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Success stories

Prisons, Asylums and Recovery

I met Narcotics Anonymous in prison. I was in prison for the third time in seven years and had spent the few months in between on the street.

I had heard that there were these meetings in the evenings where something related to drugs was discussed. That sounded interesting, so I went. It also got me out of my cell.

I still remember how confused I came out of my first meeting. Back in my cell, I was thinking about all the years on the streets and in jail, and everything I'd gone through just to get dope. I was so fed up with all of this! This group, called Narcotics Anonymous, was a little too violent for me, though. I didn't consider myself a hardcore junkie - I just needed dope every day and I was only a permanent prisoner for stealing. NA could hardly be the solution to my problems. Still, I heard some things in those early meetings that appealed to me, and I kept coming back. The folks at NA said they didn't do drugs anymore, not even weed. I too wanted to get rid of all the madness in my life, but I figured I probably wouldn't have to give up all drugs to do it. I just need to somehow learn how to handle the drugs better.

Of the NA members who attended jail meetings, some had sat themselves. They claimed that their lives had changed for the better because of the support of NA—addicts sharing and helping each other. People talked about how they had lived before and how it was for them now. I liked that and soon I felt a strong connection to them through the suffering we had all experienced. I began to respect these NA people who told me how they learned to live without drugs, alcohol, and jail.

I attended NA meetings regularly while continuing to get stoned at every opportunity. The NA members told me to keep going no matter what, and I did. In addition, the meetings were definitely better than the chatter while walking in the yard.

A little later, in preparation for my release, I was transferred to a less secure prison. I had been there before but was transferred to a higher security prison for weed. Now I remembered all the trouble I'd gotten myself into there just for doing drugs. So they knew me there and I was quite nervous because I knew I would be under more scrutiny from the first moment. I kept thinking about using again and what would happen if I was caught again.

So before the bus ride I smoked another joint. I didn't realize that at the time, but it was to be my last. Ever since I got to know NA, I've wondered why the program wasn't working for me like it was for everyone else. I was sick of drugs and jail, but apparently not sick enough to go to meetings clean. Now I finally had to make a decision. The decision I made on my state-funded bus ride was based largely on fear—and on some of what I had heard at NA meetings up to that point.

So I was handcuffed and shackled on the barred bus. Behind the bars sat a grumpy guard with a gun. The world of free people flew by the window and I wondered why I couldn't belong. The drugs weren't working, but not taking anything at all was a very strange idea. Later, I was very relieved to hear that not taking the first drug "just for today" is quite sufficient.

When I arrived at the new prison, I was greeted by an inmate who was also with NA. I knew him from meetings at another prison. It was a huge relief to see his face upon arrival because I knew right away that with his help I could do it. I kept going to meetings and now started doing service as well.

For the last six months of my incarceration, the first thing I said to myself every morning was, “Just for today, I won't take anything.” I leaned on NA members in prison to avoid temptation. Still, it wasn't easy because there were always opportunities, but now the NA community supported me. I was once allowed outside for a meeting, and that only fueled my desire to be part of the out-there community. I was now clean when I went to meetings and something changed. The program began to work.

Now I know why NA works. Only when you stop taking mind-altering substances can you understand this.

Gradually I also learned what it means to be there for each other. We make it because we help each other. I found that no one could understand me like another addict. And nobody could help me like a clean addict.

I was incredibly proud to tell the group that I was ninety days clean. Pride had never existed in my life before NA. I no longer had to desperately try to get drugs and do crazy things to get them. I had never been clean in prison before and it was a crazy good feeling.

At the recommendation of some NA friends, I made another decision that would become the second most important in my life. For the day of my release, I made an appointment with an NA member who met me at the prison gate. So I immediately had someone by my side who knew what I needed on my first day of freedom, because I certainly didn't know myself.

Today I go to jail to share the message of Narcotics Anonymous, and then I encourage people to do as I do and have an NA member pick them up when they get out. Again and again I hear: "Yeah, I'll definitely do it, but I have to do this and that first." Don't kid yourself! If you're an addict like me, you might have died before you even got all this done.

I will never forget my first day in freedom. We drove to an apartment where other NA members were already waiting for me. One handed me a brand new address book with just a couple of NA people's phone numbers in it and said, "Give me your old address book, you don't need those old connections anymore." Another got clothes for me from a closet. I went to several meetings that day. I felt very loved and accepted and that's exactly what I had missed all those years behind bars.

I recently had a special premiere. I went to court and received a certificate of omission from the criminal record. I would never have thought that I would one day stand before a judge for this reason. I am very happy that I got support not only from the community but also from God. It is a God that I understand and can turn to when I need a Higher Power. And I found that God in Narcotics Anonymous.

If you're reading this in prison and wondering if your life is going down the drain because of drugs, alcohol, or both, my message to you is this: Find out if your facility has an NA meeting and just have a look. You might save your life and learn to live a better one. If an addict like me can make it, so can you, because at Narcotics Anonymous we help each other.

Story from: Basic Text 6th Edition, Copright Narcotics Anonymous World Services, Inc. Chatsworth, California