Nobody I know ever wanted to be a drug addict. As children our dreams and visions for the future never include alcoholism or addiction. We simply don’t say, “I want to be a drunk or a junkie when I grow up!” For most drinking and drug use begin as part-time habits, ways to blow off steam on the weekend or relax in social situations. In my case this sort of occasional use quickly progressed to every day, and before I knew it getting high was the center of my life. Consequences of my using began to pile up with more and more frequency.
I had already been forced to leave two colleges as a direct result of my drinking and using. Wherever I went the problems of my attitude and behavior followed me. I simply could not be comfortable in the world without getting high, and I thought of it as my God-given right. My lies, manipulation, and rationalizing brought me more and more troubles.
I supported my addiction by selling drugs and inevitably got caught up in the so-called “life,” with criminal charges putting me in a perpetual state of probation. The judge and my PO gave me every opportunity to stay out of jail, and I failed at every chance. As my parents and fiancée sat crying in the courtroom I was sentenced to two years in the Massachusetts Department of Correction. When they snapped the cuffs around my wrists and led me off to a holding cell I had a distinct sense of disbelief. Was this the rest of my life?
My first day inside I wandered around clueless, getting in trouble for using in the CO’s bathroom (a hint if you’re ever there – inmate stalls rarely have doors and never have locks) and generally feeling miserable. Over time I became accustomed to the routine, waking up for breakfast at 5:30 in the morning and then going back to sleep, waking up for lunch and then going to the library or out to the yard.
One thing I never got used to was the food, a steady and seemingly unlimited supply of grade ‘D’ meats and bologna at least once a day, often twice. Three distinct types of bologna were offered, two of them almost entirely inedible. The worst variety had a soft texture and gleaming coat of slime so thick that I called it the ‘whale tongue.’ If at all possible I would avoid the jail food entirely, and make my own Ramen noodle creations using chicken from a pouch and all the other delicacies available through the commissary. Needless to say, my appreciation for the simple pleasures provided by a trip down a well-stocked supermarket aisle have increased substantially after the experience of being locked up.
I also gained important perspectives on sobriety from these months spent behind bars. I realized that the decisions I made had brought me to where I was. This really was my life. Now what was I going to do so that I might never have to taste ‘whale tongue’ ever again?
Although I’ve stumbled once or twice on the road to becoming sober, today the time I spent incarcerated has never let me forget just how far down the choices we make can bring us. If you’re reading this, know before it is too late that you don’t have to sink as low as I did. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can begin making good choices and creating positive consequences to your actions.
Let my story be a warning – and maybe handcuffs won’t have to be your wake-up call.