After we lay out the structure for our reentry class at the prison, volunteers introduce themselves. This includes our ‘why.’ Why are we here? Not everyone feels a calling to drive to distant locations, clear security, and pass under and around barbed wire. Each volunteer has a ‘why,’ and I feel it is essential to break down any preconceived ideas the class may have from the beginning. My primary drive comes from experiencing freedom and wanting that for these ladies, but since we are just getting to know one another, I choose this story, which is also true: “I am here for Linda.”
Linda and I met during one of my visits to Tacoma, WA, as I was reuniting with my then 8-year-old son. She had married someone in my drug world after I was out of the picture. I don’t know why Linda and I were in the car together, but I was driving, and we were on the Tacoma waterfront.
As we stared out the windshield, Linda shared she had been an addict for many years and was in and out of jail. She also had a chronic medical condition, and when she was high, she didn’t remember or often care about taking the medication needed to keep her alive. She wanted to get clean, tried to turn it around, but she had convinced herself God would never forgive her for what she had done. I felt a camaraderie with Linda. I could relate. I also had a list of things I deemed unforgivable. She went on to tell me one of hers.
Linda sold virgins to bikers for drugs. She would hang out around the high school to find out where the parties were. Dressing in similar clothes to theirs, wearing her hair up in a high ponytail, apply bubble gum lip gloss, and add a little spring to her step. She would laugh and giggle with the girls at the party and encourage them to drink more heavily. Linda would then tell them of another party, one with cooler kids, and load them up and deliver them.
She received drugs for her services, but there was never enough for her to live with herself. The problem for us addicts isn’t getting high; it’s that we can’t stay high. All those painful things are just lying-in-wait for us. We use again and again to numb the agony of our past behaviors, and while we are on this new binge, we create new regrets. We stack them one on top of another until relief appears hopeless, and with broken spirits, we stop trying — the walking dead. The empty eyes of the beaten down.
After Linda told me this, she asked me to be her A.A. sponsor (mentor). I didn’t have my sponsor yet, and I wasn’t exactly sure what one did. I was trying to recognize and rewire a lifetime of my own poor decision making. I couldn’t give away what I didn’t have. It would also create a tie to my old crowd, which was a bad thing. I had nothing to offer her but brief companionship. I told her no. My decision was sound, and I would make it again under the same circumstances.
Linda died shortly after our brief encounter. The exact cause is unknown to me, but I will never forget her. She died believing she could not be forgiven for her sins, that she was just too bad.
At the prison, I tell the ladies in the classroom, “Let there be no confusion. I am no longer without hope. I am not confused. I am not weak in my faith. I have seen the goodness of God. I accepted Jesus Christ and have continued to fumble my way forward. I am accepted, loved, adopted, and redeemed. I have stepped into my role as a daughter of the Most High. I have experienced God’s forgiveness for the things I was trying to outrun with drugs and men. I have forgiven others, and I have forgiven myself. “All things are possible with God” is no longer an often-over-used scripture we use to encourage one another. I am living it. I am here for Linda.”