Recovery Behind Bars
by Kelvin Young
My name is Kelvin Young and I haven’t consumed alcohol or any other drug since March 6th 2009.
After many years battling with drug addiction and depression, I received treatment for my addiction and began my healing process in a Tier III modified therapeutic community program in prison.
I started drinking alcohol when I was 14 years old. I wanted to look and feel cool like my older brothers, because they used to drink alcohol. It started off as a weekend thing. My friends and I used to sneak liquor into the school dances to get drunk in the bathrooms.
By the time I was 17, I dropped out of high school, and that’s when I started drinking more heavily. I also started smoking marijuana. I enjoyed the feeling drugs gave me and how they numbed the negative feelings I had about myself because of the way my life had turned out due to the poor choices I was making while using.
Throughout my late teens and 20s, I continued to make poor choices, which put me in very high risk situations. I was involved in two automobile accidents while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. I was in numerous fights, was shot at, robbed dealers for their drugs, had guns pointed in my face, and got jumped by a gang.
By the time I reached 26, I had “graduated” to cocaine and heroin. I used to sniff coke and heroin on a daily basis. I spent thousands of dollars on alcohol and other drugs. I was unable to hold down a job due to the fact that my drivers license was revoked as a result of DUI convictions.
I sold drugs to make a few dollars, but mostly to support my drug habit. I was financially, verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive in my romantic relationships. The feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness, insecurity, hopelessness, and frustration were embedded so deep into my subconscious mind, that I became emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.
I felt like a loser, so I used alcohol and other drugs as a means of escaping negative feelings about myself; not realizing that my addiction to drugs was a big reason why I felt the way I did in the first place. It was a vicious cycle!
I eventually landed myself in jail a few times just to get out and do the same thing. My last bid, I was sentenced to 2-5 years in prison, locked away from my daughter, my family, and friends. I made the decision to change my life for the better, to be the man my daughter could look up to and be proud of.
I had an opportunity to get the help I so desperately needed in the intensive drug treatment program within the prison. It was a 4-month program, and once I completed the program, the counselors chose me to be a mentor; helping my fellow inmates with their addictions through peer to peer support. I appreciated the opportunity because it allowed me to realize that I can support others on the journey towards wellness.
I learned about the transformative power of yoga and meditation while in the prison program. I was able to look within and find inner peace in a very hostile and restrictive environment. And I was able to learn about the root causes of my emotional pain, which led to the drug dependency. It was a great learning experience for me because it gave me the skills I needed for successful community re-entry.
Once I was released from prison, I contacted the Access to Recovery III program for help sustaining my health and well-being. They provided me with the peer and community support I needed after incarceration. I truly value the services they rendered to me, which gave me the hope and confidence I needed to make necessary changes in my life.
For me, life is about learning, growing, and evolving. I have learned from these difficult experiences and have grown emotionally, mentally, and spiritually from the knowledge obtained from them. That knowledge has helped my consciousness to evolve. As a result, I’ve become more aware and I’m making intentional choices that better my life.
Today, I sustain my health by eating a vegan based diet, exercising, practicing meditation, spending quality time in nature, and building healthy relationships with others. Through hard work and community support, I’m now a state Certified Addiction Recovery Coach/Recovery Support Specialist in Connecticut.
I’m currently the Manager of Advocacy Unlimited’s peer-run, mind-body wellness center called Toivo. I serve on the board of directors for CT Turning to Youth and Families.
I facilitate the Incarceration and Community Reentry workshop, House of Healing workshop and SMART Recovery support group. I recently received the 2014 Professional of the Year Award from the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative, and also received special recognition from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for being a positive role model and directly contributing to the success of reentry efforts.
Learning to live intentionally transformed my life tremendously. I am more mindful of my actions, and how they affect others. Because of my lived experience, I developed a strong passion for supporting others through their process of change and personal development. I love speaking about overcoming drug addiction, changing our lives for the better and taking personal responsibility for our own health and well-being.