Recovery Behind Bars

by Kelvin Young
(Middletown, CT.)


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 I was unable to hold down a job due to the fact that my drivers license was revoked as a result of DUI convictions.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.

Comments for Recovery Behind Bars

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What an inspirational and powerful story!
by: Debbie Wicker

Wow, Kelvin, thanks so much for sharing your inspirational story and outline a clear path to sobriety. I'm so glad you have been able to recovery from your addictions and have become the dad that you want to be for your daughter.

I'm hoping others who are in the depths of addiction will read your story and get the help they need to get their life back on track.

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