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Voices for Recovery

Adele Graham (09/05/2013)

During my active addiction, I faced serious criminal charges for various felonies. The last time I was arrested, I remember the police officers telling me that I was facing charges on 5 different felonies. I didn't even know with what I was being charged. I just knew that sad, empty, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach told me my days of freedom were about to be severely limited. I was facing my third trip to the state penitentiary. On a few occasions, I was shackled, cuffed and led across the street from the jail to the court house. Usually, I was told that I was a “hopeless and helpless case.” I believed that as well. I had been to countless treatment centers and had many trips to jail, yet nothing ever seemed to work for any real length of time. I just couldn't stay clean and sober. I was informed that I could be tried as an habitual offender with the possibility of serving a mandatory 30 year sentence in the state correction facility.

I was familiar with recovery and the 12 steps. I knew other people were somehow able to recover and went on to live productive lives. I just believed I was destined to continue my bitter cycle of jails, institutions, and eventually death. Yet and still, as I was facing 30 mandatory years, prayer suddenly became an option. To this day I understand that God never puts too much in front of us to bear that he won't help us through. I was sentenced to three concurrent 5 year sentences, which meant that I only had 5 years to serve. What a blessing!

During my first year of incarceration, I was held without bond in the local jail. Most of that year I was alone in a cell because I didn't get along well with others. I also had a pending felony escape charge, so lock down was a familiar situation to me. Maybe it was a good thing that solitary confinement became what I was accustomed to, because once I was sentenced, and sent to serve my time at the penitentiary, maximum security became my new home. I was housed in MAX for just under a year. I had a lot of time to think.

It was nearing my third year of serving time when I was released from MAX and allowed to be housed in general population. I was glad to finally be around other people and I was even more grateful when I was allowed to work on a maintenance crew. Some days we did little more than paint a ceiling or mow some grass, but it allowed me a chance to get out of a building and breathe some fresh air. I craved the opportunity to get a break from the sounds that can be generated by 100 women living in one building!

One day I was called out to work, and much to my surprise we were led outside the prison gates and to the other side of the extensive razor wire. Our job that day was to weed the flower beds in front of the administration building. I remember the feeling I got as I went through those gates, even the air seemed to smell better on the other side of the fences. I was on my knees weeding a flower bed when suddenly a feeling came over me that I hadn't felt before. I was looking at a flower, admiring its beauty, and I became awestruck. I was brought to tears as I admired the little flower. I realized that it had been nearly 3 whole years since I had seen or held a flower. God was very real to me in that moment, so real in fact... that I picked the flower. I put it gingerly in my front shirt pocket, and thought about it often throughout the day. I wanted to share it with some of the girls in the building. I knew they would love it just as much as I did.

That evening when we were taken back to the building, we were searched and then allowed to join the others in our building. The flower made it through the search. When I entered the unit, one of the girls from my hometown ran up to me and asked excitedly, “How was your day, Adele?” I couldn't wait to show her my little gift, so I reached into my pocket and pulled out the flower. The poor flower had been riding around in my shirt pocket all day, so when I pulled it out it looked like a wilted, bent over, pitiful little smashed flower. It was like a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree flower. My friend squealed with delight when she saw it, “A flower!!” she exclaimed. She ran off and found a small sample bottle of shampoo that she rinsed out and filled with water. We put the flower in the water and admired its beauty while we talked about our day.

It wasn't until several hours later that I realized the importance of this little flower. When I looked at the flower later on that evening it was standing straight up! Looking absolutely beautiful! Just as tall, pretty, and as proud as it was the moment I had picked it! It had been restored! This little flower had drank in the water, the Living Water, and had been restored to its natural gorgeous state. That is when I had my moment of clarity. I realized that I too could drink in the Living Water and be restored. I could be whole, beautiful, and able to hold my head up again. I could be the mother, daughter, and sister that I had never been able to be! I could drink in the Living Water just as that little flower had done that day!

Years passed and I was finally released from prison. However, I always try to remember to never forget the flower story, to never forget where I came from, and exactly how far God has brought me. Today my life has totally changed. I am in recovery and I live by the 12 steps. I tell my story at every opportunity. Hopefully, by sharing some of my own experience, strength, and hope, others can change their lives as well. If you see a flower today, I hope this story will come to mind and you will stop and admire its beauty. Life is good! Today I gladly drink in the Living Water.

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