Bobbi Jo Reed’s amazing journey from the depths of addiction to spiritual powerhouse is chronicled in the new documentary “Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence,” written and directed by Brent L. Jones, now available on-demand digitally. The Kansas City native, whose struggle with alcohol and narcotics led her down a dark road of prostitution and near death, now runs safe houses specifically to pull others from the depths she found herself in. In the 25 years that she’s run her Healing House ministry, a large assortment of houses and apartment buildings, where more than 8,000 people have been helped.
Recently, Reed spoke to Reel Faith about her life and the miraculous ministry that has grown to provide hope and healing to those struggling with addiction.
We don’t want to give everything away here, but I would love for you to be able to share a little bit about your story.
I started drinking at 12 years old. I was a young lady trapped in an adult’s world. I was working a full-time job and around a lot of older people. And when I drank it made me feel like I fit in, perhaps for the first time in my life, because I always had self-esteem issues. And I could not wait to drink again. I thought it made me funny. It made me more comfortable inside my own skin. I chased that for 22 years in my addiction. My story is not a pretty one. But it’s raw, and it’s real. And it’s mine. And I ended up homeless in the street being human trafficked. A lot of horrific things happen to me. I didn’t know the Lord back then. When I was a child, we went to Sunday school a few times, but I did not know Christ. I didn’t have an intimate relationship with Him. I was lost. I think about the Israelites and how they stumbled around up there all those years. I was just a lost soul honestly. But my dad had passed away and a month later, I went to detox. That’s where my journey started. I was in detox for five days, and couldn’t hold a coffee cup in my hand, I was very sick.
After I got out, I started helping other people that had the same issues as me. And I started going back to the detox and talking to people. And initially, I started with just taking them a few hygiene products and sharing my story of hope with them. And then it went from there to seeing that there were 900 women in our city going through inpatient treatment every year. There were less than 30 safe beds for them to go to when they got out of treatment. And the more just started tugging on my heart. And I’m telling you what, if you don’t ever think you’ve seen a miracle, you’re seeing one today, and what God has done in my life, and it took me about three and a half years into recovery, to really build my relationship with Christ. There are some things that happen that are in the movie that will explain more, some tragedies, even in recovery, that brought me closer to the Lord. I found Christ. Well, he always knew where I was, but I found Him. I was sober and clean. But December 31, of 1998, I thought everything had fallen apart again in sobriety, and I cried out to God, and I asked him to leave my steps, and please not let me go back to where I came from. I asked Him just to be with me. I know this sounds crazy maybe to some people that your life can’t be changed like that, that I’m telling you, our God is able. And when I woke up January 1, 1999, the Holy Spirit had taken up residence in me. He started directing my steps in my journey and showing me what to do, what’s next. And I’m a faith walker. God doesn’t speak to me audibly, but God speaks to my heart, and he shows me what’s in front of me and what’s to be done next. And I always trust that if he tells me to do it, that He’s going to make a way to do it. So now we help. We have 200 people that live here daily, and about 34 children and they all call me mom. I’m their recovery mom. I love them. They’re my kids. It’s just an amazing story of not only my redemption but thousands and thousands of people that have come through here that have come to know Christ and found a different way to live. And then in our community to that was crime-riddled in just in depravity. The Lord has revitalized her whole community and we’re still working on it. So, I’m a very blessed woman. I get to live what God created me to do every day. It’s not a job. It’s my passion. It’s my life. I’m a single lady. And I don’t think I’ll ever find a husband that wants to be a daddy to thousands. I’ve been 25 years in recovery, my work every now and blessed every day.
This was filmed before the COVID. How did that affect your ministry there when you’re reaching out to people. Reaching out is not really encouraged right now.
We have a big recovery community center. We do something called the Alpha, which is Beginner’s Christianity. We would have Bible studies on Monday nights and Friday nights. On a Friday night, there would be 250 people in there in recovery attending the Bible studies. We’re very family-orientated here. I mean, we pray and eat dinner together every night. We have family game nights on the weekends because you got to remember, a lot of people have not had real faith, and they haven’t been raised in a family of stability or seeing, they don’t know what they’d like to do, because their world has been turned over for so long. We really try to create that family atmosphere. (So when Covid hit), I thought, “Oh, no, what’s going to happen?” What happened was quite surprising. Of course, people miss the camaraderie of us all being together. However, what they started telling me is “Mom, I am building the best friendships I’ve ever had in my life. In my house, I’m getting to know the people in my house so well, that that I’m really bonding close relationships that I didn’t even think were possible.” So instead of being a big family unit, it really turned into a more intimate setting in each house. We have 14 houses now.
The other thing, here locally, a lot of the shelters closed down. They wouldn’t even take anybody. And we have a large homeless population here, I would say, predominantly due to addiction, but some to severe mental illness, for people that are experiencing homelessness. And that never gets reported properly, because people with addiction problems are scared to say, “Hey, I’m an addict or an alcoholic,” because of the stigma that comes with that. The need was there, and the shelters and everything closed down. We kind of keep helping these people. So we had a large influx of people that came in that necessarily didn’t want to change totally, but they wanted to get off the streets. And I look at it this way. They might not want to change everything about them. But while we had them, we planted seeds. You know, they got to know Jesus while they were here. They got to know a different way of life while they were here.
We had to quit meeting in big groups. I came up with some safety policies right at the beginning of that and how things would work to keep a safe environment. What one of the things has been a lot of our people are still engaged in outpatient services or things like that. So now it all has to be Zoom. We have our recovery meetings on Zoom. We have our Bible studies on Zoom now. Our community meetings on Zoom. The Lord just gives you the ability to kind of roll with the punches. We still got to keep serving people. Ultimately, I think we’ve done a beautiful job. We’ve had 1,100 people this year and we’ve only had 24 cases of COVID, which is remarkable. That’s a hedge of protection. Let me tell you I pray for a hedge of protection all the time around everyone here. How that has happened is not because we’re taking safety precautions, we have put in place so many precautions, but when people go out to work, and then they’re getting it their workplaces. At one point, we had five people that had COVID. So, I took an entire house and made it into a COVID house. They could stay isolated. Their meals would be delivered to their rooms. The trash would be put in a trash bag before it’d be taken out all the safety precautions. We’ve just been able to adapt to all the deeds. We have never stopped serving people, not one day, because God didn’t sit down with us and say, “Okay, this is getting scary, so stop now.” The needs of the folks that we serve never stop. This is not going to ever be something I do that I could say, “Okay, we’re good.”
The other thing I wanted to say is you don’t have to be a person in recovery to love this story. The whole thing about this story is what is possible through God. Most people that I’ve talked to that have seen this, and many were not addicts, have said, “You know what? I sat here and I watched the movie and I thought, ‘Man, I’m not doing nothing in my life, I need to get up and do something.” From the time of when we were little children, we always were looking for more and more attention, or a new bicycle or a new card, or wife or husband or whatever. We filled our voids in many ways. And we’ve all looked for more in our life. And I think it’s exciting. And this, I think this documentary comes out at the perfect time when we’ve all been confined and not able. It seems like there’s always something bad going on. This is going to inspire people to want more, and actually see good in the world. God’s doing a lot of good work. I think it’s important that we realize that God is on the move, even when we’re not. He’s on the move, all the time.
“Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence” is now available on-demand from digital outlets. For more information, click here.
Watch an exclusive interview with Bobbi Jo Reed, writer-director Brent L. Jones, and producer Donna Jones below.