Best-Laid Plans or Pipe Dreams?
Several months ago, a young man who had left prison from our unit on parole returned to prison again. When he went home, he had little to return to, and the allure of his drug addiction pulled him back into old patters again. Soon, he found himself homeless and committing crimes again as he chased his high. It was hard seeing him return to prison yet again, when I know he has so much promise and potential. It seems like such a waste. At first, I didn’t want to speak to him. I was angry to see that he had wasted his opportunity. But I understand the grip that addiction, especially opioid addiction, has on so many people. Despite sometimes years in prison, living drug free, many addicts are only functionally sober. They are simply existing in an abstinence loop until they have access to their drug of choice again. I decided to show some grace to this young man and do what little I can to try to help him break free from the chains of his addiction.

Not long after the first young man returned to prison, another promising young man left our unit on parole. He, too, had a history of drug addiction, but he formulated a plan for success. He knew that the same places and people would be triggers for him, so he moved to a different county, got a job, and moved his fiance and child to be with him. He had the support of mentors and church friends he’d met while he was in prison–even having an apartment provided to him so he could avoid the traps in his old life. He did well for a time, but his drug addiction pulled on him too. Last I heard, he was sitting in jail on new charges and a parole violation for his drug use.

Finally, this past weekend another young man who had left our unit on parole just nine days before was found dead of a drug overdose. Another wasted life. Another wasted opportunity. This man also had a plan in place for successfully avoiding the addiction trap. He had the love and support of his family, despite his history of drug addiction. He had a relapse prevention plan and parole plan in place, and he had goals for opening his own business and setting himself up for a drug-free life of success. Instead, he fell right back into the old addiction, yet again, and gave up his dreams and his very life for a temporary high. 

Not all drug and alcohol addicts end up like these three young men did. Some successfully kick their habits and reform their lives. I wish I knew the key to their success, but it’s different with each addict. It might be easy to judge these men for their failures–I find myself judging them at times. But the sad reality is that addiction is very complex, and non-addicts cannot understand the stranglehold that addictive substances (especially) and behaviors have on their victims. 

Nevertheless, as a prisoner who watches these men leave prison and fail, it makes me angry because so many other men, myself included, long to leave these razor wire confines, yet we can’t. Some of us have years left inside, while others will never leave. When we see others have the opportunity to leave and see them blow those opportunities, it is angering and disheartening. It’s also sobering to realize that regardless of the plans prisoners might make for success, the reality of reentry and reintegration is so much harder than many prisoners might think. Dreams can only take one so far.

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Author: Bryan Noonan
The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry.

The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry.