible studies and other faith-sharing groups, but Scot is never preachy. His style is conversational, often humorous, and always relatable to anyone who has ever had to overcome a challenge or tragedy.

As Scot says, “Heaven and Hell are here on Earth, and we get to choose which one we enter. To enter Heaven, we just have to get rid of the anger and hate that keep us in Hell.”

Welcome to the KiCam family, Scot!

Accept Reflect Commit

What We’re Doing to Battle the Addiction Epidemic

You’ve probably heard some of the news about the addiction epidemic in the United States, but here are some facts you might not know as we approach National Recovery Month:

• More than 20 million Americans over the age of twelve have a substance-use disorder, and drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States.
• As of late 2016, Ohio led the nation in opioid-overdose deaths, and one in nine heroin deaths in the United States occurred in the Buckeye State—the most in the country.
• Montgomery County, Ohio, is on pace for 800 overdose deaths in 2017—highest per capita in the nation.

At KiCam Projects, we’re doing our part to raise awareness about addiction, destigmatize it, and provide information that empowers readers to help themselves and their loved ones lead healthy, sober lives.

“From the beginning of the company, we’ve been committed to furthering the conversation about addiction by publishing at least one addiction-based book each year,” says Lori Highlander, who founded KiCam in 2015 and has spent most of her career as an executive in the addiction-recovery field. “Most people’s lives have been touched by drug or alcohol addiction in some way, and we want to do everything in our power to help readers take action to better their lives, their family members’ lives, and their communities overall.”

Addiction Recovery ChangeIn October 2016, we published Addiction, Recovery Change: A How-To Manual for Successfully Navigating Sobriety, written by Adams Recovery Center, to meet the needs of individuals leaving treatment and beginning a new lifestyle.

In May 2017, The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search focused on addiction’s effects on the family, based on the real-life experience of author Sharon Leder, whose father died of a heroin overdose.

Accept Reflect CommitAnd on September 12, we will release Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery, also by Adams Recovery Center, a practical guidebook for individuals ready to seek treatment for themselves or a loved one.

The launch of Accept, Reflect, Commit will be marked by a training and networking event for addiction-care professionals hosted by Adams Recovery Center from 1-3:30 p.m. September 12 at the Union Township Civic Center near Cincinnati.

“We’re currently planning our addiction-related books for 2018 and 2019, because we know this problem isn’t going away,” Highlander says. “As long as our country is dealing with this crisis, KiCam will be here, working to be part of the solution.”

Accept Reflect Commit

Q&A with Author Kayla Scoumis, Adams Recovery Center

Kayla Scoumis is the clinical coordinator for Adams Recovery Center and the primary author behind Accept, Reflect, Commit: Your First Steps to Addiction Recovery. Applying the hands-on clinical experience she and her colleagues have gained in the field, Kayla wrote Accept, Reflect, Commit to serve not only individuals battling addiction, but the loved ones supporting those individuals, as well.

What’s more: The core concepts addressed in Accept, Reflect, Commit are issues faced by all people at one time or another, whether addiction is present in their lives or not. Here’s the background on Accept, Reflect, Commit and how it can help readers of all circumstances and walks of life.

1. What prompted you and the Adams Recovery Center team to write Accept, Reflect, Commit?

Addiction is becoming more and more prevalent in today’s world. It’s not something we can just ignore or pretend affects only certain people or areas. It’s widespread and it’s making an impact on people of all demographics. Opiates are especially concerning, and overdoses are happening daily. With all of this happening, there is a lot of confusion and judgment when it comes to addiction and its treatment. We wanted to create more access to information about addiction treatment and the issues present for those in early recovery. We want people to gain a better understanding of what it means to recover from addiction and the changes that are necessary to live a life of sobriety.

In a way, our clients inspired it, too! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a client say, “Wow, I wish my mom/brother/cousin/friend/etc. could learn this stuff,” and we agree! So, we basically put our program into a book, as well as information about seeking treatment. Reading this book is like attending some of our most important group sessions. Though it does not replace treatment, it can be a great asset for those seeking recovery, and it can provide valuable information and insight for the people supporting individuals battling addiction.

2. There’s so much news about the heroin epidemic nationwide—what are you seeing in your day-to-day experience?

Here’s the thing: The clients we see fully recognize that they are in a miserable situation. They desperately want to get out of the cycle they are in and don’t want to continue using. However, that requires change, and change can be super hard, especially when addictive substances are involved. Drug and alcohol addiction incites people to develop certain behaviors and thought patterns that are problematic and destructive. We discuss many of these thoughts and actions—such as manipulation, dishonesty, black-and-white thinking, etc.—in the book.

Another thing we are seeing with the heroin epidemic is the roadblocks clients face with seeking treatment. It can be overwhelming to acknowledge a need for help, let alone to actually seek that help! Many people seeking treatment are facing obstacles such as difficulty with insurance companies and wait lists at treatment centers. When someone is already feeling down and out, the perceived impossibility of actually climbing out of the hole can feel too great to accomplish. In the book, we offer information about different treatment options and provide guidance for those seeking treatment to hopefully make it feel more doable.

3. What are the primary misconceptions about drug addiction?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that people who are addicted to substances can “just stop it.” Many people still believe that people choose to be addicted and can stop at any time. This is so far from the truth! Once a person becomes addicted to a substance, he has a physical and mental dependence on it. Also, even when the substance is taken away, the behaviors and thought patterns are still there and probably will lead a person back to using. People need more from addiction recovery than to simply take away the substances. Individual needs will vary based on a lot of different factors, which is why we recommend seeking a professional assessment to determine the best option.

That leads me to another huge misconception, which is the belief that the “cure” for one will be the “cure” for all. Just because Dad was able to stop drinking one day and never look back does not mean it will be the same for his son. Understanding and accepting an individualized approach to treatment can assist people with the frustration they may feel toward themselves or their loved ones for not “getting it.”

4. How does this book help those in addiction and their loved ones take steps toward recovery?

The book outlines many issues that people face when seeking treatment. My hope is that people who are struggling will read this book, be able to identify themselves within the pages, and gain a better understanding of themselves through its content. My goal was to write this in a very casual, relatable way. I think one thing that often drives people away from seeking help is the fear of judgment, or the belief they are “lesser” than others. Hopefully people who read this will feel understood and accepted—like they aren’t the only person who is struggling with this, they aren’t the only person who thinks, feels, and behaves the way they do. I think when people find that connection and relatability, they feel a lot more open to change.

When it comes to loved ones, I also hope they can better understand their people and their struggle. What I hope for even more, though, is that they can begin identifying their own issues. Addiction is often a systematic issue—meaning it does not just affect a singular person but also those around them. People often adapt to the addicted individual’s behaviors and develop their own problematic responses. Loved ones reading this book can hopefully identify with their own issues and learn about the changes they need to make, as well, not only to better support their person but also to better care for themselves.

5. What gives you hope that those battling addiction can get clean and sober and stay healthy?

Seeing the changes our clients make every day brings a lot of hope and inspiration. People come in feeling so lost and unsure of themselves, but with time and effort, they are able to begin seeing a lightness in life again. The amazing thing about sobriety is that, regardless of how people find it, when they truly want it, they can have it. Stories of inspiration, hope, and connection are all around us if we look for them. It’s difficult to see that sometimes in the wake of terrible stories on the news and statistics, but the reality is that people can make positive changes and drastically improve their lives.

6. This book is a great read even for those whose lives haven’t been touched by addiction. What common issues, faced by all people, do you address?

Oh, wow—so many! Honestly, I think people could easily ignore the addiction-specific information and still learn a ton about themselves. The book touches on very human issues such as comparing ourselves to others, instant gratification, holding others and ourselves accountable, being afraid to show our true selves, dealing with grief, and engaging in a victim mentality. Those are things that anyone (I would even say everyone at one point or another) can have issues with and can benefit from learning more about. We all have changes we can make to be the best versions of ourselves and stop engaging in problematic coping skills to deal with life’s stresses.

7. What’s the number one thing you hope readers take away from Accept, Reflect, Commit?

That change is possible if you allow it to be possible. Though there are many roadblocks in addiction recovery, the biggest one people face is often themselves. It’s not just the drugs or the alcohol or the relationships or the neighborhood—it’s them. While that may be difficult to accept, my hope is that people can actually find empowerment through that knowledge. Literally nothing can hold you back or drag you down unless you allow it to do so. In the book, I encourage people to challenge their perspectives and try on some new ones that might be better suited for a happy life. My hope is that everyone who reads this book can walk away from it believing that life is within reach.

The Fix: A Group Study Guide

The FixSharon Leder’s novel, The Fix: A Father’s Secrets, A Daughter’s Search, is such a personal story, it took her some thirty years to complete the book.

Why go to such great lengths? Because Sharon knew in her heart that her story of growing up the daughter of a heroin addict would resonate with readers of all ages and backgrounds.

In particular, Sharon sought to connect with young readers, children and teens who are experiencing the confusion, pain, sadness, and anger common in households battered by addiction.

As a companion piece to The Fix, Sharon created a brief study guide designed to stimulate reflection, discussion, and even role-playing in a communal setting. This could be a classroom, an addiction-recovery group, or a support group—any gathering of people who want to better understand the causes and effects of addiction in order to find peace and healing.

To access the two-page study guide, simply click here: The Fix Study Guide.

KiCam Welcomes New Author: Sharon Leder

Sharon_LederKiCam Projects is delighted to add Sharon Leder to our stable of 2017 authors.

Sharon, who lives in Brewster, Mass., brought to us a story so special that it caused us to rethink a few things. Sharon’s book is a personal story of a young woman, growing up in Brooklyn in the late 1950s and early ’60s, who discovers that her father is battling a heroin addiction. It’s her family’s secret, a topic that evokes shame, denial and blame.

Sharon uses fictional techniques to tell the true story of her life through the character of Sara, who is confused and angered by the painful secrets piling up around her. Though KiCam usually acquires strictly non-fiction, Sharon’s story captured our attention right away. We knew this was a perfect book for us.

Says Sharon: “Some experiences are too painful to write in first person, so my story is about my persona, Sara Katz, who struggles to love her father, a butcher from an immigrant family, a man she also fears and loathes, an abuser who can also show his loving side. Sara, who’s been her mother’s confidant since age eight, constantly challenges her mother’s second-generation tendencies to keep her father’s addiction secret, and her grandmother’s old-world impulse to deny her son’s ‘sins,’ even after his death.”

Sharon is retired from her career as a professor of literature, Women’s Studies and Jewish Studies, and an earlier version of her book was a finalist for the Merrimack Outstanding Writer Award (2015).

Sharon’s book, releasing in May 2017, is a true story about the shattering effects of addiction, a young woman catapulted into feminism and, as Sharon says, “coping with grief, and finding the courage to speak the truths that lead to healing.”

Welcome to the KiCam family, Sharon!