Thoughts_and_Thanks_From_Prison

Gedanken und Danksagung aus dem Gefängnis

Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated. Your letter was not anticipated so receiving it made it all the more special. I am grateful to have had 18 months between being “busted” and being arrested in which time I was able to become sexually sober, attend SA meetings, work the Steps with a sponsor, reunite with old friends in AA, and receive professional therapy. I was even able to make some critical 9th Step amends before going to prison. By the Grace of God and the fellowships of AA and SA, I marked four years’ sexual sobriety this past June, and twenty-four years sobriety from alcohol.

Staying sexually sober and free from lust has not been as difficult as maintaining emotional sobriety. I go through periods of fear, anger, self-pity, guilt, blame and other negative mental-emotional states, each varying in intensity and duration. They pass, in time. The thing that really keeps them going is the time and energy I give them by analyzing them and ruminating over them and fighting them. I have traditionally been one of those “students” of the 12 Steps who believed I should be inventorying and scrutinizing every single emotional disturbance and negative thought that comes up. The end result was usually frustration and anger with myself and with my sponsor. It’s taken me this long to appreciate the difference between perfection-driven Step work and doing the Steps in the right spirit. I’ve finally learned that it’s enough sometimes just to acknowledge the presence of a negative mind-set and not resist it, or feed it with more negative thinking.

This prison has been in “modified lockdown” because of Covid since I arrived in January, 2020; we only get a couple of hours’ recreation and education/library every day. There are no chapel services or programs where AA or SA meetings would normally be held. I attempted to organize an SA meeting among five other interested individuals in my housing unit earlier this summer. Unfortunately it’s fizzling out. Two guys were transferred to another housing unit and one other stopped attending because he didn’t feel comfortable with the “whole God thing.”

The biggest challenge that the remaining two of us face is finding a regular space to meet that provides the minimum level of privacy for reading and sharing. It’s very crowded here. We’ve been able to find a free park table sometimes outside during recreation, depending upon the weather of course. The other guy doesn’t agree with SA’s definition of sobriety, so the last few times we’ve met we had read out of the “Green Book” of SAA. We each took turns reading a page or two out loud. I’ve been able to share a good deal of my story with him. He asks a lot of questions about my sobriety. I don’t know if I’m helping him at all, but being able to review my story helps me maintain my commitment to the program.

I’ve lost a lot through this experience ... a home, career, and some friends and family. Through coming to prison I’ve had no other choice but to rely on a Higher Power. Throughout my time in recovery, I’ve never had to surrender at the level I’ve had to recently. When I get out, I will be starting all over. By going to and participating in AA and SA meetings and working the Program, the process should be more bearable.

I was on pre-trial house arrest at my parents’ home when Covid spread to the US. As in-person AA and SA meetings shut down, I attended the SA noon telephone meeting every day. Being near the end of the workday for many European and UK’ers, many of them attended the call. What I especially loved about that meeting was to hear quite a few women’s stories. I tend to believe this is a male disease and that all women look upon us as despicable creatures. It’s good to hear our fellow sisters’ perspective on this disease. I commend their courage and openness.

I appreciate you sharing about your 10th Step amends. I was fortunate enough to make some very important 9th Step amends before coming to prison. Along with AA and SA literature and other spiritual books, I’ve been reading a lot of business and technology related books. I’m also taking a paralegal certificate correspondence course. All of this is in preparation for my re-entry into the world. I will probably end up doing a number of different jobs to make a living, one of which will be freelance web and graphic design and managing creative projects, which is what I used to do before I was arrested. We’ll see. Anything’s possible one day at a time, right?

J.H., an incarcerated member, in a letter to a fellow member of his home group in Centreville, VA, USA

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