There comes a point in an addict's life where the desperation becomes too much. The constant bounce between sickness and well takes it toll, and the chase for drugs becomes all too exhausting. The mind spins with need and desire, and the desperation burns through all the addict's muscles. Heroin and other opiates strike both the physical and mental stability of its users, and eventually the body hurts and the mind is ripping everything else to shreds. Desperation abounds, and sometimes jail is the end result. Most often addicts enter the jail system, bucking the system and fighting with tooth and nail. The addicts often deny their addiction, and they are so deeply meshed in the lifestyle that they cannot even see it. But, sometimes…the addict pleads to go to jail. Sometimes, the addict begs for jail to give him some sense of relief.
I came across an article today, written in the UK describing a man's plea to be jailed. The man had been addicted to alcohol and heroin for a number of years, spending many of those years in trouble with the law. He was arrested with heroin, and his lawyer pleaded with the courts to send him to jail. The offender claimed her would probably commit more crimes and continue using heroin with any other result.
I was reminded of an old friend of mine. He had been addicted to heroin, on and off, for many years. He had done some jail time for theft, and remained clean in jail. He also remained clean for more than two years after being released. As it often is before addiction runs its course, this friend of mine began using again. He became so entangled in opiates after several years of active addiction, and the desperation crept back in.
He sometimes showed up at my apartment, eyes wild and pleading. He often rambled on and on, many of the times in mostly indecipherable gibberish. He began venturing into more dangerous situations in search of a fix. One day, he came over heavy lidded, and we started talking. He looked at me; with the most serious look I had ever seen from him. He confided in me that he was at a breaking point, and he was desperate and unable to get clean. "I just think I am going to have to go back to jail," he told me. "I am going to have to start committing crimes just to get put back in jail. I know I cannot get clean when I am free."
His eyes glazed over with sadness, as he reached deep into the pockets of his camouflaged winter coat. He pulled out his needle and spoon, before producing several tiny bags of heroin. He offered me one, and he poured two into his spoon. We both shot up and sat on the couch on the nod for the next two hours. I remember thinking, as we both nodded in bliss, that he must have just been talking crazy gibberish earlier.
Several weeks later, I found out that he was in jail. Desperate for a fix, he robbed a drug dealer and was pulled over minutes later with a car full of heroin. He was still sick from withdrawal and crazed with desperation. He landed in jail, without even getting that fix. And that was exactly what he wanted. He managed to do several years and has remained clean since his release.
I fought jail tooth and nail, and my denial shrouded me in the perception that I was wronged. My addiction shrouded me in the lie that I did not belong there. The days pass slowly behind bars, and my mind began to process the gravity of the situation. I realized that more important than anything…I did not want to come back here again.
That stay in jail was followed by a lengthy period on probation, and I was determined to stay out of jail. I floundered for a while in court ordered treatment, relapsing on alcohol and painkillers. After a positive drug screen, I realized that I could face up to a year in jail. The thought of that was terrifying. Standing in court several months later, my knees shook as the judge looked down over his glasses at me. He looked me up and down and listened intently as my P.O. showed him the last four months' clean drug tests. The thoughts of going back to jail raced through my head, and my heart pounded in my chest.
The judge paused before saying anything. He inhaled deeply, exhaling long and slow before he began to speak. My heart pounded, ringing through my ears. "Young woman, I am going to give you another chance. I am going to let you continue your probation, but if I see you back in here…you will undoubtedly go back to jail." And that was my final straw. I had been struggling with sobriety for the last several years. Since Hurricane Katrina, I tried numerous times to get clean and start my life over. Somehow, I always seemed to get back into the thick of it. Until that day in court. My knees knocked both before and after I stood before that judge. I saw my life slipping away, again, right before my eyes. And this time, I was granted a stay of execution. This time, I was given another chance.
Finally, I embraced that opportunity. I have been clean for six years, and I am finally happy. I have so much to be thankful for, so many things I want to be clean and present for.
Jail is never a good option. And jail is never want parents want for their children. But, sometimes jail is a stepping-stone to finally lead us to recovery. Whether we fight it tooth and nail, or concede to the judge, begging to be sentenced to jail, our recovery still may begin behind bars. Our addiction is often not ended by one single solitary event, but instead a string of events can lead to such a fall. A string of events landed me in that courtroom that morning, and something finally clicked. Sometimes, jail is not the last stop on the train, but it is the first stop of a whole new ride.