My Dear Friends and Readers,
I will always remember the circle of faces of women in substance abuse recovery consisting of all ages, mostly African-American with a sprinkling of white faces. Regardless of age or race the common denominator shared by all was the hope emanating from beneath resignation and anger.
I stood in front of the group and introduced myself… “Writer, Lawyer, former television news journalist and former crack cocaine addict”. Then I joined the circle and began to tell them my story of addiction. It was not so much a “how to” but here’s what to expect.
I told the women at Penn North Recovery Center that the time right after their release from inpatient treatment would be the most difficult. There would be relationships that they would have to heal; trust they would have to regain and a life where they would be people and places to avoid. They would have to earn an honest living because their former work and lifestyles had brought them to Penn Recovery.
I shared with them that although I was a licensed attorney for a year after release from inpatient treatment that I had worked at a clothing store earning $8 an hour. This was my way of saying if you once sold drugs or sold your body, yes you will miss the money, but honest work is a path to another way of life, perhaps one that it maybe impossible to image in the present moment.
Many of the women had been imprisoned, including one woman who had “caught a murder charge” at 14. Most had been beaten by drunk or high parents. Many had been sexually abused by fathers and step-fathers, uncles and boyfriends of mothers who would choose to believe these men instead of their daughters. These were tales of pain and betrayal exacerbated by their mother’s disbelief, the hurt still palpable in the anguished angry voices with which they shared their stories with me.
Yes, we were victims, but we didn’t have to remain at effect of our victimization. The hard truth is that the effects of that victimization might remain with us for years. For victims of trauma, especially early childhood trauma, healing could be defined as a minimalization of the effect of trauma.It is not a rosey picture, but I reminded them that their futures were being created in the present.
As we approached the end of the hour that they were required to attend as part of their jail sentences, one woman asked why I had never regained custody of my children. My first answer was that I had a powerful white husband who did everything to prevent my reconciliation with my children. But that wasn’t why. The sad truth was that I had chosen to remain in a relationship with the man who had gotten me addicted. It was one of the worst choices I have ever made- even more ill fated than taking that first hit of crack. It was the choice of a woman who was still not well even though I was drug free. Because here’s the conundrum of addiction: many of us believe that the problem is the addiction. It is not. Addiction is the symptom of the pain that we will do almost anything to allievate.
I gave each of the women who desired a hug-which was most of them and whispered my thanks for their listening. It was an experience of love and I hope my words might make a positive difference in their recovery.
Brianna S Clark
The Addict Writes