Jennifer Fox has known adversity, growing up in a dysfunction family with chaos and addiction at the core. Her adolescent and teenage years were mostly happy, though her mom’s alcoholism started to become more apparent, and negatively impactful for her and her brothers. When her mom filed for divorce in 1989 she started taking prescription pills which would prove to be the beginning of a very dark time in their family. Jen spent her twenties and thirties just trying to put the pieces of her broken life back together. When she met the man that would become her husband in 2013 she thought she had found the path to a better life, but this would prove to be just the beginning of quite a dark time.
After marrying in 2014 and miscarrying twice in 2015 Jen’s life, and marriage, really started to spiral. Then in March of 2016, after a life long struggle with addiction, Jen’s mom lost her battle with lung cancer. Of course the loss was profound, and hard on all members of the family. It also made the problems in her marriage even more glaring. In 2017, Jen filed for a separation and ultimately, in January of 2018, a divorce. In October, after years of fibroid and fertility issues, Jen had to undergo a hysterectomy surgery. In later November 2018 her divorce was final. And then on December 5th, 2018, her youngest brother would die from a heroin overdose.
Needless to say, 2019 was a shit show.
Though she admittedly was already in a downward spiral, as you’ll hear Jennifer say her brother's death was the straw that broke the camels back. Jen started drinking abusively, drowning her grief over so many losses in such a short period of time, the most profound being the loss of Justin. She was miserable, broken and depressed, ending up 40 pounds heavier over the course of just a few years. In the fall of 2019 she realized she had never sent out the thank you cards after her brothers services. But she also hadn’t thrown them out. So one night, while in her office, she clicked on the Live A Great Story ad she kept seeing on Facebook. Then she saw the stickers, and immediately had an idea. She would write a thank you letter to everyone who showed up to Justin’s services, and throughout the last year, and say thank you. She would include a sticker in each letter, and implore people to live a great story since her brother didn’t get her chance.
Jen sent out the cards and immediately started getting emails, texts and phone calls from people showing her where they put their sticker and thanking her for inspiring them. And while she loved hearing all of the wonderful stories from people, she realized she was living a lie. Here she was trying to inspire other people to live a great story and she was doing anything but; so she set out to change that.
Jen knew that only big changes would create the significant results she was longing for in her life so she set two goals. Number one, she was going to start running. She had always dreamt of being the type of person she imagines makes a runner: dedicated, disciplined, health & fit. The second goal was a bigger one. Instead of a dry January, she was going to give up alcohol for the entire year.
Pandemic and all, Jennifer confidently says that 2020 was the best year of her life. Through her on going quest to find inspiration and support on line she found Herren Project, a national non profit that supports the substance use disorder community. This would prove to be a pivotal moment as she started running and fundraising for the organization in her brothers name. Throughout 2020 she wrote and shared about her life and experiences in the sobriety challenge group she started on Facebook, and on her personal social media pages. All of this inspiration swirling around her, and the feedback she received from friends and strangers alike, planted the seed that there had to be something more, that she could live her life in honor of her brother and work to help people just like him.
Dragonolia coffee was born.
Her day job is selling coffee in Chicago, so it was a natural progression to create a gourmet coffee brand that would become her coffee with a cause. In tandem the online community was born as well, a place where you can find inspiring stories of recovery, resilience, survival and strength. It was through her own story telling, and all of the people that told her that they heard themselves in the stories she was sharing, that Jennifer realized something - that we can find beauty in the darkness of addiction, and life, we just have to look for it, and see it, especially in the people and the stories that look and sound just like us. As Jennifer says, “If we all lived out loud in a way that inspired just one other person, every day, imagine how beautiful our world could be.”
The name Dragonolia comes from a combination of two things special to Jen, that remind her of both her mom and her brother Justin. The dragonfly being the symbol for Justin, and the magnolia tree being a reminder of her beautiful mom Cathy. Together the two words create Dragonolia, a beautiful community of people sharing their stories of pain, struggle, survival and growth. And in honor of Justin, and all of those still here, and still struggling trying to find their way, $1.00 from every bag of coffee sold goes to Herren Project. That money will directly support people struggling that can’t afford to get the help they need to survive the throws of addiction and go on to live a great story of their own.
Through all of the amazing people Jennifer has met through Herren Project, her personal online outreach and now her Dragonolia community, Jennifer knows in her heart that while she can’t change the lives of her mom and brother, with the right support, and resources, recovery is possible for those still here struggling. Despite all of the challenges that Jennifer has faced throughout her life, this journey of self discovery and giving back helps her continue to spread hope and inspiration. And because she never gave up on her own dreams, she continues to live a great story of her own as well.
Listen to the full podcast episode:
Jennifer and I met through Instagram.
Then one day she flew to Austin for a race and we met up in person!
Three years later we were able to sit down in person to record this podcast.