Drug Abuse, Criminality and Recovery

I have been reflecting on drug abuse and criminality over the last few days. When I was incarcerated I saw countless women recycled throughout the prison system on violations due to relapse and probation/parole violations. Today I often see many of those women still struggling with the grip of addiction. I find myself wondering what they are running from, what they are trying to bury, and what are they searching for.

Several of my peers find solace in Narcotics Anonymous, and peer support, but the truth of the matter is that many women need therapeutic support. Women who are suffering with a dual diagnosis have the toughest time maintaining sobriety, and reintegrating after incarceration. I wonder if formerly incarcerated women had access to mental health care and began to address mental health illnesses would this curb drug abuse and recidivism.

The damage that drug abuse does to children is insurmountable. Drug addicted individuals and mental health clients who commit crimes obviously need to be held accountable, but incarcerating them has caused the prison rates in the U.S. to skyrocket. Children are often abandoned and the overall quality of life for these women and children is diminished. Many of these women were once victims of crime themselves. A large majority of women in prison report being survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

How does a woman get a fresh start after incarceration and addiction? Are they learning the necessary relapse prevention skills and life skills to sustain themselves upon release? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I continue to wonder.

When I was incarcerated I never judged a woman for returning. I was one of the women who always embraced them and gave them a few basic necessities to help make them comfortable. I tried to love them through their pain. I understood that some wounds are just too difficult to bear. People need a way out of their suffering. Besides, I knew that the guilt and indignation they must have been feeling inside was enough. The last thing they needed was another person causing them to feel bad about their selves. I remember one woman told me, “When I was in my addiction I treated myself badly. If another person had done to me what I did to myself I would have hurt them.”

Today I send high thoughts to every woman suffering with addiction and recidivism and I pray for their ability to practice some self-care and recover. Practice positive affirmations, get proper rest, exercise regularly and eat right. Take a bath every now and then, and most of all find someone you can trust to talk to. I could use this advice myself.



About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 

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