What I learned when I went to jail

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 I went to jail last week. I wasn’t arrested. I wanted to go.

For several years I have known that a women’s jail ministry existed. I knew that each Sunday the women of Celebrate Recovery gave of themselves expecting nothing in return. But knowing it and seeing it are two different things.

So last Sunday I willingly entered the guts of the county jail. And while I will tell you I would strongly prefer never returning there I don’t regret going. 

The first thing it did was reaffirm my belief that good people are still out there. The women of Celebrate Recovery are proof of this. These women are dedicated to their cause.

And their cause is trying to show the female inmates there is a better life than the ones they are living.

Some of these women have bottomed out- no doubt about it. They have given up everything that ever meant anything to them in exchange for getting high.

They have lost it all.

But at the end of the day are they that different from the rest of us?

We all have our issues, the things that have put us in our own prisons.

That was the one thing Sybil Brown asked me to convey when I wrote the story- “Let everybody know we are just like them. We made mistakes, that’s why we are here,” she said.

She’s right. 

We are just like these women and they are just like us. The only difference is their jails are real, made of blocks and concrete. Our jails are in our minds, but are just as confining.

Until each one of us decides that we want something different, something better that is where we will be.

A wise man once told me the only way out of your pit is to first admit you are there.

As I spoke with these women some of them knew exactly where they were. Others still seemed lost but desperate for a road map. A few remained oblivious.

Maybe that is why eight years ago Annie Caldwell, Margaret Faulkner and Dixie Hauser went to the jail for the first time. Perhaps they had walked down a path that seemed lonely and led to nowhere. Maybe this trio wanted to show these women a way just as somebody had once shown them. I don’t know their reasoning for deciding to part of the solution.

When I spoke with the inmates I was surprised at how candid they were with their stories. A show of hands let me know that nearly all of them were in jail because of drugs or drug related offenses.

I suppose of all of the offenses these women could have committed those are the ones they struggle to atone for. Most have been convinced they are sick or have an illness because of their addictions. I am not minimizing addiction. It is a terrible state for a person to be in. Yet, enabling an addict by saying “You can’t help it. You are sick,” does no one any good.

If these women are to be helped, they need a good dose of truth. 

The truth being they made a choice when they popped that first pill, stuck a needle in their arm or snorted a line of whatever.

The keys to their freedom lie in making the choice to never do those things again, in making the choice to live for something more than themselves.

Without the women of Celebrate Recovery these inmates would never know that. Some will leave the jail immediately returning the lifestyle that destroyed them in the first place. But a select few will leave the jail choosing a better life and they will have the women of Celebrate Recovery to thank.