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Photo: Michelle Severino/Al DÍA News
On a humid Tuesday morning in Bucks County, in the surrounding neighborhood, a cul-de-sac setting, the only noise that can be heard is a water fountain from across the street.

A backpack slung over her shoulder and a folding chair in one hand, Jillian Bauer, creator of The Rooms Project, walks up the stairs of Independence Lodge Sober Living, a recovery house.

The Rooms Project is a way that Bauer gives “recovery a voice” through the stories of experience, strength, and hope she often heard in “the rooms” of recovery support groups and meetings.

After scrolling through her phone, checking to make sure that she has the right address and time, a man looking to be in his late 30s invites Bauer into the house.

She sits in the kitchen, waiting for her interviewee Bryan Kennedy, the owner and founder of Independence Lodge Sober Living.

Bauer started The Rooms Project just a few years ago, in March 2014 after celebrating a year of sobriety. She had struggled with drugs and alcohol during her early teenage years up until she was 29.

“I didn’t go to treatment, but I ended up going to a 12-step program because of somebody who I very loosely knew on Facebook, who was very open about being in recovery,” Bauer said. “So when I was feeling really desperate on the day after my last drink I reached out to this person and asked what was it that I needed to do in order get help.”

That’s when the idea of The Rooms Project initially began to form. During Bauer’s first year of recovery she was heavily involved in a 12-step fellowship, a set of guiding principles, originally developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for recovery from addictive or other behavioral problems. Bauer is still involved in the fellowship today.

It was at these meetings where those who were addicted, whether it be alcohol or drugs, would share personal stories about their experience, what it was like and what it felt to be in recovery.

“I thought that was a really compelling storytelling format, I mean it’s obviously been working since 1935 when AA was founded and so I was really drawn to that way of telling stories and listening to stories,” Bauer said. “So I put up a Facebook post and asked if anyone would be willing to be photographed, first it was supposed to be a photography project and when I got to my first photo session this woman told me her life story and it was a really incredible moving story and I was like ‘Oh my God. I didn’t even bring a recorder, like I teach journalism and I’m not even recording this right now.’”

Bauer ended up going back to meet the woman and recording her story and soon after began recording the stories of others from that point forward.

The project has definitely evolved over the last couple of years, she said, though the reason of why she started the project remains the same.

Click here to read the rest of the story.


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Dominique “Peak” Johnson is a North Philadelphia freelance journalist. He is one of the founding editors and writers of the North Philly Metropolis, blogger for The Huffington Post and contributing writer to numerous online publications. Click here to learn more about Peak.