Lisa M. Hendey reviews a documentary that tells a story much bigger than one woman’s journey to sobriety and healing.
Having had exposure to lives impacted by addiction, my radar is always up for resources that can help not only those who personally struggle with addiction but also those who love them. When I recently sat and screened Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence, I knew immediately that this was a project I deeply wanted to share with others. Now Available on Blu-Ray, DVD, Digital & On-Demand, this documentary tells a story that is much bigger than one woman’s journey to sobriety and healing.
What makes the film so special is that in meeting and coming to know Bobbi Jo Reed and those whose lives she has touched, we can sense the potential within each of us to make transformative change happen in our lives and in our world with the power of God’s love and hope. I’m happy to share my recent email conversations with Bobbi Jo Reed and filmmakers Brent and Donna Jones. Learn more about the film at TheBobbiJoMovie.com.
Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence is one of the most inspirational stories you will ever hear. For 25 years, Bobbi Jo Reed has rescued thousands of addicts. But before she could help others, Bobbi Jo needed to help herself. This true-life story takes an honest look into the world of alcoholism and addiction and provides keys to long-term recovery in Kansas City’s most dangerous neighborhood. After a middle-class upbringing, Bobbi Jo turned to drinking and drugs at a young age. Soon, her life spiraled out of control. Addiction led to abuse, prostitution, and homelessness. When she hit rock bottom, Bobbi Jo had a spiritual awakening. With newfound strength, Bobbi Jo was lifted out of a personal hell. That strength gave her the courage to return to the streets to help others. Using the testimony of her dark past as a “blueprint of hope”, Bobbi Jo Reed reflects on her transformation. How she was saved. Why she was chosen. And why more than 8,000 souls now call her, “Mom.”Source: TheBobbiJoMovie.com
In Conversation with Bobbi Jo Reed:
What inspired you to share your testimonial in this film? Now that your story is being shared, how does it feel to welcome the world into your mission?
I knew my testimony would give others hope. I want nothing more than to share the good news that lives can be transformed into unimaginable places.
What is something that you learned during the filmmaking process that will stay with you as you continue your work?
I learned the power of my testimony, that a lamp should be placed on a stand for all to see and through this movie many more lives can be touched.
What encouragement can you give to someone out there who may be struggling with addiction right now?
There is hope. There is a place to go and there is love. In your brokenness and humility is when God will take you to a new beginning.
How do you advise parents or family members who have a loved one who struggles with an addiction to help them?
Always continue to pray for them; prayer is powerful. Set healthy boundaries for your family and give your loved one options for recovery by being supportive when they make those correct decisions. Do not enable them to stay sick but be proactive in the recovery process. There really doesn’t need to be a financial burden because there is help.
Are there any other thoughts you would like to share?
Addiction is not a lack of moral fiber, it is a disease that affects your mind, body, and spirit. Not one more person who suffers from substance use disorder needs to die. There is a way out.
In Conversation with Brent and Donna Jones
Why did you feel it was important to share Bobbi Jo’s story and how did the production come together?
Brent: I heard Bobbi Jo speak at our local church and her testimony blew me away! She shared her experience, strength, and hope about her long struggle with alcoholism and addiction. I knew about halfway through the story that this needed to be shared with the world. After the meeting, I went up and met with Bobbi Jo and told her I wanted to make a movie about her life. She said, “Well sure honey as long as you get Angelina Jolie to play me!” I called a couple of cameramen and we went to Bobbi Jo’s Ministry (The Healing House) to meet her at her first house. She talked about the beginning of Healing House and took us on a tour of The Pink House. I knew right away we were working with a bigger-than-life personality and she was chosen by God to do the work she was doing. Her spirit was just so alive and infectious. She was just so full of love and kindness, it’s hard to describe how she was able to welcome us to her world. Needless to say, I came home and told my wife that we had a new mission. We turned our basement into a production facility, we brought in editors to work around the clock as we were shooting, and proceeded to spend the next year and a half making our documentary “Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence”.
Along with Bobbi Jo, how did you decide on the other storytellers who share their journeys?
We met with many people whose lives have been impacted by Bobbi Jo. Many are now her employees, and others are folks that have new lives but also keep coming back to pitch in and stay involved. We selected those whose stories best supported Bobbi Jo’s story, being mindful to represent all walks of life. We wanted our audience to get the true sense that addiction does not discriminate by gender, ethnicity, age, or faith. Many wonderful people were cut from the film. As you can imagine, this was a very difficult process because they are all worthy of being represented. It really came down to time and finding the best sound bites to create a thoughtful narrative. Leaving people out of the film was extremely difficult.
What challenges did you face in creating the documentary and what did they teach you?
We faced many challenges. Budget, time, scheduling, developing the story, marketing, and logistics are all difficult. We were working with real people so we wanted to make sure not to jeopardize anyone’s sobriety along the way. A recovery home is a very sensitive place to make a movie and we made sure we didn’t get involved with anyone who didn’t want to be a part of the project. We focused on individuals who had some time under their belt and steered away from those who were struggling. This is tricky but we were committed to this philosophy. The biggest challenge was finding a way to tell the story and include a pathway to sobriety.
I don’t want to share any spoiler alerts, but there is a poignant development at the end of the film relating to one of the special people we meet along the way. Why was it important to share this postscript development?
Healing House functions by the Grace of God so I wanted to gracefully provide information I think people would want to know. A film captures a moment or moments in time. But after the cameras leave, life goes on. I’m not sure how to fully answer this question without giving away part of the film. I was able to get very close with everyone in the film and our dedication is out of pure respect and honor. I hope this makes sense. I just love everyone we met and this was no doubt a blessing to have been able to make this film.
Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share?
Bobbi Jo inspires everyone she comes into contact with in one way or another. She certainly inspired us, our whole crew, and my family. it is my hope that everyone who sees this film will be inspired to help others and love one another!
Bobbi Jo: Under the Influence is now qvailable on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital & On-Demand. Learn more at TheBobbiJoMovie.com.
Copyright 2021 Lisa M. Hendey
Images: Courtesy of TheBobbiJoMovie.com, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Lisa M. Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com, a bestselling author and an international speaker. A frequent radio and television guest, Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and communications. Visit Lisa at LisaHendey.com or on social media @LisaHendey for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish, school or organization. Visit Lisa's author page on Amazon.com.