Letter to an Addict: Preparing for Your Release From Prison

Your release date is approaching.

Having abstained from drugs and alcohol for a period of several weeks, months or even years, you are perhaps confident that you will be able to maintain this new order on the outside. You might believe that you have learned so much about yourself and your circumstances that you cannot possibly relapse on drugs or alcohol, that there is no way on earth you will ever return to that mental, physical and emotional jail of addiction.

Maybe you think that you have no chance of staying clean on the outside: You’re wrong. Maybe you think that there is zero chance of you ever using again: You’re wrong about that too.

On the one hand, you are right to be happy about the amount of clean time you have accumulated. On the other hand, it would be wise to proceed with extreme caution and vigilance. Regardless of any stress and temptation which might be present in jail, the uncomfortable truth is that staying clean in prison (or a luxury rehab in Barbados) is much easier than staying clean out on the street. You have been riding a bicycle downhill with stabilizers on. On release, the ride is uphill, on two wheels only. You have been swimming with armbands in the shallow end of a heated swimming pool. On release, you will be picked up from the pool and dropped in the ocean, where there are sharks, as well as dolphins.

Here you have had a routine. You have been told what to do and when to do it. Much of your decision making has essentially been outsourced to a Higher Power, Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Regardless of your geographical location and present life situation, discipline and routine is fundamental to your future success. Discipline is the pathway to freedom.

You will have already made a number of plans. Anxious to make up for lost time, there are people to meet, places to see and things to do. Consider these plans carefully. Some of these of these plans will involve matters relating to money, staying fit, staying away from people, places and things which you believe will lead you back to alcohol and drugs.

Your actions on a daily basis will either lead you towards recovery, or drive you towards relapse. Relapse is a process, not an event. Relapse prevention consists of small, yet significant actions, continuously taken. Are the actions I have taken today confirmation of my desire to stay clean and sober? Or confirmation of my imminent return to the underworld?

Link in your mind these two ideas:

  1. A drink/drug was the single cause of all the misery, shame and fear you have ever known.
  2. A drink/drug will destroy the possibility of a brand new life, better than you have ever known – and take from you your self-respect and peace of mind.

Recovery is a team sport. When a group of addicts gather in the name of right living and staying clean and sober, their chances of survival (recovery is no less than a matter of life and death) increase dramatically. It is my great hope that you will choose to honour your recovery and build on the work you have done here by deciding to attend a mutual aid support meeting as soon as you are released. Some people suggest attending 90 meetings in 90 days. Ask yourself a question and consider the answer carefully: Do I honestly have anything better to do? Think about how many hours in a day were once devoted to drinking and using and thinking about drinking and using. It surely makes sense that a considerable amount of time should be put aside for recovery.

Remember this: You don’t ever have to drink or use again. Whilst some people experience multiple relapses before ‘staying stopped’, relapse is optional, not compulsory.


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