What is Reentry Like for Recovering Drug Addicts?

Yesterday I spend some time with the women currently housed at the Reentry Sanctions Center (RSC), a program that is overseen by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency (CSOSA) for the District of Columbia. The RSC is a residential program that provides high-risk offenders and parole violators with an intensive assessment and treatment. Based on the results from these individualized assessments, clients are referred to an in-patient or out-patient drug treatment program and into transitional housing.

This reintegration program helps clients learn such skills as relapse prevention, parenting, and time management, among many others. I was sent there when I first came home. Prior to my release, I prepared my resume, obtained my vital records, and thought I was ready for reentry. I was in for a rude awakening. The staff at the RSC helped me realize that there was still much work to do to prepare for the daunting task of reentry.

By the time I left the RSC, not only did I have a plan, I had a plan to achieve my plan. I told the women at the RSC the good news and bad news about my reentry process. I said to them, “Reintegrating is not an overnight process. In fact, someone asked me recently how long it takes to reintegrate and I am still baffled by that question.”

I have been home for three years and sometimes I feel like I just came home. There are layers to this process and there are many dimensions to reentry, one of which is recovery. It’s easy to be clean and sober in the institutional setting. The challenge is what happens when you are released and you are forced to face the demons within and the obstacles to success.

Three years after leaving the RSC I was blessed with the opportunity to go back there yesterday, share my experiences, strength, and hope and talk to the women currently housed there. It was breathtaking and thought provoking.

Two women who were at the RSC when I was there were back at the RSC again. When I saw them I had to take a step back and do a doubletake. They were both recently released from prison, again, after a relapse and re-arrest.

I later learned that several other women were also completing the RSC Program for the second time. When I asked them what was different this time one of them said, “This time I’m listening. I decided to take the cotton out of my ears and put it in my mouth.” The other spoke at length about the triggers that caused her to relapse. She mentioned boredom, the lack of social support and an in ability to connect with a sponsor.

Another woman spoke honestly about the fact that she relapsed into her addiction even though she didn’t want to. According to her, she had no excuse. Another spoke about using drugs knowing it would send her back to prison because she was so desperate to bury the pain and anger that stem from the abuse that she suffered as a child. All of the women professed to being weary and downright “sick and tired” of using drugs, because using drugs always lands them in prison.

Interestingly, the consequences of drug abuse, such as having sex for money, losing children and developing disturbing mental health problems, lead them to more drug abuse. I found myself out of my element as I listened to these women. I was at a loss for words.

I did manage to tell them about the power of affirming and practicing positive thinking and creating the life they want for themselves, but deep down inside I was stunned by the complexity of the disease of addiction. It is baffling, cunning and .progressive.

Video: Education for Women Out of Prison



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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