This interview was conducted with Tina Levene, speaker, comedienne, author, wife, and mother. She has overcome addiction to live a powerful and inspirational life, now encouraging youth "to be the best they can be with what they have been given." She's the author of "Little book, BIG truth!" written for young people, and travels as a speaker, most recently giving a talk with TV Personality, First Lady, and singer, Myesha Chaney from "Preachers of L.A." in West Palm Beach.
Please check out my interview with Tina below. Be prepared ot be inspired.
Interview: Tina Levene, Speaker, Comedienne, Author Talks About Life, Passion, and T.R.U.T.H
Jasmine: Tina, you are a powerhouse speaker, wife, mother, comedienne, and author. Can you tell us more about yourself and what you do?
Tina: Yes, I make ADHD work for me! I juggle many balls & wear many different hats.
First & foremost, I am an encourager to many. If I could change my first name, it would be "Hope" because that's basically my passion & purpose, to provide hope to everyone.
The mediums in which I convey hope is through words, such as this and throughout my inspirational books, comedy & motivational speaking. Everyone needs hope. I have never met a person in or out of prison that has not needed hope. And the term 'prison' is used loosely, I am not speaking of actual metal bars in a close proximity. Most people live in a prison of self hatred, unforgiveness & victimization. I want all people to know hope can & will heal oneself, releasing them from prison!
Jasmine: You've been through so much throughout your life, including growing up as a child of an alcoholic, dealing with dating violence, and addictions. Can you speak more about your experiences and how they affected you during this time?
Tina: My motto is "Transforming trauma into purpose".
For many years, I lived as a victim asking 'why me?' I learned from a young age that if I manipulated others into thinking I was a victim, I had control, however, the real victim was not me but others.
I grew up in an alcoholic family, with a strong Father, who today is one of my best friends and we celebrate sobriety together. My Mom was a stay at home Mother who loved her soap operas. My older sister & I used our vivid imaginations to create an incredible escape to find joy. We loved 'make believing', the world felt safer that way then one day...it didn't feel safe anymore. At the age of 7, my classmate & friend was kidnapped, raped & murdered. She was missing for 3 days & I remember searching for days for any clue to find her. I would walk in the woods searching by myself, till this day the crunching of dead leaves beneath my feet remind me of that chilly September day.
With tons of survivor guilt & unforgiveness, I found myself in my own 7 year old prison with no escape. Until the day I began smoking cigarettes & drinking alcohol, by 19 years old I was using marijuana daily; I felt a short term relief but with long term consequences.
As a teenager, I participated in many sports & clubs, but it was not enough to save me from the grasp of addictions. One traumatic event after the next occurred, from being raped numerous times to having abusive boyfriends that held guns to my head & pulled the trigger. By the age of 23, I found myself in college- abused, used & imprisoned, consequently the only answer was to get sober & clean.
It was then that God came into my life through people He sent to open my eyes, heart & gave me hope. They believed in me, took time to guide me & kept me accountable.
January 31, 2015 I celebrated 17 years sober & clean. In July 2015, I will have 14 years nicotine free. All by the grace of God!
I wish I could say life has been perfect but it's been...life! After many years of fertility treatments, conceiving twins & losing one baby, 10 surgeries in 10 years, bankruptcy & foreclosure...I have survived many adversities! And I just keep getting back up after every hit. What's that saying? "Ya can't keep a good girl down!"
Jasmine: At what point during life did you say “enough is enough,” I’m moving forward?
Tina: When I got sick & tired of being sick & tired, I was finally willing to change! If nothing changes, nothing changes! I had to change me, my attitude & actions first & foremost.
One day in my twenties, I had to face the decision of getting better or staying bitter. I chose better & to strive to be better every day!
I read everyday, learn something new everyday & am constantly growing spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Jasmine: How did you implement your “T.R.U.T.H” to get over your issues?
Tina: My newest book, "Little book, BIG truth!" was written for young people but it is such an inspirational message for everyone. I use short, funny stories of my childhood to describe the choices I made and the choices I could have made to change the direction of my life.
The BIG T.R.U.T.H. is:
T.: Talk. Are you talking the walk or walking the talk? Actions speak louder than words.
R.: Real. Are you keeping it real? Just be you! No one can be you!
U.: Understand. Not everyone is exactly like you, not everyone grew up like you. Take time to understand others and where they are coming from.
T.: Trust. Do you trust yourself? If you do not trust yourself, no one else will.
H.: Hurt, help or heal. Before making a decision, ask yourself, Will this hurt me? Help me? Or heal me? If it hurts you or your body, don't do it!
I love young people!
My passion and purpose is encouraging youth to be the best they can be with what they have been given. There is always hope.
They can make a difference & break the cycle of abuse & addictions.
I speak to middle & high school students about "Your friends are your future!" My favorite quote is "Show me your friends & I'll show you your future!" Choose wisely. I focus on drug, bullying, violence & suicide prevention.
Jasmine: What has been your greatest achievement thus far concerning your career?
Tina: I have not accomplished it yet.
I will never be satisfied until our young people stop killing themselves.
Jasmine: What advice would you give to other women (and men) that are in the midst of battling addictions but don’t feel confident enough in their ability to fight it?
Tina: If you think you have a problem, you are half way there to solving it. You are not alone! There is help. Ask for help. We cannot battle addictions alone and be successful. Reach out to help via phone calls to help lines, talk to someone you trust or talk to your doctor or a professional.
Addictions are treatable, there is hope but it starts with you.
You have to be willing to accept help & make changes. Don't quit living before the miracle happens. I am a walking miracle & you can be too.
Jasmine: How can we keep up with you? Do you have any events are product releases coming up this year that we should be aware of? (Website, social media links, speaking events, product plugs, etc.)
Tina: Tina Talks Truth is my stage name, so please follow me on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook. You can check out my website at www.tinatalkstruth.com or call me to speak at your church, agency or school 727-288-7652.
I am part of The Inspire Tour and Christian Comedy Tour, check out those websites to see where you can catch us next! www.theinspiretour.com and www.christiancomedytour.org
In July, I am speaking with the amazing TV Personality from "Preachers of L.A." First Lady: Myesha Chaney in West Palm Beach. And I am being interviewed on Christian Television Network in June! God is opening some HUGE doors & I am forever grateful.
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share hope.
The truth is...you are amazing!
Jasmine: Thank you, Tina!
(This interview was originally conducted in April 2015)