I’ve been thinking about this woman I met while volunteering in prison last night. Her story has stuck with me since the moment I left. It’s devastating, humbling and it was such a stunning reminder of just how cunning, baffling and powerful the disease of addiction is.
This woman had over a decade in recovery, and then decided she was cured. She started drinking alcohol again, and within 30 days she was arrested and is now serving a 3 year prison sentence. She talked about how much she misses her family, how her husband had to be sent to a nursing home because she was his caretaker, and how the state liquidated her assets in order to pay for his care while she was away. While sitting in prison this woman lost the only home her family has ever known, and now she has to tell her sick husband that not only are they broke, they are homeless too.
I am coming up on 5 years in recovery, and her story reminds me that I am not cured. I needed to hear her story last night. I needed to be reminded of what awaits me if I choose to pick up again.
As active addicts, we become self-centered. That’s the nature of our disease. We don’t recognize that our actions impact the people around us. We think, “The only person I am hurting is myself, so back off!”
We compare ourselves to other addicts so we can justify our behavior and say, “Well, at least I am not THAT bad.” Only to wake up one day and realize that we really are that bad!
In reality, the people who love us most suffer right along with us. From endless tears, sleepless nights, constant worry, to anger and fear, we are never alone in our despair.
Some of you may think I am brave for willingly walking into a women’s prison on Friday nights. The metal detectors, bullet proof glass and cold concrete walls are not at all inviting. But you see, I am not brave at all. I am there because it is a necessary component in my recovery. I am there for myself just as much as I am there for them.
Recovery is a “We” program, and I cannot stay recovery focused on my own. History has taught me that when I am left to my own devices, I make unhealthy decisions. The women I visit, the ones in the matching green jumpsuits, they remind me that I am only one bad decision away from throwing away everything I’ve gained in recovery, and in return I make a commitment to them to return week after week and share my experience, strength and hope with them. I encourage them to believe that they are worthy of recovery too. I tell them that although I was capable of some pretty shitty things in my active addiction, I’ve also been capable of some pretty fantastic things in my recovery too.
For some of them, myself and the other women I volunteer with, are the the only living/breathing examples of recovery they have ever known. It’s our responsibility as recovering women to show them what they are capable of accomplishing if they choose recovery too.
When I drove home last night, I was overwhelmed with emotion. It is not lost on me just how lucky I am to be able to go home to my family at night. Just as I let every aspect of my addiction impact the people around me, I am committed to making sure my recovery has a positive impact on them too. 💜