– Janie Elkins, Certified Peer Recovery Specialist
My dream wasn’t to be an addict. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But addiction is not a choice. Sure, I made the choice to experiment, but it stopped being a choice quickly. It’s a brain disease. It makes our brains distort the truth. At 49 years old, I found myself in prison having lost the will to live. I’d been using drugs for 30 years. I had resolved to live the life of an addict. When I got to prison, I made a choice to get sober. I wanted to do something different. I didn’t know how or what – just that if I was going to live, something had to change.
I joined a therapeutic program in prison and ended up being asked to be a mentor. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I had anything to offer. The counselors pointed things out to me—that other women looked up to me, that multiple women had mentioned my name as someone who helped them through a struggle. I wondered if maybe I could make a difference.
For so much of my life, I felt like I didn’t matter. Like I was a lost cause. Hopeless. That program was the start of building my confidence. Getting to The Next Door helped my healing process. For me the hardest part of recovery was self-love, but the staff at The Next Door gave me the blessing of love. They loved me until I learned to love myself. Now, I try to offer that gift to every woman that comes to The Next Door. I want them to know that they matter.
While I was in prison, I started reading the Bible. I paid close to attention every time God said something about who He was. Growing up, I thought God was mean and hurtful. I didn’t want that God. But as I read His word, He said He was loving. And that love was unconditional. Nothing I could do or had done could change His love for me. He was accepting. He was kind. If those things were true about Him, then what He says about me is true, too. I’m not the monster I thought I was. I am forgiven. I am loved. I matter.
I think that addicts are God’s chosen people. If you read the Bible, you see that Jesus hung with prostitutes. He touched lepers. He wasn’t afraid to go near the sick. No one wanted these people. They had been secluded from the rest of society. But Jesus hugged them and loved them. The world does this with addicts—withholds things from them. Labels them. Judges them. Pushes them to the side. God says there’s a purpose on my life, that He has a plan for me. That plan is not to bring me harm. He tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made. So I believe it.
Recovery is full of ups and downs. Acceptance is the key. Life hasn’t gotten easier. I’ve just learned how to deal with life on life’s terms. There’s always a solution that doesn’t include getting high. Keep a list of sober contacts. Get a sponsor. Keep yourself rooted in the recovery community. Remain humble. Give God the credit. He’s the one who saved me.
You matter. You are loved. You can do this. You don’t got it, but you can do it.