Written by Amanda Cassidy-Trejo, Reentry Advocacy Fellow
I can still recall the smell of the pod I was housed in the last time I used. I don’t remember the actual date I stopped using because time is irrelevant when incarcerated. So I chose the date that I had tattooed on me from the first time I got clean, October 15th. I remember this sense of recognition, this feeling that had settled in my spirit that I was gonna die. I knew that the odds were, because I ran from parole and picked up a 3rd possession charge when I was finally caught, that they were going to send me back to TDCJ at that review hearing. So it wasnt so much a shock when it happened but what did happen was I saw myself for the first time in a long time. I saw that here I was, sitting in a high risk pod in Bexar County Adult Detention Center again, having been told by yet another judge that I had a problem, having the parole officer tell me yet again that I needed help but there was nothing she could do for me. I was consumed, even when locked up, with manipulating people on the outside to give me money or commissary so that I could continue to numb my thoughts and feelings while in jail. I saw the insanity that was playing out in my life almost as if I was seeing it from another person’s eyes. I had lost the ability to feel human.
It wasn’t the first time I had been through this cycle but when that Thursday rolled around and I heard there would be some volunteers coming from a 12 step fellowship to bring a meeting in, I was the first one in line to go. These were my people and I knew that all I had to do was ask for help and they would be there for me. I began following the suggestions of this 12 step fellowship. Get a sponsor, work steps, be of service to others and make meetings. I was fortunate enough to get a sponsor who was willing to take time to write to me and work the steps through the mail. In TDCJ not many units have 12 step meetings, I was fortunate that mine did once a month, it wasn’t enough of course but it was a connection at least. I found a mindset to look at my assigned job as a janitor in the hospital ward as a form of service and eventually connected with women who wanted to learn more about the steps and we began to hang out allowing us to change who we associated with even in prison. We formed a weekly meeting after I was able to get some literature and welcomed anyone who was interested to join us. My recovery behind the walls made the experience entirely different than it was the first 2 times. I found gratitude in the simple things like getting a bed by a window.
When I made parole I made the decision to not go back to San Antonio where my family was and where I’d spent most of my active addiction. I needed to change one thing, and that was everything. I started attending more meetings, really dug into step work and being of service. Learning to let go of old belief systems and thinking patterns while implementing principles into my life so that I can build a healthier future for myself. I learned to grow from the animalistic behavior patterns I survived in and began to experience new emotions like love and compassion, I became trustworthy and dependable. A lot has happened since the day I made the decision, love, death, restoration, careers; my dreams have come true and I have begun to dream of new things that are possible today because I value my recovery and because my clean date is the most important day of my life. I have been freed from the prison my addiction kept me in.
There is a lot of literature from my 12 step fellowship that I just love. This quote always stands out in my head when I think about how different my life has been. “We are often amazed at how things work out for us. We are recovering in the here and now and the future becomes an exciting journey. If we had written down our list of expectations when we came to the program, we would have been cheating ourselves. Hopeless living problems have become joyously changed. Our disease has been arrested, and now anything is possible.” ~ Basic Text, NA