All last week’s energy swirling about the universe – spring equinox/super moon/total eclipse – has found its counterpart inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. The fire that burns away a past each woman is trying to relinquish has recently burst anew into fiery passion, nearly as incarnate as the famed phoenix itself.
Women are energized by new ideas of self-worth, goals for change, projects to help move them forward in their lives and beyond these bars. They catch courage from the stories shared by others they might not otherwise have listened to. They find support and permission to voice their stories, to reflect on their choices, and to begin earnest change for a life that feeds rather than diminishes them.
The writer whose words appear below has written with us from the five-year-back beginning of this program. She has been out several times; and every time, some aspect of her history of addiction trips her up and sends her reeling back inside. See how this past week’s epigraphs on hunger and nurture impacted her in-group writing:
My body remembers what it/means to love slowly./What it means to start/from scratch. Slow lovers/of women. The secret is/starting from scratch.
– from ‘Making Tortillas,’ by Alicia Gaspar de Alba.
How long it can take a woman to achieve a degree of balance around appetites, to learn to feed herself and to understand and honor the body; and to hunger for things that are genuinely sustaining instead of hungering for decoys.
– Caroline Knapp from Appetites
Everything is the same today as it was three years ago. Everything except my body, its shape, its quickness to alert me when I’m in pain, needing rest and needing quiet space to reflect. I have a daily routine: sleep, crochet, sleep, eat little, sleep, watch tv. Sleep.
And while I’m sleeping I dream of heroin, pot, fast cars and a crazy life. While I’m awake, I think, rethink, contemplate, think about thinking how to change my body so that it thinks slower, rewinds my thought processes. Breaking the chain of my distorted thinking. Why I dream of heroin instead of crack, I do not know. I’ve put a lot of thought into how my body is reacting to a lifetime of abuse, misuse and neglecting myself.
I feed an addiction so powerful, but yet I don’t feed the maternal instinct to mother my two children looking at me in bright wide eyes, asking in a way as to say, How can you become who you need to be to love me, care for me and nurture us back as a whole? I need to starve every thought that leads me away from the person I really am deep inside. When I’m in my addiction, I need to starve the thoughts that go into doubting myself, into thinking just one more. I need to starve the party.
Lacking the ability to nurture my sons and feed the hurt away has been my demise. I am in the last year of my 30’s. What will the next decade look like for me? I couldn’t bear to think of it as another ten years of a blur, locked in jail, failure feeding me until I crawl up into a ball and decay surrounded by women feeding their addictions and starving success. Starving the second and third charge to become more than their mistakes.
My body is remembering the last 30 years and how it’s gotten me to where I am today. Nothing has changed but the thoughts that try interrupting my days with wonder if hope has faded out or has arrived.