You know they say that pain means growth and if you didn’t grow and or learn from it then it wasn’t painful enough. This would just make me laugh when I would hear someone say that. I’d think to myself “Yeah, sure. I know pain…”

Have you ever held your mom’s cold limp body and promised her that you would never get high again, that you would do this for her…just to wake up the next day and without missing a beat get high?

Have you ever walked away from your children on Thanksgiving, leaving them with family, knowing it could be the last time you may see them, and even be in such a rush to leave because you know you have someone willing to get you high for the whole night?

What about that time where you stole all the jewelry passed down to your family just to be beaten up and have it taken from you the moment you got that safe open?

Have you ever just wanted to party and be older than 15 and then you are taken advantage of and raped in front of a group of people?

I could spend weeks replaying all the flashbacks that play over and over in my mind when someone talks to me about pain and change.

Fast forward four years to today and I find myself talking to a young mom who’s fighting with every effort to just be able to afford ramen for her 4-year-old son as they sit in their completely empty efficiency apartment. She can hear the devil himself feeding her mind lies and deceptions on how if she just does this or that her son could eat whatever he wants whenever he wants, she could furnish her apartment with dinosaurs and even a race car bed, her home would be everything she could dream of not just a roof and electricity.

That’s when I remind her that we both know the outcome of surrendering to that thinking. I try to remind her that the days she spends fighting are the days she will remember as the ones that really made her change… the pain and suffering she is feeling as she begs for work to just offer a simple necessity like food for her son, the pain that she battles within, especially the lack of willpower to say no to drugs, the pain she fights when she feels completely alone, the empty room and cold floors that she finds herself sleeping on. Someday she will look back on all this pain and give praise for it having learned that with pain comes growth. Oh, how I want to just reach inside of her and take the pain away, but I know that she must carry it and feel it as she needs it to overtake the flashbacks in her mind and to build strength to continue the battle.

I sit in my own home full of far more than I need. My children have their rooms decorated and full of toys, I have enough food to feed us for months, I have an honest way of providing for our every need.  I have my memories of the pain and suffering that that led me here and I realize that it was a blessing. I’m blessed to be sober now going on 4 years, I’m blessed to have custody of my children after giving them away for 3 very long years, I’m blessed to be one of those who is beating the statistics of recidivism where they say 70 percent return to prison, and I am most blessed to be a light to so many hurting within their own darkness.

by Kevie Shay Hyland, 21 September 2021