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Repeat Offender
by RW

I’ve been sober for 5 years now, starting from the second day of my current incarceration.  I’m doing a 15-year sentence fro aggravated robbery at 100% here in Tennessee.  I’ve not spent these last 5 years simply staring at the walls wallowing in self hatred and anger.  I’ve travelled that particular road before and just guess where that led me?  You betcha, to more incrimination and these cold concrete boxes.

This is my 5th time in prison.  God, that’s some painful shit.  Every time I think of the four times I’ve walked out of prison, full of enthusiasm and high on the anticipated rewards of freedom, only to have the whole process repeat itself, still saddens me.

So, this time through the maze I decided to dive a little deeper.  I want to know “who” I am!  I went in search of “Self”. I went inward, seeking intuitive guidance, developing stillness and equanimity in all I think, say , and do.

I knew in my heart I had reached a crossroads that I couldn’t turn away from.  I felt profoundly broken, damaged goods beyond repair.  As if all my self-destructive tendencies had finally come to fruition.

I’ve heard it said that we most often won’t decide to change until we’ve reached our darkest hour, rock bottom it’s called.  Well, folks, I had arrived, depravity 2.0!!  It was do or die time for me.  If it wasn’t for a very well-timed visit from a Christian volunteer in my county jail, who just happened to see my name in the local paper, things were poised at the precipice where suicide was a real possibility.  I only thought I knew what depression was before July of ’09.  This guy saved my life, no doubt about it.  God just wasn’t through with me yet.  Go figure.  They tell me I have a visit.  I figure it’s my lawyer because I’ve never, ever, had any family support prior to a conviction.  no one is ever going to bail me out of jail, or even show up at a court hearing to lend me some support.  If I fall, then I’m on my own.  I should have thought about the consequences before I decided to get high, as far as they’re concerned.  So anyway, I don’t have a soul on my visitation list.  Why bother?  I know the score.  But this guy can visit anyone at will because of his volunteer status from a very prominent Baptist church.  I’m not a Christian but we know each other because I participated in an outreach program for the HIV+ that was ran out of his Church.  The program was government funded.  The Church just provided the space and some volunteers.  It wasn’t a religious thing or I wouldn’t have been there.  They passed out bus passes each month for free and a $20 Kroger gift card.  I was struggling, as always, and needed the help and showed up each month to get my issue.  That’s how I knew this dude.

Anyway, it worked.  It got me on my knees again.  The drugs and alcohol are history.  It’s still hard for me to believe I truly am convinced I’ll never use again, but it has been 5 years now and my faith is growing.  Time will tell, but I am hopeful.  I realize nothing is a given when it comes to a chronic relapse artist like myself.  Turning a blind eye to even the possibility of relapse is a very dangerous attitude.  Addiction loves to go unnoticed.  Darkness emboldens it.  And we already know how cunning it will be if allowed the time and space to gather strength and momentum in the darkest corners of our minds.  Honesty is our best defense.  so yeah, a relapse is always a possibility.  That’s being honest with ourselves, all right.  But I can at least safely say it’s a hell of a lot less likely now.  And here’s what’s more.  I can allow myself to feel good about that too.  it’s called growth.  If there’s no actual gains, then there’s no real growth.

Recovery does work!  I’ve learned from my many trips to our nation’s drug treatment centers the odds aren’t necessarily in our favor though.  That’s a fact, Jack!

That’s not to say it doesn’t work though.  As is so often the case, it’s not the tool’s fault if the mechanic isn’t well-trained.  I’m the one in charge, aren’t I?

What am “I” capable of and do I even believe it’s possible?  I’m nothing if not the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.  I root for the Tennessee Vols football team each year, don’t I?  But get this, I actually do believe those guys can pull it off on any given Saturday.  Now is the time to afford myself this same indomitable spirit that I too can make all my dreams come true.  Nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism, thrown in for good measure, but  pessimistic attitude is just defeatism at work. Who needs that?  Let’s just let that habit wither on the vine, shall we?  I’ve never enjoyed a pessimistic approach anyway.  I mean it’s really only ever about the journey anyway, right?  Wouldn’t optimism improve the journey, even if we do come up short of our “ideal” destination, (just yet anyway)?  Someone smarter than me once said there’s honor in the effort.  I agree with that.  I’d much rather be labeled a hopeless romantic than a pessimist who fears the appearance of being in denial.

Listen, my problem was I simply never learned to overcome and adapt to the constant mental chatter.  Buddhists refer to this as “monkey mind”.   That’s a very good description of it too.  I just could not focus. The fundamentals were missing in me.  I forever blamed alcoholism, drug addiction, and whatever...society...my parents.  I always had to find something or someone, other than me of course, to BLAME.

This again brings us back to honesty.  It’s like that old saw about the sensei that has only 2 lessons posted on the the wall of his dojo.  1.- Obey me at all times.  2.-Refer to rule 1.  Or something along those lines.  For recovering addicts it’s always about the honesty.  Anything less than stark honesty and we rob ourselves of the power to transform our weaknesses into our biggest opportunities to meet our lives on our terms.  It’s about taking the good with the bad and living from within, not without.

I once had no discipline.  Today I do.  I’m working at developing the skills to let go and move on,  to unconditionally accept circumstances, out of my control, and adapt to the environment I’m given, not the one I want, or the one my ego tells me I deserve because I have so much damn “potential”.  God, does my ego love to hear that word, “potential”.  What it hates is the actual work involved in developing it.  Give me a three-legged mutt that will gratefully carry his lame ass out in the rain and get my paper, over the lazy-ass thoroughbred with all the so-called “potential” any day of the week.

Let me touch on the “how” of my recovery a little more.  A friend, after reading this, said to me, “I get it.  You’re a lot more self-sufficient, empowered, and confident now.  What I still don’t know is how you got there”.  That’s fair.  So, let’s go there.
(continued on page 9)

Let me say right off I’m not in this alone.  There is a legion of warm-hearted sponsors outside these fences who have made it their life’s work to reach out to those of us struggling to heal our self-destructive behaviors and move on in more harmonious fashion.  God Bless CwG and a score of others who are in it to win.  They do the actual work required to bring about real change from the inside out.  It would be so easy for these fine souls to walk away and direct their talents elsewhere, as the overwhelming majority of society are all so willing to do.  They keep us hidden, out of sight, as this voracious prison industrial movement continues to grow unchecked.  Don’t even get me started on that.  I’m just grateful someone still cares for us and not just paying it lip service.  We need them.  Man, do we need them.  And guess what?  They need us too.  Yeah, imagine that.


Prisoner Letters

Latest Issue: 92



O.K.  I’ve given it some thought.  The “how” of it, as best I can think to tell you, is going to be unique to you and your needs.  Even identical twins have very unique paths in life.  In fact that’s what I love most about us.   There’s so much beauty in our diversity.  There’s as many ways to God as there are people.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” remedy to anybody’s troubles.  Work what works and just avoid what doesn’t.  That’s the best I have for you dude.  Just keep things simple and work what works best for you.

If you’re interested, this is “how” I’ve done it though.  I reached out to the universe for a sponsor.  The answer came in the form of a Guru.  Her name is Chidvisasananda, affectionately referred  to as Gurumagi.  She’s a sitting Yoga Master, part of a lineage of Siddha Masters going back over 2,000 years .  Let’s just say she’s not a fly-by-night wanna-be.  She’s legit.

The path of a Siddha Yoga student isn’t the stretching exercises you’ve seen on “Sex in the City”.  It’s a guided tour into the Grace of God.

This is my path,  Yours will be yours.  I feel the fellowship and sponsorship are absolutely essential to success for a recovering addict though.  The AA program certainly has that part right, man.

Find someone you respect and wish to emulate.  Humble yourself and reach out.  God is real and always on deck for us. It if was your drug of choice, or whatever your addiction is, you’d let nothing stand in your way, right?  You need to be just as persistent in finding out who you truly are.  Dig down deep and scream it out...God show me!!!

Then stand beck because the Love is about to be unleashed.  God has been waiting all your life for it.  Man it’s what He does.  It’s all He does.  It’s kind of His thing.

The answer was alway there, of course.  You only needed to get out of your own damn way to see.

God Bless You and Keep You