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We Do Recover

In early 2020, just before the Corona virus pandemic hit, I was on suspension from the job I loved and having to admit to my now ex-wife I relapsed yet again, I came to the reality that my current state of mind had taken away everything I loved due to the insanity of my addiction. I knew I needed to make a change in my life in spite of the fact that I was sentenced to Life without Parole. I was sick and tired of trying to deaden the pain and reality of my situation with drugs and alcohol. Even in prison I was still neglecting the people in my life that I cared about the most. My children and my wife were still second place to my addiction. Even from behind the walls, I made them less important to me than drugs and relapsed yet again.

In May of 2020, I decided it was time to start a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in the unit with my goal being to make it available to everyone on the yard, including the men on the West Yard (the West Yard here at our institution is considered Closed Custody, which makes it more difficult to move and have access to places like the Chapel). I had to start small though, so I started a meeting in the Character Based Unit (CBU) that I live in. I went on the Rock (common area) and announced that there would be a meeting for addicts in the top dayroom; everyone would be welcome to attend. The meeting began small which was fine by me because NA is for those who want it and need it. It was only myself and another individual whom I had used with back in the day. All I had was my prior knowledge of the way a meeting ran, a basic text or what we addicts call our “big book”, and a desire to find a new way to live. I had to request the literature from NAWS (Narcotics Anonymous World Services) to get all the readings and things to make the meeting run as closely as possible to one that an addict or alcoholic walk into on the street.

After a few months of having weekly meetings, we were put on quarantine from July until late October. In that time, I and another member of the recovery group lost our mothers. His passed from the cancer that she had been battling for some time, while mine passed from an overdose of fentanyl. Needless to say, addiction has affected my life in more personal ways than simply being caught up in my own disease. With a new sense of pain and urgency I felt a responsibility to the men back here to help them find a way to live life on life’s terms no matter what today or tomorrow might bring. I knew it was important to have these meetings in order to show the men that there is a better way to live, no matter the amount of time they might have left, or how long they may have struggled with this incurable disease.

After we began having regular weekly meetings, the group began to get bigger. People were actually interested in what we would discuss in our meetings and had a desire to learn how to work the Twelve Steps and create a relationship with a power greater than themselves. Once the yard was no longer restricted, due to Covid, I wrote administration requesting the meeting be included on the chapel’s weekly calendar. It took some time, but it was approved, and we were able to begin a weekly meeting that the men in the institution at large could access. We were also able to make the NA meeting in the unit an OMS (Offender Management System) class, one that would be included in our Warden’s Jacket, so that the men who were eligible for parole would have that to show the board that they have made an effort to improve their lives by working a recovery program. We had “chips” made that the men can wear on their ID tags that signified the amount of clean time they have – just like we would have on the street.

The best part about starting the Narcotics Anonymous meeting is watching the men who have been ravaged by the disease of addiction find a way to recover when they actually work their program. Sure, there have been some that fell back into their disease, but they have returned to have the comradery of the men who have found a better way to live and have shown a desire to recover even though they still struggle on a daily basis, just without the use of drugs and alcohol.

Our only fee to membership in NA is a desire to stop using. We have a responsibility to carry the message of recovery to the still-using addict, to show them that the program works. Being in the program, you live and breathe recovery. It becomes a part of who you are. You want others to see you, and the benefits of living life without the use of drugs so that they may be encouraged to find the same freedom from addiction that you have within the rooms of NA and their Higher Power.

Two years into my program, I was made an NA Sponsor by the administration at the institution. I have several people I counsel and help to work the steps of their program. I continue to lead weekly meetings and watch as the men that our society has deemed unworthy, recover and become men that their families and children would be proud of. At the time of this article, I am 12 days away from celebrating three years in recovery. Three years of healing and growth. Three years of a renewed relationship with my children and being a co-parent with my ex-wife. Three years that I would never have had without the grace of God, who is my Higher Power. We live our program one day at a time, Just for Today. And the truth is: We Do Recover.

Billy Sellars continues to lead men in his dorm and on the yard in recovery. His story is one of the many that were inspired by his efforts to be selfless.

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