Here’s a Rachel story you might not know: Once upon a time, I went to prison. (Well, twice upon a time, actually, but I digress…) Yes, me: Rachel. Your aunt, cousin, neighbor, co-worker, friend: Went. To. Prison.
Are you waiting for the punchline? The part where I tell you, ‘Oh, it was to visit someone’ or ‘I was supporting a program of recovery; volunteering; donating my time…
While I *could* give you those reasons, and not be lying, it wouldn’t be the full truth. The sole reason I ever even *considered* visiting incarcerated individuals or volunteering my time is simple: I know what it’s like to be there. To be alone. To be cut off from all you know and love. To follow the path of destruction, addiction, crime, and debauchery to it’s logical conclusion. To be incarcerated.
I went to prison. Not once, but twice. By choices of my own making, I created a life of desperation and isolation. I left my children, and destroyed my life – and theirs – in search of something, anything, to numb my pain. I sought refuge from unresolved trauma in drugs, and did everything I could to hide from the truth, from the pain, from you, from ME. I went to prison, and I am not ashamed to show you what that looked like. To show you the cost of hiding; the result of a pain so big I could no longer even imagine a life with me in it.
This is who I was. How I coped. But, I found a way out. I learned how to overcome my traumas instead of letting them swallow me whole. I learned to find healing within, with the help of my Higher Power, and not from any external substance.
I crawled, walked, ran, climbed, out of the pit of despair, brokeness, and addiction and built the life you see today. A life of honesty, and authenticity, and love. While not perfect, it is real and true and fucking MINE, and I’ll never trade it for anyfuckingthing.
Since prison, I’ve reestablished relationships with loved ones, regained custody of my children, graduated college, had a successful career, and become a homeowner. I’ve learned how to behave in relationships, be a good mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and citizen.
I’ve done this slowly, and imperfectly, surrounded continually by the love and support of those my Higher Power saw fit to bless me with. When I fell, I had a support system to help me back up. When I floundered, love lifted me.
How long have you known me? Did you know my whole story? Did you even suspect? Does it skew how you see me? Change what you think of me?
If it doesn’t; if you can still see me for me, and understand that I am a person worthy of love and respect, then, know this: Every addict you come across, every incarcerated individual, every homeless person has the potential to BECOME healed and whole. Every. Single. Fucking. ONE.